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Putting down roots


Sebastian and Colleen Hardy, founders of Living Roots. - PHOTO BY ALEXANDRA MESEKE.
  • Sebastian and Colleen Hardy, founders of Living Roots.
In 2014, Fairport native Colleen left her corporate job in Chicago to pursue a career in the wine industry and flew across the world to work a grape harvest in Adelaide Hills, Australia. There she met Seb, a member of the wine industry-renowned Hardy family, through mutual friends, and the rest is history.

They were married in 2016 and founded Living Roots Wine & Co., a bicontinental winery producing in both New York State and South Australia, that same year.

In 2017, the duo opened Rochester’s first urban winery on University Avenue – a unique concept that allows Rochesterians to enjoy Living Roots’s selection of wines in a tasting room setting without leaving the city. The thoughtfully made wines showcase the cross-continental range of the brand, highlighting classic varietals from the Finger Lakes and Adelaide Hills, along with more experimental projects that work with different grapes and techniques to reflect both regions’ changing climates.

Living Roots sources their Finger Lakes grapes from several sites as well as Shale Creek,  a vineyard site owned by Colleen’s family, on Keuka Lake. In summer 2020, Living Roots opened an outdoor pop-up tasting room amidst the indoor dining restrictions of the pandemic, and the pop-up has run seasonally each year since. This year, it became the site of their new tasting room and winery.

While a Finger Lakes winery wasn’t a primary objective for the Hardys when they started the business, it was always something they thought of as a long-term goal.

“We never went into this wanting to lose Rochester,” said Seb. “Moving (production) to the Finger Lakes was always something we were looking to do as well as Rochester if we were ever in a position to expand.”

Living Roots opens its first Finger Lakes tasting room and production facility this weekend. - PHOTO BY JACALYN MEYVIS.
  • Living Roots opens its first Finger Lakes tasting room and production facility this weekend.
The opportunity presented itself, and has come to fruition in the form of a large new winery and tasting room tucked into a hillside in Hammondsport overlooking Keuka Lake.

The tasting room space is airy, open, and minimalist in design, allowing sprawling views of Keuka Lake to shine as the focal point. The tasting room will be open year-round, offering reservations for seated flight tastings, plenty of space for walk-in groups to enjoy glasses of wine at the large central bar or two spacious patios, and ample retail space.

The first floor of the space houses the new winery, complete with 20-foot ceilings and a two-story crush pad for processing grapes. While Living Roots will still utilize the winery in the Rochester location for smaller projects such as their Champagne-method sparkling wines, the majority of production will move to the Finger Lakes winery, which offers closer proximity to the vineyards and more space for their growing operation.

For the Hardys, one of the most exciting aspects of the new, permanent location is an opportunity to feel more closely tied to the community of wineries in the region.

“We’ve always been on a bit of an island with Finger Lakes wine as a whole,” said  Colleen. “We’re a bit of an outlier in Rochester, so I’m excited to be a bit more connected to the Finger Lakes wine industry.”

The tasting room, which is located at 8560 County Road 87 in Hammondsport, opens to the public beginning this weekend (Sept. 1), Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Mariel Brinkerhoff is a freelance writer for CITY. Feedback about this article can be directed to [email protected].