Meet Your (Wine) Maker: Sebastian Hardy, Living Roots

Sebastian Hardy, along with his wife Colleen, started Living Roots, a winery melding the best of their hometowns in the Finger Lakes of New York and the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. 

Sebastian Hardy, along with his wife Colleen, started Living Roots, a winery melding the best of their hometowns in the Finger Lakes of New York and the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. The Living Roots story can be traced to Thomas Hardy, Seb’s great-great-great grandfather, who immigrated from England and planted some of the first vines in South Australia in 1853. Seb grew up around his dad’s vineyards and went on to pursue winemaking with vintages in Australia , Austria, France, Italy and the US, a degree in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Adelaide and a six-month exchange at UC Davis.Seb and Colleen met in 2014 and started Living Roots in 2016. They currently split time between South Australia and New York, doing two harvests each year and experimenting with a wide range of varieties and styles that highlight the natural strengths of each region. We hope you enjoy his responses to our questions!

If you had a crystal ball, where do you see the region in 5-10 years?
I’m sure we’ll see increasing international recognition for Riesling and Cab Franc in the region, along with a lot more sparklings, high quality hybrids and lower alcohol wines.

What is your winemaking style?
Our general style is minimal input, maximum quality wines that have intensity and liveliness, and are expressive of their variety, place and time. For us this means indigenous yeast, no fining or adjustments, and finding the right varieties for the right sites, then growing and making them well.
My dad was early to plant a lot of alternative varieties in South Australia, mainly originating from warmer areas of Europe, which suit our warming climate more and more. We’re working with a bunch of these in the Adelaide Hills as straight varieties or in blends, although many of them are limited releases.
In the Finger Lakes, we see a lot of potential for French-American hybrids. Similarly, we’ve made these in small batches so far but are excited about their trajectory thanks to Cornell and other universities developing strains with high quality characters and good disease resistance to minimize the use of sprays.
I love to think of how to improve quality, efficiency, and sustainability, while also creating something different. In this way I’m very experimental in the winery, while being particular and basing everything on grape growing and winemaking knowledge.

What wine do you love to drink… and your favorite to make?
Everything… but especially Sparklings (Pét-Nat through to Traditional Method), richer whites (Chardonnay, textural Rieslings) and vibrant reds (Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo) – both to drink and make! 

Music choice for harvest vs bottling?
It depends on the time of day and and what I’m dealing with, but we’d often get started with something chill, like Xavier Rudd or Bill Withers. Pretty quickly it’ll move to something upbeat and motivating [Seth Sentry’s Get It Done always does the trick]. 
During the busiest times, I’d listen to instrumental music, like Emancipator, to avoid getting distracted by lyrics. And during more trying or monotonous times, I’ll listen to playful and satirical songs, aka anything by Flight of the Concords. As the day gets on and I’m getting worn out, I like listening to energizing tracks – often hip hop, deep house or electronica, i.e. Opiuo. And to cap off the day, I’ll go back to something chill like the National.

What do you love about where you work?
For a small business, we’re spread all over the place which makes it complicated and a bit hectic… but we’re lucky to be able to do it and to be part of these different communities and beautiful environments.
The Finger Lakes wine industry is friendly and collaborative, plus there’s no shortage of stunning surroundings to explore. Meanwhile, it’s great to be able to go back to Australia for harvest every year and to keep learning from Dad.

Living Roots Winery, 1255 University Avenue, Rochester, (585) 383-1112

The Edible Finger Lakes Meet Your (Wine) Maker column is developed in partnership with the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance whose mission is to increase the visibility and reputation of the Finger Lakes AVA, its wines, and wineries.

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