Wine of the Week: 2009 Colby Red, California ($10).
The story of this wine is about as heartwarming, literally, as any in the wine industry -- and it's a success story in the making. It starts with the birth 13 years ago of Daryl and Lisa Groom's son, Colby, who had a heart defect that would eventually need surgery.
Daryl is the Australian-reared and -trained winemaker who in 1989 came to the United States as one of Australia's top wine makers. He had already achieved acclaim for having made the spectacular red wine Penfolds Grange.
Groom arrived here to become winemaker for a wine brand, Geyser Peak, that had seen little commercial success. The winery's owner, Henry Trione, had partnered with an Australian company, and Groom was the partner's answer to Geyser Peak's problems.
Almost instantly, Groom had a dramatic impact on the fortunes of that winery. About the time Colby was born, Groom's star was ascendant. Geyser Peak was acclaimed for a series of great wines, and Groom, with his infectious sense of Aussie humor, was a highly sought speaker and wine judge.
Soon thereafter, however, when he was 10, Colby had back-to-back open heart surgeries to repair his heart problems, and the family went through wrenching recuperations and various setbacks.
Two years ago, Colby was chatting with his parents on a Sunday morning, and he asked if it would be possible to make a wine that could be sold to help other families with heart problems. Groom told his son that such a thing could be done, but all the pieces had to fall together to make such a thing work, and with the economy in free-fall, he wasn't sure the timing was right.
"But Colby wanted to do it," said Lisa.
"He prodded me and I started looking into it," said Daryl.
Soon the pieces began to fall into place. He contacted friends at Treasury Wine Estates, which wanted to assist with the project. Better than that, "they had more wine than they needed," said Daryl.
Sales were slow and with its superb properties in Napa and Sonoma, the company's tanks had various lots of wines with no homes. Then Daryl made it known that he was thinking of making such a wine, and Walgreens, the large pharmacy chain, became interested and asked to be a partner in the project.
The wine, from 2009, was released a few months ago without much fanfare. Then NBC's "Today Show" heard of the project, and asked Daryl, Lisa and Colby to appear and tell the story. That was Feb. 21.
"From that day on, it has been like being strapped into a very fast racecar with no driver," said Daryl. "People all over the country have heard about this. And they want to help."
With a suggested retail price of only $13 and with most retailers carrying the wine for $10 a bottle, fund-raising is going slowly.
But the first bottling of this Cabernet-Zinfandel red wine blend was 20,000 cases and the family hopes to reach $100,000 soon. It is making small grants to various heart-associated charities all over the country.
One amazing aspect to the story is that for the first 11 years of his life, Colby had been a shy child, said Lisa. "He was never very vocal."