Posts Tagged ‘Daryl Groom’

Upland winegrowers alive

November 25, 2011

Zinfandel Cucamonga Denson Vineyard in Upland

Upland, once considered the lemon capital of the world, is not a place ever included when discussing California’s interesting wine regions, nor is it a hot topic among oenophilias (oenophilia describes a disciplined devotion to, or simply enjoyment of wine), however its foothills are home to Brian and Camille Brandt’s award-winning Brandt Family Winery in San Antonio Heights, and a cluster of vintners including Gregg Denson.

For the past decade, Denson’s interest in growing vines and producing wines has transformed from general interest to deep passion. He first became interested in the viticulture history of Rancho Cucamonga upon his daily commutes past the old Thomas Brothers Winery site. “I began to wonder, this is a great old winery building, but where did all the vines go? With the housing boom, I noticed more and more vineyards being replaced by new homes and retail centers. It made me sad to see such a rich part of the cultural history of Rancho vanish before my eyes,” said Denson who serves as Director of Design at Architerra Design Group in Rancho Cucamonga.

“Originally, my idea was keep a little piece of history and grow the signature Zinfandel grapes of the Cucamonga region; not necessarily make wine. But after three years in the ground, and with grapes on the vine, I harvested and crushed my first small vintage in 2004 from a handful of vines, netting only 10 bottles!”

Denson inquired about growing and producing with his fellow co-worker, John Federico, who had worked the DeAmbrogio Ranch many years before as a young man. “He knew a great deal of history about the vineyard, and right before the property was graded over, we drove through the vineyard rows in winter and picked up some of the recently pruned canes. It’s my understanding that some of the vines on that property were over 100 years old. I thought it would be a good legacy to preserve the parent plants of this vineyard.”

Denson began his vineyard with a dozen vine cuttings, selected from various varieties at the historic DeAmbriogio Ranch. “Maybe half rooted in from the original planting and after a couple of years of growth, I took additional cuttings and increased the number of vines. Currently, I have about 30 Zinfandel vines, 4 Red Malaga, 2 Syrah, 2 Thompson Seedless and 1 Mission on our standard residential 8,000 square foot lot in Upland,” said Denson. “Grapevines pretty much drape most of my yard, with the majority of the vines planted in the front yard sharing space with California native plants. The soil is coarse and littered with stones, gravels and sand. The ancient alluvial soils of the Cucamonga Creek are deep and drain quickly.”

Originally located on the southwest corner of Foothill Blvd (Route 66) at Haven Avenue (west of the Rancho Cucamonga Civic Center), the famed DeAmbrogio Ranch served as the valley’s grape packing and shipping center. “Mary and Frank DeAmbrogio were the last of the large grape packers and shippers of our valley,” said local winemaker Don Galleano. “I remember they were sending their prized Cucamonga Zinfandel grapes to the east coast as late as the early 1980’s via refrigerated trucks. DeAmbrogio Zinfandel grapes were the best in the valley,” said Galleano who worked closely on several vintages with respected Australian-born Enologist Daryl Groom at Geyer Peak Winery – in Geyserville – which produced the highest-rated Cucamonga Zinfandel ever, a “92 point score” in Wine Spectator. Galleano continues farming portions of the vineyards once cared for by the DeAmbrogios.

“Upon first view of the small bush-like vines, and the sandy soils, I fell in love with them. They reminded me of the very old Shiraz vines at Kalimna,” said Groom. “The wine was rich, dark and jammy with a distinct character I called, ‘Cucamonga character’ – a sort of earthy and warm character. It was that Cucamonga site which inspired me to plant zinfandel.”
The front yard vineyard at the Denson home has become a special place. “It’s an annual event of getting together with family, friends and neighbors to enjoy food and wine while we harvest and crush the grapes. It’s always fun to see the look on someone’s face who has never stomped grapes by foot before. There’s always some apprehension, followed by a big smile and laughter. What originally started off as a idea to preserve a portion of viticulture history of the Cucamonga Valley, has blossomed into a family tradition that marks the culmination of another growing season. Each year I bottle up a little gift of Denson Reserva Cucamonga Valley Zinfandel for those who attend our family harvest!
Local wine enthusiasts may also appreciate the small vineyard planting located at the Mercury Insurance building in Rancho Cucamonga, designed by Architerra Design Group in Rancho Cucamonga.

