ZD Wines Facility
Pouring Grapes for
Crushing & De-Stemming
ZD Wines Staff
Night Harvest Bins
Celebrating New Harvest
Chris Pisani, Winemaker
Fermenting & Aging
ZD Chardonnay is set apart from most Chardonnay in the marketplace because of its distinctive style, the quality of its production, and the consistency with which it is produced. Its style is based on four elements, and each element makes an important contribution to the overall production of the final wine.
First, ZD's style is to blend Chardonnay grapes that are specially selected from California's cool, coastal growing regions. This blending process builds complexity in the wine and maintains consistency with every vintage. Second, ZD barrel ferments and ages its Chardonnay in American oak barrels. American oak offers subtle nuances that make ZD wines distinguishable and flavorful.
ZD Chardonnay undergoes a long, cool fermentation. This process extends yeast contact, which contributes to the wines having a creamy texture similar to wines aged sur lees. Finally, ZD Chardonnay undergoes no malo-lactic fermentation. This is purposely controlled to preserve the varietal character and natural acidity of the wine. As a result, ZD Chardonnay ages more gracefully and is a great complement to food.
Beginning in September and lasting throughout most of October, ZD's Chardonnay grapes are hand harvested and brought quickly to the winery, where they are crushed and pressed. Each vineyard lot is maintained separately. The juice is then cooled and put into 50-gallon oak barrels for its 100% barrel fermentation. Due to the cool temperature in ZD's cellars, the fermentation lasts about 6-8 weeks, whereas most barrel fermentations last about 3-6 days. This very slow, cool, fermentation is extremely important to the quality of ZD Chardonnay. It maintains the fruit and gives the wine a creamy, toasty character that is brought about from extended contact with the yeast as it is suspended in the fermenting wine. This cool temperature also inhibits a secondary (malo-lactic) fermentation, allowing ZD Chardonnay to maintain its natural acidity.
Once the barrel fermentation is complete, the clear wine is racked (taken off the settled solids) and put back into 50-gallon oak barrels to age. Tasting the individual vineyard lots begins in late January, as Winemaker Chris Pisani begins his analysis for final blending. The separate wines are tasted regularly until April or May. Then, the wines are tasted in different blend combinations to determine which produces the best final wine. Blending the wines from different vineyards and regions is probably the single most important element of creating ZD Chardonnay, as Robert strives to produce a consistent style of wine from year to year.
After blending is complete, the final wine is put back into the barrels where the individual aromatics and flavors are allowed to marry. Bottling begins in July and is completed in August prior to the arrival of grapes for the next vintage. ZD Chardonnays are consistently rich wines that are well balanced and demonstrate the full spectrum of varietal character.
The best drinking period for ZD Chardonnay depends on individual preference. The wines mature in a very consistent manner. Typically, the aging process follows the descriptions listed below.
Operating the Punch-Down
Barrel Sample Tasting
Pinot Noir is the grandfather of ZD Wines. It was one of the first wines ZD produced and has been produced every year since the 1969 vintage - the year ZD was bonded. The Carneros region is the home of the winegrapes used in producing ZD Pinot Noir. ZD's first Pinot Noir was proudly labeled: "Produced in Sonoma County From Grapes Grown in the Carneros Region of Napa" - making it the first wine to recognize the Carneros region on its label. It was 1981 before Carneros was registered as a recognized grape-growing appellation. Part of ZD's original plan was to produce world-class Burgundian-style varietals, but over the years, a style has developed that is distinctly Carneros. Consistent quality has earned the Carneros region a reputation as one of the premier wine-growing regions of California. A noble winegrape, Pinot Noir tends to produce wines of delicacy rather than power. ZD Pinot Noirs are crafted to reflect richness and intense varietal character in a style that uses the California sunshine in a cool grape-growing region to fully mature the grapes for intensity and flavor.
Generally, Pinot Noir is the first varietal harvested by ZD. Picking starts near the beginning of September. The grapes are harvested by hand as they reach full maturity on the vines. Once the grapes are harvested, they are transported to the winery, where they are destemmed and crushed. The resulting must (juice, skins and seeds) is then allowed to ferment warm in open-top stainless steel tanks. The skins and seeds form a cap on top of the juice. This cap is punched down into the fermenting juice every six hours by hand, using an air cylinder device designed and built by Winemaster Robert de Leuze. Although hand punching is a very laborious job that must take place around the clock, it gently extracts more color and character from the skins than the primary alternative, which is drawing juice from the bottom of the tank and pumping it over the cap.
Pinot Noir is a very delicate grape that requires great attention, but the reward of this care is a very elegant wine with subtle aromas of violets and cinnamon. The wines are aged in 60 gallon French oak barrels for a total of 10 months in our cool cellars before being bottled. ZD has sourced Pinot Noir from six different vineyards in the Carneros region and recently purchased vineyard property. The amazing thing about this grape-growing region is the consistency of the winegrapes, independent of the particular vineyard from which they are grown.
The best drinking period for ZD Pinot Noir depends on individual preference, although most people will prefer them best when they are relatively young. The wines mature in a very consistent manner. Typically, the aging process follows the descriptions listed below.
Picking the Grapes
Award Winning Abacus
Before producing any measurable quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, ZD Wines experimented with crafting small lots of this great varietal with grapes from many growing regions. The quest for locating the winegrapes that would best reflect ZD's style ended in 1983 - four years after ZD moved to its home in Rutherford, Napa Valley. This premiere growing area for Cabernet Sauvignon focused the de Leuze family on the varietal. They planted Cabernet on the property's surrounding 3.2 acres of sloping, eastern benchland. At the same time, they sought winegrapes from low-yielding vineyards producing intensely flavored fruit. Significant to ZD's style of Cabernet is its predominant use of hillside winegrapes. Although Cabernet Sauvignon was not part of the original production plan when ZD Wines was founded, it has become a highly acclaimed complement to ZD's family of wines. The wine is opulent and rich, with just a hint of "Rutherford Dust" in its reserve blend.
The winemaking technique used to produce ZD Cabernet Sauvignon begins in the vineyard with fruit grown in recognized viticultural areas within Napa Valley. It is hand harvested when it reaches full maturity, generally in early October. After picking, the grapes are transported to the winery where they are destemmed and crushed. Fermentation takes place in open-top stainless steel tanks. The cap of skins and seeds that float to the top of the tank is gently punched down every eight hours to maximize flavor extraction and minimize extraction of harsh tannins. The fermenting juice is tasted frequently to determine the precise moment in which the skins and seeds are removed. This is done to prevent overly tannic wine. Fermentation lasts between 6 and 14 days, depending on the level of extraction. The vineyard lots are kept separate during fermentation, then put into 50-60 gallon oak barrels for aging over a 24-month period. The reserve blend spends an extra year in the barrel.
Throughout the time the wines are aging, Chris is focused on producing a consistent style of wine from all of the individual vineyards. Each wine invariably shows subtle differences. Ultimately, these differences complement one another as they are blended, adding layers of complexity to the final wine. After blending is complete, the final wine is put back into the barrels where the individual aromatics and flavors are allowed to marry. ZD Cabernet Sauvignon is consistently a rich, flavorful wine that is well balanced. It demonstrates the full spectrum of varietal character.
The best drinking period for ZD Cabernet Sauvignon depends on individual preference. The wines mature in a very consistent manner. Typically, the aging process follows the descriptions listed below.