Hardy Wallace (Dirty) and Matt Richardson (Rowdy) met in Atlanta some 15 years ago and bonded over a shared love of funky wine and spicy fried chicken. In 2009, Wallace got laid off from a job in technology sales and moved to California after winning a social media contest.
Today they run one of the great upstarts in American winemaking, focusing on small production, vineyard-designated Mourvèdre and Semillon, working with sites from Mendocino to Monterey, bottling small lots from the top vineyards and blending the early-drinking lots into a pan-California blend called Familiar.
Q&A with Hardy Wallace
Describe the “aha” moment when you first fell in love with wine.
My biggest aha-moment happened more than 10 years after getting into wine. I was poured a skin-fermented Chardonnay served out of a metal canteen — It was like nothing I had tasted before. It was the first time while drinking that I ever said, “I have to meet this person.” A year later, I moved to CA from Atlanta and was working for that winemaker in a warehouse in Santa Rosa. That wine completely changed my life.
Do you have a philosophy of winemaking you strive to share with others?
I have very strong beliefs when it comes to winemaking, but my philosophy is to keep my head down and let the wine explain it.
How has the perspective of time changed your approach to wine?
Wine takes time and even if what you are doing is seen as “new” or “hip” you better be committed to what you are doing, otherwise that Chardonnay / Blaufrankish / Scuppernong blend you put into a Solara, is going to be over before you even thought about bottling it.
Who inspires you personally — in wine or any endeavor?
For wine there are so many. Locally, Steve Edmunds and Cathy Corison. These are winemakers who have gone against the grain, stuck to their principles whether they were en vogue or not, and have produced stunning, expressive, wines that have stood the test of time. They were underdogs that are really super-heroes.
What is the most overrated trend in wine today?
I don’t know what’s overrated, but lighter reds are the most underrated. There are so many stunning light bodied reds that are written off as simple.
What new winemakers are you most excited about and why?
Michael Cruse of Cruse Wine / Ultramarine and John “Johnny Law” Lockwood of Enfield Wine Co. Michael continues to redefine what the US is capable of in both sparkling wine production and table wine. His wines have made the outside world take greater notice of CA in general. John works with classic California varieties but in ways you wouldn’t expect. He proves that classic doesn’t have to mean following the playbook. He’s the Sturgill Simpson of Chard, Syrah, and Cab.
If you weren’t a winemaker what would you be doing?
Wizard stuff. Yep, definitely wizard stuff …
What led you to select Nomacorc PlantCorcs?
Many of our wines are made in tiny 50-100 case lots. We sell them very quickly and leave a tiny library for ourselves. The idea of having a 5% failure rate on lots so small and that we were unable to replace, made me think hard about alternative closures. Everything we do from farming to our packaging is done with ecological impact in mind. PlantCorc™ exceeded our expectations in terms of performance and ecological impact.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being with my family, having chicken wings, drinking beautiful wines made by friends from CA and abroad, and having acoustic Grateful Dead music in the background. And after that, getting crazy! 😉
What, if anything, do you leave to chance in the cellar or in life?
I think good wine is made by leaving nothing to chance. While great wine is made by taking risks, pushing limits, and ultimately letting go….