Colby Red, a table wine to help combat heart disease

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By: Frank Piaskowy

Frank Piaskowy/Flavor 574

As we endure blowing snow and subzero wind chill factors in Michiana, it may come as a surprise that Colby Rex Groom has a special appreciation for February, American Heart Month.

Colby Groom is a California teen who was born with congenital heart defects. By the age of 10, had undergone two life-saving open heart surgeries.

As an 11 year old, Colby wanted to do something in gratitude of his restored health and pitched a fundraising idea to his father. It just so happens his father is Daryl Groom, who grew up in Australia and by the age of 30 was considered a winemaking “wunderkind” down under.

Colby wanted to learn the art of winemaking first-hand, so he asked his father whether they could make a wine together and donate the proceeds to heart research and advocacy groups. It was his idea to name the wine Colby Red.

My introduction to the wine and story occurred several years ago at a Fort Wayne Cap n’ Cork. The Groom family had a personal friendship with store executives and special arrangements were made for the chain to sell the wine locally (national sales were exclusive to Walgreens at that time). I purchased a bottle and, after tasting it, was most impressed with the value.

The father and son duo began with two barrels. Large scale commercial production began with the 2009 vintage. Current production is more than 40,000 cases per year, which far exceeds their initial expectations.

Through an agreement with Walgreens, the wine can be purchased at many Michiana locations for $12.99 and is frequently discounted to $9.99. I have also seen Colby Red on restaurant wine lists around the country.

After production and distribution costs are covered, all profits are donated. To date, nearly $600,000 has been raised and awarded to a variety of heart health initiatives, including the UCSD cardiology research department and numerous kids’ heart camps across the country.

Daryl Groom spent more than 16 years at Penfolds in Australia, where he was senior red winemaker. Beginning in 1984 he was responsible for the production of the legendary Penfolds Grange, one of the most prized and pricey collectable wines in the world. In 1990, he moved his family to Healdsburg in the heart of Sonoma wine country. He was recruited to California to revitalize Geyser Peak Winery and has since moved on to other projects.

While Daryl remains an internationally acclaimed winemaker, Colby has become a seasoned volunteer and national spokesperson for the American Heart Association. He has helped charities raise another $1 million to $2 million over the last three years.

Labeling on the back of each bottle describes the contents as “a wine for sheer delicious enjoyment; that’s juicy and velvety smooth with rich fruit flavors and a soft finish.”  It is no simple table wine, as the blend is made from cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, syrah, merlot and petite sirah.

Just this past weekend, I enjoyed Colby Red with a home-cooked meal of pot roast and root vegetables. I look forward to grilling this summer and having it with burgers or spicy barbecue ribs.

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