Norman de Leuze, founder of Napa Valley’s ZD Wines died last week at the age of 75 following a long battle with cancer.
A Navy veteran and mechanical engineer by training, de Leuze and fellow engineer Gino Zepponi pooled their resources to apply for a winery permit in 1968 in Sonoma County.
Originally inspired by the wines of Burgundy, the part-time winemakers began making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Napa’s Carneros District.
Ten years later, de Leuze had made winemaking his full-time vocation and his family purchased a small estate on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley.
De Leuze’s wife Rosa Lee joined the business in a marketing role. His son Robert later became ZD’s winemaker, daughter Julie took on operations and son Brett joined his mother in sales.
It is anticipated that the business will continue in the hands of the family – indeed, the third generation has started: Robert’s son Brandon is assistant winemaker.
De Leuze believed in a non-toxic approach to health care and built a relationship with doctors at the UC Davis Oncology Department during his treatment.
He established a family endowment for research seeking a non-toxic treatment for Lymphoma.
Written by Tim Teichgraeber