Daryl Groom: serious passion for a cause that's close to home, Tim Pawsey photo

Daryl Groom: serious passion for a cause that’s close to home, Tim Pawsey photo

When I interviewed Daryl Groom a couple of weeks ago, it was first and foremost to talk about Colby Red. However, how could I hang with Daryl Groom and not talk about his remarkable career, which saw him emerge as one of the original “flying winemakers”, going back to the time when he was senior red winemaker at Penfold’s, responsible for making Grange?

I had met Daryl on a couple of occasions before, including when he came to Vancouver as part of his role with Geyser Peak, a once nondescript California winery that he turned into a wine-household name.


A family affair—with a little help from Beringer

A family affair—with a little help from Beringer (supplied)

However, what was interesting for me was that even though I had been inclined to make more of a story out of it than “just” the Colby Red side of things, it didn’t happen. The passion with which Daryl has embraced this project was unmistakable. His explanation of what was happening to their eight year old son, as he struggled to come to terms with back to back heart surgeries, unfolded with powerful emotion.

I could post our entire hour-long-plus interview here, as I did tape it. But I think there’s too much personal material to make public. But I would say that if you are close to a child who’s facing open heart surgery, or anyone who’s gone through it, then Colby’s experience will resonate.

Groom says his son came through the surgery well.

“But we didn’t realise that open-heart surgery is sometimes accompanied by depression. Having a year of his life ripped out between surgeries had a profound impact. That in itself was more misery than the actual surgeries themselves…”

Groom says Colby had hit rock bottom.

“He was saying ‘I’m on the bottom rung of the ladder’ and would cry every night. We had to find a way to help him. He shouldn’t have to go through all this.”

The Grooms realised even though they couldn’t change what had happened, they could make a negative into a positive.

“We told Colby he could help other kids. ‘You’ve you been through this,’ we said, ‘You know about it.’”

A flair for fundraising beyond the back yard

A flair for fundraising beyond the back yard

“We set him up to talk with kids who were going through surgery and he would talk to them honestly, about how it hurts—but that it’s okay in the end. At age10 he was standing up at public functions telling people about what he’s been through and he was gradually finding his self-worth.”

Next he was featured in a video produced by the foundation who made his heart valve.

His self-worth grew again,” says Groom. “And he started to work a lot with the American Heart Association—and to feel the rewards of giving back.”

Groom says his son even raised raise money by showing kids his scars in their home’s back yard!

“He never used to like the scars until an older boy told him they were ‘chick magnets,’” laughs Groom.

All this led up to the inspiration for Colby Red–and the rest, as they say, is history! Although, we have a feeling that this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing about Colby Groom by any means…

Daryl, Colby and Lisa Groom (supplied)

Daryl, Colby and Lisa Groom (supplied)

My story (below) which ran in the North Shore News is a necessarily quick summary of a much broader and deeper project, which has taken huge commitment, not just on Daryl’s part but by his whole family, each one of whom seems to be playing a role, and especially Corby, of course.

In a nutshell: next time you’re looking for a decent bottle that won’t break the bank, go buy the wine–it’s a tasty drop (BCLS $16.99). And you’ll become, in a small way, part of an amazing story, by contributing to a truly worthy cause.

Much more on Colby Red here.


Colby Red offers more than good flavour


THE other week we were lucky enough to spend an hour with Daryl Groom.

If you recognize the name, it might be as the former senior red winemaker for Penfolds, and the man who put once struggling Geyser Peak (Sonoma) on the world wine map.

Groom (who now has his own winery) was in Vancouver to talk about Colby Red, a wine that is, truly, close to his heart. It’s named after his son, Colby, who was born with a defective heart and who endured back-to-back open heart surgeries as a pre-teen to correct the condition, culminating in a mechanical valve implant.

One day, as Groom tells it, Colby asked him if he could help make a wine. Later, it turned out, his idea was to make a wine to help raise money for heart research. They talked some more. Groom agreed. They originally planned to make two barrels of five Lake County (California) varietals: Cab Sauv, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Merlot and Petite Sirah.

However, when drugstore giant Walgreens heard about the project, they offered to take it national, and Colby Red was produced (along with the assistance of Beringer and Treasury Wine Estates) on a somewhat larger scale.

These days Colby is in demand as a speaker for the American Heart Association. He has helped raised $1.5 million for that cause and related agencies. Colby Red alone has raised some $300,000, and Daryl is a very willing spokesperson.

“It’s been an incredible journey,” he says. “But we have a happy ending . . . and Colby (who just turned 15) has given me a huge gift.

“We hope to raise $50,000 in Canada, where proceeds from every bottle sold will go back to the community,” he says.

As you’d expect from a guy once entrusted with making Grange, Colby Red 2011 is a very well made, medium-bodied red, bursting with ripe red and dark fruit, with spicy notes, underpinned by juicy acidity and easy drinking with approachable tannins.

Pick up a bottle and you’ll not only get a truly decent drop, but be doing your part to help the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada along the way (BCLS $16.99, 89 pts.).

And when you’ve poured a glass, have a look at the video at colbyred.com and I guarantee you’ll be moved and inspired.

. . .