Cucamonga grown Zinfandel wines can be purchased at: Liquorama Fine Wines in Upland, Galleano Winery in Mira Loma, and J. Filippi Winery Rancho Cucamonga. Brandt Family wines can be purchased at Pacific Wine Merchants in Upland

Gino L. Filippi can be reached at


Father and son effort has raised more than $115,000 for heart research

June 12, 2011


Often times when wine enthusiasts peruse the aisles of their favorite shops and cellars in search of that special drop, the aesthetics of the bottle packaging and name of the wine, often impact the purchase decision.

Unbeknownst to some consumers, there is often much more to the heart and soul of a particular bottle than one may be aware. One such creation is Colby Red.

Two weeks ago I shared the juice from fellow vintner Daryl Groom about his 13-year-old son Colby Rex Groom. I caught up with Daryl who was judging at the Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition at Fairplex Pomona. “Groomy” as he is affectionately called by insiders, is one of the world’s “flying winemakers” and has over 3 decades experience producing wines.

Colby is a young man who endured back-to-back open heart surgeries at the ages of eight and nine. His desire to help others with heart disease provided the idea to inspire his winemaker/enologist father, Daryl to create a red wine to help raise money for heart research.

“My biggest pride and joy, and what has been taking much of my time over the last few months is the launching of a new wine called Colby Red – a 2009 vintage California blend of cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, shiraz, merlot and petite sirah,” said Daryl.

“Colby, ever since his surgery, has felt the need give back because he feels part of the reason he is alive is because people have donated to heartresearch. He is the recipient of a mechanical heart valve in his heart.”

“Colby came to me a year ago on a Sunday afternoon and he said, `Dad do you think we could make a wine together? I’d really like to make a wine together.’ I asked him, `Why do you want to make a wine, you know it’s very hard work.”

“He responded that he was really interested in the winemaking process – the science of it,” said Daryl. “He then came back at me and said, `I really want to do it Dad. Do you think the wine will be any good?’ Well, Colby I’ve made wine for 30 years, of course it’s going to be good! Do you think we could sell it and could the profits go to heart research he asked?”

The father and son had planned to make 2 barrels.

“I was telling Colby’s idea and story to one of the wine buyers from Walgreens and they fell in love (with the story) and said they would like to take it on nationally and support us,” said Daryl.

“So from an idea that was going to be making just 2 barrels, we now in 3 months have raised over $115K for heart research, and my son, my wife and I have been traveling around the countryside attending and hosting special fundraisers for the American Heart Association.

“This is a unique and generous red wine, just as Colby is a unique and generous child. I blended five different grape varieties to make a red that’s juicy and velvety smooth, with rich fruit flavors and a soft finish. Colby Red is a wine for sheer delicious enjoyment. While it’s a great wine with food, it tastes best in the company of good friends and family, savored with an appreciation of the gifts each moment brings,” said Daryl.

Colby Red is sold and generously supported by Walgreens nationwide and online at Priced at about $12.99, the custom blend consists of cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, shiraz, merlot and petite sirah.

When he isn’t jetting about to and from Australia and Northern California, Daryl can be reached at

To learn more about Colby and his wine please visit and on Facebook at Colby Red Wine

Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition 2011

May 28, 2011

Judging 2011 Los Angeles International Wine Competition @ Fairplex Pomona

Last week I trekked west to the 72nd Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition (LAIWC) at Fairplex where I discovered confident connoisseurs from around the globe gathered in the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts sniffing, swirling and tasting (not swallowing) over 3,000 wines from the world’s finest producers.

Considered by industry experts be the country’s premier wine judging, the LAIWC featured 64 skilled winemakers/enologists, wine retailers, sommeliers, educators, restaurateurs, and wine journalists.

With tasty Graber olives, neutral flavor crackers (for cleansing the palate) and water at their side, judges were busy discussing and recording findings of color/clarity, nose/bouquet, palate/flavor. Acidity, sugar, alcohol, tannin, balance and finish were a cluster of the terms overheard as they evaluated the red, white, sparkling, dessert, late harvest, blush/rose, organics, fruit, non-alcoholic and sake wines. Whew!

In just two days over 12,000 (1.5 ounce) tastes were poured by skilled LAIWC staff and students. Also included were spirits and extra virgin olive oils. Best of Class, gold, silver or bronze medals were awarded to the winners.

The LAIWC is committed to educating the public about wine, featuring industry experts with extensive knowledge about grape growing, selection, and tasting. “Wine and food pairings continue to play a most important role for consumers.

