Interview with Daryl Groom of Colby Red Wine

When we found out about the heart touching and inspiring background of Colby Red Wine, we got in touch with the winemaker, Daryl Groom, to get the full story.

Daryl Groom is an Australia native that has been in the wine industry for over 25 years. He spent 16 years as senior red winemaker at Penfolds in Australia before joining Alexander Valley’s Geyser Peak Winery in 1989. There, he earned eight national and international awards for Winery of the Year and Winemaker of the Year. When Geyser Peak was acquired by Beam Wine Estates, Daryl became the VP of Operations & Winemaking and managed a variety of their wineries throughout Northern California and the Central Coast. Today, he produces Colby Red Wine in California and is the winemaker at Groom Wineries in the Barossa Valley of Southern Australia.

Keep reading for our interview with Daryl!

How did you decide on the specific blend for Colby Red? Is there any significance to making red vs. white wine?

When Colby first came to me at the age of 11 with the desire to make a wine together to raise money for heart research, one of my first responses was “It’s hard to find grapes.” Colby then showed me his laptop and said “no worries,” as he had been searching and found some Cabernet grapes for sale in Lake County. So, from that point on the wine we were going to make was red. Also, red is easier to make than white in small scale “home” production and Colby Red started out as two barrels of wine.

Before we started, I asked Colby if he wanted to make an expensive wine or a less expensive wine. His reply was, “Dad, heart disease affects everyone so let’s make a wine that everyone can afford.”

The final commercial blend of Cabernet, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Petit Sirah and Merlot was the product of my winemaking knowledge and what I knew would make a delicious tasting wine. We are please that we did choose a red wine as most people associate it with the well-known saying “that red wine is good for the heart.” Colby Red Wine is good for the heart in many ways; not least because of its charitable aspect.

How did you and Colby work together to come up with the finished product? What kind of input did Colby have?

Colby was very involved in all aspects of making the first two barrels of wine. He crushed the grapes, did punch downs on the ferment three times a day for two weeks, graphed and recorded all the daily temperature and sugar changes during the ferment, pressed the grapes and pumped the resulting wine to barrel. He loved the process and the hard work.

When Colby Red became a bigger commercial success, production moved to a winery. Being 12 years of age Colby could not be involved in making the wine anymore. He is, however, very involved in the promotion and building awareness of the wine. He has spoken at well over a dozen heart events and does quite a few in-store bottle signings.

How much have you raised for the American Heart Association to date?

We have proudly raised over $275,000 in less than two years. It is amazing that from this small idea of Colby’s we have been able to make such an impact on people’s lives. The Groom Family has donated the biggest percentage of this amount to individual AHA chapters across the country, in markets where the wine is sold.

Have there been any surprises along the way?

The part that took us by surprise is the huge emotional impact as we are contact by families who have lost children and loved ones to heart disease. We personally have a positive outcome with our son Colby, but we learned early on after the release of Colby Red that a lot of people are not so lucky. Heart disease is the #1 killer of children, more than all childhood cancers combined. Because of the people we have met along our journey, we are more committed than ever to make Colby Red a huge success.

One of the rewards I did not envisage was what Colby Red Wine has done for my son. After his surgeries he was depressed, unconfident and not happy with life. Now I watch this remarkable, compassionate, confident young man help others and quite willing to give speeches in front of, at times, 1,000 people.

What is the future of Colby Red? Will you continue producing new blends locally?

Colby Red will be produced every year and will continue to raise money for heart charities. It will always be a red blend in the current style; consumers have told me they just love it. Many of them are saying it’s the best red wine they have every had! Kathie Lee and Hoda on the Today Show were the first to publicly announce this. We are on our second vintage with the 2010, and 2011 is blended and aging in tank and barrel, ready to bottle.

What is the future of Colby as a winemaker?

Colby loved his experience with winemaking and has said he wants to keep his options open as to what he wants to become. His present passion is politics and he says he would like to be a politician. Colby has a big heart and I know whatever he does with his life, he will be doing something that is helping other people.