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.
. . .
Speaking of men on a mission, this is the week that the wine world descends on Vancouver, as it has every year for the past 34 years, although it came close to not happening this year. And no one knows that better than Vancouver International Wine Festival manager Harry Hertscheg.
Hertscheg, as they say, is a man on a mission.
During the last few festivals he's made a point of visiting every singe event on the roster; no small feat indeed, as several events often happen simultaneously.
To put it mildly, from the demise of the Vancouver Playhouse to the passing of festival founder John Levine, last year was tumultuous, says Hertscheg.
Every month seemed to bring a new development that affected Vancouver B.C.'s wine culture, from the introduction of BYOB to the decision by B.C. liquor licensing and control to make wine auctions for charitable fundraising illegal. The latter remains a bureaucratically contrived, politically charged blunder that, despite the government's announced intention to reverse the decision in the coming session, continues to have a devastating impact on many B.C. charities.
"It's been a year of change," says Hertscheg. "So what does it mean? I get it. Things change, things don't stay the same . . . And nothing lasts forever. But we're still here to celebrate the 35th Vancouver International Wine Festival."
Hertscheg says he no longer takes anything for granted, but that it's important to understand just what the festival has achieved over the years.
"We live in a culture that we need to find ways to value and celebrate," he says. "For the past 35 years the wine festival has helped build Vancouver's wine culture and we should value the creativity and contribution that vintners, chefs and artists make to our community."
So, if you're at the wine festival and you see a blur whiz by, chances are it's Harry Hertscheg racing to another of the 55 events unfolding this week, every one of which he'll again visit. And if he stands still long enough, maybe take a moment to thank him for the not insignificant personal investment (well beyond the call) that he's made in the festival, to make sure it lives on.
Tim Pawsey covers food and wine for numerous publications and online as the Hired Belly at hiredbelly.com. Contact: rebelmouse.com/hiredbelly, on Twitter @hiredbelly or email firstname.lastname@example.org.