Norman de Leuze, cofounder of ZD Wines in Rutherford, Calif., died Thursday night at his home in Napa of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the winery said. He was 75.
In 1969, de Leuze and fellow aerospace engineer Gino Zepponi each put up $3,000 to form ZD in a rented barn in Sonoma. That year the duo produced 300 cases of Napa Valley Pinot Noir and Riesling with grapes purchased from the famous Winery Lake Vineyard in Carneros.
A decade later, in 1979, the company purchased 6 acres of land on the Silverado Trail in Napa's Rutherford district, where a winery was built and a small Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard was planted. After Zepponi's death in the early '80s, the de Leuze family became sole owners of the company. De Leuze left his job as an engineer to oversee winery operations full time, and his wife and business partner, Rosa Lee de Leuze, took over sales and marketing. In the early 1990s, ZD underwent a major expansion to its current production of 30,000 cases per year.
In addition to the Rutherford property purchased in 1979, the winery currently owns 33 acres in Carneros planted primarily to Chardonnay, with the balance Pinot Noir. The winery is known primarily for producing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as a solera-style Cabernet called Abacus, which is a blend of several vintages.
The winery remains owned and operated by the de Leuze family, including Norman and Rosa Lee's children: Robert de Leuze serves as wine master, Brett de Leuze serves as president and Julie de Leuze serves as administrative director. Robert's son, Brandon de Leuze, is assistant winemaker.
Norman is survived by his wife, Rosa Lee, three children and five grandchildren.
Funeral services are pending.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions