Like a fine romance, the best rose wines are a balancing act — not too sweet, not too heavy and full of flavor.
That's what Ehlers Estate winemaker Kevin Morrisey is going for when he makes the winery's annual Sylviane rose (rose-ZAY), a dry, European-style wine released each year on February 14.
But the release date isn't the only thing that makes this a particularly appropriate Valentine's Day wine. The bottle is emblazoned with Ehler's signature "heart" logo, an "E'' with the inside of the letter formed by a sideways heart, and, like all Ehlers Estate wines, 100 percent of the profits go to support heart research. It adds up to a bottle that "has a lot of love in it," says Morrisey.
There's also a lot of heart love going into Colby Red, a California red wine which so far has raised $300,000 for heart-related charities.
The effort at Colby Red was inspired by winemaker Daryl Groom's son Colby's battle with heart disease. Now 15, Colby was born with congenital heart disease and needed two open-heart surgeries before he turned 10. The surgeries were successful, but left Colby lagging academically and socially, suffering from depression, and getting teased by other kids for being different.
"It was pretty bad," say Groom. The family talked about it. "We said we can't change what's happened to him, but how can we make that negative be something of a positive?" The answer turned out to be getting Colby involved in helping other people going through heart disease.
The fundraising part of the project started small, including Colby putting up a tent up in the backyard and charging people to listen to his artificial heart valve through a stethoscope. That raised $1,000.
Then Colby came up with another idea — Could they make a wine together and donate the profits to heart research?
Groom, a native of Australia who now lives in Sonoma County and is winemaker-consultant at a number of companies as well as owner of his own Groom wines based Down Under, was a little reluctant. Making wine is hard and requires constant attention, he pointed out. Still, Colby was persistent and Colby Red was launched in 2011.
The plan was to make just two barrels of wine, but after Groom told the story to a friend who happened to be a buyer for the Walgreens chain the output suddenly got a lot bigger when that store decided to carry Colby Red.
Since then the wine has launched in Canada, donating to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and is available at some restaurants, including most recently the California Pizza Kitchen chain.