During my recent trip to the Finger Lakes, I had the special treat of visiting Living Roots Wine‘s new Finger Lakes tasting room. The machinery was out, fixtures were being installed, and the landscape was being put in, so this was a major sneak peek of the facility (what a treat!).
We were greeted by Co-owner Sebastian (Seb) Hardy, Tasting Room Manager Steven Carson, Associate Winemaker Beth Schomp, and winery dog Hachi (he loves to give his paw). The first thing that struck me was the stunning view of the lake and the vineyards. With a sleek and modern design, also featuring organic materials, the facility seamlessly flowed into the natural beauty of the landscape.
About Living Roots Wine
Living Roots is a winery in both the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York and the Adelaide Hills region of South Australia. Though Living Roots was founded in 2016, their legacy began six generations back with Thomas Hardy, Seb’s great-great-great grandfather. In 1850, at the age of 20, Thomas immigrated to the new British colony, Australia. He soon planted the Hardy family’s first grapes and jumpstarted 160+ years of family winemaking. Seb grew up in his dad’s vineyards, particularly at K1, the first vineyard in the Kuitpo subregion of the Adelaide Hills.
After high school, Seb worked several vintages in Australia and across Europe, and got a degree in Viticulture and Oenology in Adelaide, with an exchange at UC Davis. On the other side of the world, Living Roots Co-owner Colleen grew up in Rochester, New York (spending time around the Finger Lakes region), before getting a degree in marketing. After a few years in corporate America, she began to explore the world of wine and landed a cellar hand position for the 2014 vintage at Hardy’s Tintara Winery. It was during that 2014 harvest in McLaren Vale that they first met.
The duo each worked in different aspects of the wine industry, and in 2016, they established Living Roots. That was the first year that they split time between South Australia and New York, doing two harvests so we could make a wide range of wines, suiting the varieties and styles to the differing climates. They source grapes from different vineyards and growers, including from both of their families, and some wines are made year-to-year while others are one-offs. Their approach is careful, but minimal input winemaking. In the Finger Lakes, their focus is on rich whites and sparkling wines, and in South Australia, it’s vibrant, medium-bodied reds.
Living Roots Wine Tasting
We stepped onto the deck overlooking the vines and the beautiful Canandaigua Lake for a tasting with Seb. He told us about the history of his family, his winemaking background, how he opened up Living Roots Wine with his wife Colleen, and, of course, walked us through some delicious wine. We tasted the 2021 Finger Lakes Bone-Dry Riesling, 2022 Finger Lakes Pét-Nat Rosé, 2020 Finger Lakes Red Rizza, and 2020 McLaren Vale Grenache.
The Bone-Dry Riesling is fermented wild until it’s bone-dry and aged on lees for 10 months. It was tangy with citrus and a nice, racy acidity.
The Pét-Nat Rosé was a super fun sip. It is made with Blaufränkisch (88%) and Zweigelt (12%). Each variety was fermented separately and then blended in the cellar. Lots of red, blue, and black fruits. Totally chugable.
The Red Rizza was super unique, made with 100% Finger Lakes Riesling juice wild fermented on Cabernet Franc skins and aged in old French oak for 18 months. This wine had a gorgeous hue and such bright berry notes.
We finished the tasting with Grenache. Coming from Australia, this Grenache was made in a vibrant style with very little oak influence. It was juicy, a little savory, and a tasty sipper.
New Finger Lakes Tasting Room
If you’re ever in the Finger Lakes, make sure to check out Living Roots Wine’s new tasting room. You won’t be disappointed. It opens to the public on August 30, 2023.