Producing world-class wines was the vision of two former aerospace engineers who in pursuit of their dream launched ZD Wines. The plan was to produce wines similar to those from the renowned Burgundy region of France using the Pinot Noir and Chardo-nnay winegrape varieties. In 1968, Norman deLeuze and Gino Zepponi pooled their resources of $3,000 apiece and applied for a winery permit. At that time, there had not been a winery permit issued in Sonoma County for nearly 20 years. The permit was issued in 1969.
Norman and Gino rented a small farm building in the Carneros region of Sonoma County. They purchased winegrapes, some 50-gallon oak barrels and a redwood vat. Three hundred cases of Pinot Noir and a small amount of White Riesling represented ZD's first commercial vintage in 1969. The grapes were purchased from the Winery Lake Vineyard, which had been planted a few years earlier by René di Rosa. ZD's 1969 Pinot Noir carries the historical significance of being the first wine to have a Carneros designation on the label. It states, "Made in Sonoma from grapes grown in the Carneros region of Napa." The Chardonnay winegrapes from Winery Lake Vineyard were not in production until 1971, which is the first vintage of ZD Chardonnay.
The de Leuze and Zepponi families spent weekends and holidays crafting ZD's wines from grapes grown in carefully selected vineyards from some of today's most recognized wine regions. During the 1970's, a very open-minded approach was taken towards trying new and different varieties and growing regions. Research was undertaken to discover which regions produced the winegrape varieties that best reflected ZD's developing style - wines with rich, vibrant flavors.
After 10 years of producing wine as a part-time business, Norman left engineering to devote all of his time to doing what had become a full-time passion. Norman's wife, Rosa Lee handled the sales and marketing of the wines. A six-acre parcel of land was purchased located along the beautiful Silverado Trail in Rutherford, Napa Valley. Here, a new winery was built in 1979. One year later, Cabernet Sauvignon was planted on the surrounding property and a three varietal focus was taken, which returned ZD to its original plan. In 1980, ZD began producing only Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. By this time, ZD had already established a reputation for producing wines of outstanding quality, distinctive style and consistent character.
Today, the de Leuze family continues to produce wines with a personal, hands-on approach. Over the years, Norman and Rosa Lee's sons - Robert and Brett - joined the winery staff. Robert's involvement began the day his father formed the winery and began crushing winegrapes. From the time he was 11 years old, Robert was never far behind Norman. In 1983, after years of practical experience and studying viticulture and enology at UC Davis, Robert became winemaker. At the same time, Norman stepped into the title of CEO.
In 1988, Rosa Lee acquired some help. Returning from California State University, Sacramento with a degree in marketing, Brett joined Rosa Lee to form a mother-son marketing team. In 1993 ZD underwent an expansion that more than tripled the size of the winery. Today, there are sixteen full-time employees and a tasting room staff assisting the family.
Over the years, ZD Wines have graced the tables of White House dinner parties, spanning three administrations. The wines have garnered over 342 awards of excellence in prestigious competitions; and in 1997, ZD Wines was named a Winery of the Year by the Wine & Spirits Buying Guide.
The success of ZD Wines can only be attributed to the dedication and winemaking philosophy of the de Leuze family. As ZD Wines moves forward, the family continues to grow. Norman and Rosa Lee's grandchildren represent the 3rd generation to contribute their time and skills to the winery. In 1996 the de Leuze family purchased an historical, 33-acre vineyard in Carneros. Formerly owned by Irish immigrant Patrick Flanagan, the property is planted with 26 acres of Chardonnay. Another seven acres was planted with Pinot Noir which produced its first vintage in 1999. As the winery continues to grow, so does the vision of ZD Wines.