A Healdsburg, Calif. restaurant whose name means "kisses" in Italian will be on everyone's lips next week following national TV exposure on Monday morning's "Today" show.
But although her restaurant, could appear in part of the NBC-TV piece, Lisbeth Holmefjord said the real star of the segment is 13-year-old Colby Groom, son of Winemaker Daryl and Lisa Groom.
Just before his 10th birthday, Colby Groom survived two open heart surgeries for a congenital heart problem. Later, he asked father Daryl Groom, an eight-time "Winemaker of the Year" and head of Groom Australian Wines, if he would make a special wine to raise money for heart-health-related charities.
Colby Red, the result of that idea, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Merlot. Only available since the end of last year, sales of Colby Red are expected to reach $100,000 by the end of this month -- all of which will be donated to the American Heart Association and other heart health causes, Daryl Groom said Friday.
"We feel blessed that there is so much support for this," said Groom, who said he was in Orlando, Fla., where he and his family will present $15,000 in Colby Red sales proceeds to the local American Heart Association chapter over the weekend. Similar presentations are set for April in Dallas and Chicago, and on May 13 at the "Go Red" American Heart Association event in Santa Rosa, Calif.
"This is a unique and generous red wine, just as Colby is a unique and generous child," Daryl Groom says on the website for Colby Red. "I blended five different grape varieties to make a red that's juicy and velvety smooth, with rich fruit flavors and a soft finish."
But it was not the wine itself that convinced Chicago-based Walgreens executives, at a dinner in October, to agree to carry Colby Red in many of their stores, Groom said. It was after he and his son spoke at the dinner, telling the story of how the boy approached his Dad one day and asked him to teach him winemaking.
When Groom asked his son why he was so interested in learning how to make wine, his son said he wanted to sell the wine to help others with heart disease," Groom said.
"I had a little tear in my eye when Colby told me why he wanted to learn winemaking," Groom said.
"The response has been unbelievable," he added. "We started out thinking it would be 50 cases -- now it's gone to 20,000 cases."
Colby Red's website has a video that tells the whole story, Groom said.
After Walgreens gave the thumbs up, Groom said he approached Treasury Wine Estates, which oversees several prominent Northern California vineyards, for help in meeting the huge demand to supply the Walgreens contract.
In Sonoma County, the two Walgreens stores in Santa Rosa both carry Colby Red, he said.
In addition to Baci's, other Healdsburg and Sonoma County restaurants and wineries are starting either pour Colby Red by the glass or are selling bottles. Those include Healdsburg's and , Rustic, a restaurant at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, and Asti Winery in Cloverdale.
"We've just been overwhelmed by the support," Groom said. "I feel blessed by all the wonderful people who are supporting us in Sonoma County."
He said he hopes to continue making Colby Red every year and to continue to donate the money to heart health research.
Norwegian-born Holmefjord, a former public relations representative for who has known the Grooms for a good part of a decade, said Colby Groom "loves" coming to Baci --- as do his parents, who dine there several times a month, she said.
"We're the only restaurant in Healdsburg that sells [bottles of] Colby Red," said Holmefjord, who opened Baci on April 1 last year with husband and Baci chef Shari Sarabi. "I just ordered five cases."
Holmefjord, a past president of the governing board and a frequent civic volunteer, said the timing for the TV piece is appropriate, as February is "Heart Health Month."
A mother of three boys, including international concert pianist Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi, Holmefjord said she is passionate about giving back to the community.
In December, Holmefjord said she a graduate who was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident in the Russian River in June 2009.
Holmefjord-Sarabi and Ripa were classmates and friends at Healdsburg High, Holmefjord said.
Colby's story is also close to her heart, Holmefjord saaid.
"They [the Grooms] are such fabulous people," she said. "They are very down to earth and friendly."