By providing a new point system, we are helping adults make informed decisions on what wines to buy and try. Combined with the fact that we offer public tastings and educational seminars during our annual L.A. County Fair, we are a valuable resource to wine enthusiasts and beginners alike,” said Dale Coleman, vice president sales, marketing and creative programming. Local students assisted the 16 judging panels.

“We find that the judges enjoy having the college students involved and it is certainly wonderful that they have a chance to meet all these people who are so important in the wine business,” said Margie Ferree Jones, associate professor of the Collins College of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly Pomona.

The event allowed me to catch up with many friends of the vine including judges Dan Berger of Santa Rosa, Rene Chazottes of Newport Beach, Gary Eberle of Paso Robles, Chuck Keagle of Upland, Daryl Groom of Healdsberg, Marc Lurton of Bordeaux, and Jon C. McPherson of Temecula.

The spirited Daryl Groom is owner/enologist of Groom Wines Australia. His highly acclaimed Australian winery concentrates on shiraz, sauvignon blanc and zinfandel.

He is also involved in several other projects including production of Colby Red, a flavorful California cuvee ($10) inspired by, and named after his 13 year old son Colby who underwent two successful (back to back) heart surgeries at 8 and 9 years of age. The wine is marketed nationally in partnership with Walgreens which to date has raised over $100K for heart research. View or

Groom’s DXG brand is a limited-release range of quality wines from premium appellations. His 30 years previous vintage experience includes winemaking and operational management at Penfolds, Geyser Peak Winery, and Beam Wine Estates.

“Groomy” as he is affectionately called by insiders, is one of the world’s “flying winemakers.”

With one harvest down-under, and the other in Northern California, he’s truly on the go year around.

“It’s fun to contrast harvests in both the southern and northern hemispheres each year. When things go well it’s okay,” said Groom, who has been making wines for over 30 years and judged at the LAIWC for 15 years.

“We tasted a flight of 10 viogniers today that were strong and quite delightful. I enjoy seeing the shift in viognier from years ago when they were heavily oaked and chardonnay-like to now they are more elegant and interesting.”

“This varietal shows much better without the influence of oak aging absolutely. It has a lovely honey-suckle and rose petal sort of fruit nuance. It should always be oakless.”

This Aussie offers a keen word on L.A.

“This judging is the best competition without a doubt in the country. It is professionally run, great judges and entries of wines, and it operates smoothly. I think the thing that I like best is the caliber of the judges. You sit at a table with several professionals that not only know about wine, but have so much diversity. For a wine to earn a gold medal here – it’s a damn good bottle of wine! No worries, Gino,” said Groom who participates in 5 to 8 competitions annually.

French enologist Marc Lurton returned to Pomona from one of the world’s most famous winemaking areas – Bordeaux, where there are more than 5,000 ch teaux producing wine, over 20 are owned/operated by the Lurton family.

Lurton judges at several International competitions and travels the world marketing his Ch teaux Reynier vintages. Lurton also worked several years at J. Filippi Winery where he served as Director of Winemaking and directed the popular blends of Deux Mondes.

“We started early yesterday with sauvignon (blanc), and Meritage blends of Bordeaux varietals, then to merlot and zinfandel. My panel tasted over 50 merlots and I can tell you I had to adjust my palate to the American taste,” said Lurton. “I have seen that my judgment was a bit too strict as I was expecting merlot with more flavor and body and the merlot here are much more round and light. The merlot of Bordeaux are more full-bodied.”

“What I enjoy most about this tasting is the professional abilities here. It is very interesting to me to taste with winemakers, distributors, journalists, sommeliers, and it is very organized,” said Lurton.

“We have many wines to critic each day – there are over 100 wines for our panel and you must be at the top to do this and everyone is at the top. We agree and work very well together as no one insists to push a wine forward. It is always it very good ambiance here.”

Winemaster Jon C. McPherson is the director of winemaking at South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa in Temecula. He was most impressed by the quality of the petite sirah and the sparkling wines brought before his panel.

“All the sparklers were brilliant. Exceptional domestics, Cavas from Spain, Proseccos from Italy and the French Champagnes all were great,” said McPherson who also works with Lurton on ultra-premium blends.

FUN Decanted

The 2011 medal winners will be crowned and announced June 25 at the first-ever FUN Decanted public tasting. This unique event will focus on educating guests about wines while still providing a fun and memorable experience full of delicious foods, music and beverages.

