Food & Drink

From McLaren Vale To New York: Living Roots Winemakers Are Fermenting Globally

Colleen Hardy Dropped US Marketing To Become A South Australian Winemaker
Photos: Ben Macmahon

When Sebastian (Seb) and Colleen Hardy first met while shopping at Foodland in Aldinga, wine worlds collided – and a love story ensued. Colleen grew up in Rochester, New York, and decided to head to Australia after working in marketing research in Chicago.

“I was pretty keen on getting into the wine industry, and I figured that in order to properly market wine, I should probably learn more about how it’s made.” She quit her job and headed to McLaren Vale to work the 2014 vintage at Hardy’s Tintara.”

After her stint at Hardy’s, Colleen worked at McLaren Vale Winemakers / Five O’Clock Somewhere for a couple of years. “It was seriously my dream job. I was able to put my marketing experience to work and still get my hands dirty in the winery during vintage.”

Meanwhile, Seb’s great-great-great grandfather started Hardy’s in 1853.” That was in family hands for five generations,” he says. “Though I grew up more so around Dad’s vineyards, particularly K1, which he planted in Kuitpo in the late eighties. After finishing school, I worked vintages in Australia and France, and decided winemaking was what I was still most keen on.”

Colleen Hardy

He studied viticulture and winemaking at Adelaide University, with a six-month exchange in California. “During and after my course, I worked vintages in Austria, Italy and Australia, before spending a couple of years in sales and marketing for my family’s Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy label, which focuses on alternative varieties, many of which I had worked with in my travels.”

The pair, who recently married, continues to clock up air miles. They split their time between Rochester and McLaren Vale – producing wine (and chasing vintage) across the globe.

Their wine brand is called Living Roots. “Living Roots is the brand in both places, though we make the wines in our two wineries on opposite sides of the globe, with grapes from very different wine regions,” Seb says. “The idea is to bring together the best of our home towns and their surrounding wine regions, showcasing their different, yet complementary strengths and styles.”

Adelaide artist and graphic designer Tristan Kerr designed the branding. “We wanted to capture a few different messages with our branding, building on family heritage and traditions while branching out into new regions like the Finger Lakes, exploring new techniques, and trying to move towards sustainability.”

In the US, they have a winery alongside their tasting room in downtown Rochester, New York. “We make wines mainly from the nearby Finger Lakes wine region,” Seb says. “It’s really nice to feel like we’ve got a home base in both of our hometowns,” Colleen adds. “But with our urban winery and tasting room [cellar door] now open in Rochester, we’re spending more of our time stateside.”

The tasting space, called Living Roots Wine & Co. is in a character-packed brick warehouse dating back to 1909. The fit-out includes different textures including wood, concrete, brick, and leather. “Towards the end we added a mix of plants, rugs, and custom watercolour maps of South Australia and New York State,” Colleen says. “We did the majority of the design ourselves, but we also worked with a local designer, Hannah Betts of Lives Styled, to tie it all together.”

Colleen Hardy

Friends and family flew all the way from Australia for the launch. “It was amazing to finally have people kicking back and enjoying our space,” Colleen says. “The fact that they were our closest family and friends made it even better.”

It’s a great place to sip, reflect on life, and look back on memorable moments, like the first shipment of Aussie wines arriving at their Rochester winery. “It was really surreal unloading these wines (in my hometown) that we had worked so hard on (in Seb’s hometown) on the other side of the world. It was really special seeing the two sides of the business finally meet.”

Watch this space. “In the future, we’d like to branch out with other beverages and nibbles, something that Seb had considered getting into before starting up this venture. One that’s already in the works is our own Australian extra virgin olive oil made from a cultivar that was developed by Seb’s forefather, Hardy Mammoth.”

What’s your favourite South Australian winery? Let us know in the comments, below.

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