The 1960s were an important time in the history of Napa Valley. Several key wineries started their operations then, with Robert Mondavi Winery and Heitz Cellar being two of the most notable. ZD Wines also came to fruition during that important decade, and unlike the aforementioned names, it is part of a small core of wineries that remain family-owned and operated.
Today, the second and third generations of the deLeuze family are continuing what was started back in 1968. Pinot noir, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon represent the core of what they’re about. Their family was the first to print Carneros on a wine label. They consider themselves to be shepherds of the land they farm, and their vineyards are certified organic. However, that’s just a small piece of their approach, as they also use solar energy, compost, electric vehicles, water conservation, and more. Everything is attuned to having a healthy ecosystem, which in turn leads to better fruit.
Visitors to ZD will find that it offers myriad tasting and tour options. Whether you want to bump up to the bar and sample current releases or dive much deeper, it’s possible at ZD Wines. Should your interests include learning more about its farming practices or you get a jones to explore some older library wines, there’s an option to meet your desires. ZD Wines is currently renovating its tasting room and the surrounding gardens, and once everything is complete in the spring of 2019, visitors will have even more to enjoy.
The deLeuze family is also deeply invested in fundraising and giving back to the community. There are several signature events that they host and/or participate in, both in their own backyard and around the country. In addition to raising an impressive sum of money over the years for charity, they also do things such as providing healthy snacks to the local Boys & Girls Clubs. These charitable acts keep them firmly enmeshed in the community.
There are a handful of wineries in Napa Valley that have been around longer than ZD Wines, but not very many. Since the time ZD opened, hundreds more, in all shapes and sizes, have been built. Some of them come and go, and some hang around for the longer term. Everything ZD Wines has done and continues to do shows that it has its eyes not just on today and tomorrow, but far into the future as well. Fifty years into its history as a wine producer, it’s an indelible part of what Napa Valley is all about. Here’s a look at three current releases that I recently tasted through.
The wines that are the subject of this review were provided at no cost to the writer.
ZD Wines Reserve Chardonnay 2016 ($77). All the fruit (100 percent chardonnay) is from its Carneros Estate Vineyard. Barrel aging took place over 15 months in American oak. Golden Delicious apple and Anjou pear aromas explode from the welcoming nose. A treasure trove of pure fruit is evident from the first sip forward. Oodles of complementary spices are along for the ride on what is a fresh, rich, and textured palate. A gentle touch of mesquite honey leads the persistent finish along with a kiss of oak that provides an additional “spice,” but never detracts from the pure, driven fruit. Firm acid keeps it all mouthwatering.
ZD Wines Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2016 ($82). This is entirely pinot noir (Hanzell Clone) from its Carneros Estate. Aging took place over 15 months in French oak. Red and black cherry aromas lead the charge alongside wisps of savory herbs. The palate is stuffed with a layered and nuanced core of ripe berries. Gentle bits of toast and a dusting of cocoa powder are present as well. Pomegranate, cranberry, and baking spices are evident on the finish, which is precise, focused, and prodigious in length. Refreshing acid keeps everything in check.
ZD Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($75). In addition to cabernet sauvignon, there is some petit verdot (19 percent) blended in. The fruit was sourced from small vineyard lots around Napa Valley. Barrel aging took place over 22 months in American oak. Toast, leather, and red fruit aromas abound. A core of fresh cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, and bits of clove are evident on the elegant palate. Blackberry, spice, and chicory emerge on the long, velvety finish. Firm acid and sweet tannins provide a lovely backbone.
If you find yourself in the Napa Valley, be sure to stop in to visit ZD Wines, as well as some of the best wineries in the country.