Set in the breezy Wine & Spirits Marketplace at Fairplex, the evening offers guests a casual romp through the world by way of glass or stein. Tickets are $50. per adult and proceeds benefit the educational programs of The Learning Centers at Fairplex.

For more information and tickets, please visit

Gino L. Filippi can be reached at

Rancho de Philo Rancho Cucamonga

November 5, 2009

Time for Philo’s Triple Cream “Solera” Sherry
In just two weeks, the old solid wood cellar doors at Rancho de Philo Winery in Alta Loma will be opened to the public for limited sales and tasting of Triple Cream Sherry wine. Bottle and case sales begin November 14th and will end on the 22nd – just in time for holidays.

Proprietors Janine Biane Tibbetts and husband Alan produce their prized sweet sherry on Wilson Avenue in the foothills of Rancho Cucamonga. It is here at their boutique winery that the multi-gold-medal winning dessert wine is created via the Spanish “solera” barrel aging process. It is considered “the finest” California cream sherry by industry experts and connoisseurs alike.

“In all my travels (as educator, winemaker and International judge) I have found some of the best fortified wines in the USA come from the Cucamonga area. They are the closest wines in style and quality to their European heritage. Very high quality wines,” said Australian born winemaker Daryl Groom of Healdsburg in Northern California wine country.

Side note: Groom 2007 Barossa Valley Shiraz just received ’93 Points’ rating by Wine Spectator’s Insider tasting panel.

Rancho de Philo was founded by vintner and wine industry pioneer Philo Biane (Janine’s father) in 1973, after he retired as President/CEO of Brookside Vineyard Co. in Guasti-Ontario. He studied and toured European winemaking countries, visiting several Spanish “bodegas”. “He learned the secrets of making truly outstanding aged sherry, and decided this was a product worthy of ‘retirement’.

Upon his return to Guasti, he started his first solera and the process of producing sherry in the true Spanish style…setting it aside and letting it sleep while waiting that illusive time of retirement,” said Janine.

The traditional “solera” system of fractional blending from a pyramid of oak barrels, results in the finest in aged sherry. The bottom series of barrels is where the oldest finished wine is drawn for annual bottling and replaced with wine from above barrels “criaderas”, of the similar (newer vintage) wine.

“In 1975 Philo made his first small sherry bottling for family and friends only. In 1977 he asked his daughter, Janine to join him and learn the process. Philo passed in 1999 and Janine and Alan became proud proprietors of Rancho de Philo.

“Over the years we have slowly expanded to fifteen soleras. Each year, we carefully draw off a small amount from the lowest level of the soleras to be used in the blend of wine ranging from 12 to more than 45 years of age. The result is a beautiful, complex wine of deep amber color with hints of golden raisins, butterscotch, and almonds,” said Janine.

“Our Triple Cream Sherry is produced from the Mission grape variety which was first brought to California by the missionary fathers in the 1700’s. It has proved its value for 300 years and continues to do so. In Spain, the traditional grape used for sherry is either the Palomino or Pedro Ximinez.”

“Given the sugar content of this wine (13.5%) and alcohol (18.5%), it definitely goes best with desserts. Our preference is to sip it with pies or tarts or custards. It is wonderful with anything made with apples or pears or nuts or mild cheeses,” said Janine. “In preparing these desserts, flavor is enhanced by using a little of the wine. Poach the fruit in the wine before making a pie or tart. Sprinkle a little more over the fruit before baking. Pairs well with fresh fruit and cheese too.”

Sautéing chicken or pork? “Use a little wine instead of (or with) the oil or butter. The very best is to use this wine when cooking onions. No matter how you are going to use the onions, the dish will take on a new dimension. Serving a cream soup? A teaspoon (or so) stirred into it just before serving lends a subtlety to it that is wonderful,” said Janine.

The 2008 blend has earned the following awards;

> 4-star Gold 2009 Orange County Wine Competition
> Gold, Sweepstakes 2009 Monterey International Wine Competition
> Gold, Best of Class 2009 L.A. International Wine and Spirits Competition
> Gold 2009 Dallas Morning News International Wine Competition
> Gold 2009 San Francisco International Wine Competition
> Gold 2009 Pacific Rim International Wine Competition

The 2009 blend will be available at $24.95 per bottle, 2008 blend $34.95, and 2007 blend $39.95. We have a very few bottles of the 2006 blend available for $75.

Rancho de Philo Winery is located at 10050 Wilson Avenue (west of Haven Avenue and Chaffey College) in Alta Loma. Open November 14th through the 22nd, from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Telephone 909-987-4208