ZD Wines was recently certified as a Napa Green Winery. "It's the way we think anyway - the way we do everything," said CEO Robert deLeuze, son of founder Norman deLeuze, about the straightforward process to becoming certified.
One of the early members of the modern-day Napa Valley wine industry, ZD was founded by Norman deLeuze and his partner Gino Zepponi. The two mechanical engineers started making wine as a hobby in 1969 and helped establish Los Carneros as a premiere Chardonnay and Pinot Noir growing region. Within a decade, ZD became a full-time venture for Norman and the family purchased property in Rutherford to build their winery.
Conservation in Carneros
The deLeuze family acquired its 34-acre Carneros property from the Moon family in 1996 and immediately converted to organic cultivation. ZD's commitment to the environment is evident from the moment you turn into the property. The long driveway is lined with abundant native flowers and plants, which serve as beneficial habitat for insects and birds that help control unwanted pests. Robert's Chevy Volt is connected to the electric charging station in front of the original 1897 home, which was lovingly restored in 2011.
Inside the home, Robert's attention to detail is apparent as he points out the original hardwood floors, the latest in efficient LED lighting, the recycled glass counter tops and the rainwater collection system on the roof. The home is surrounded by drought-tolerant landscaping and redwood trees sporting owl boxes. Just beyond the home is a new barn, with the roof covered in solar panels. Next to this is a garden, with raised vegetable beds and fruit trees. All of the produce goes to employees.
ZD chose their architect for the barn renovation because of his emphasis on integrating daylight into the project. The barn is positioned for maximum solar production. Opaque metal makes up the main shell of the building with perpendicular wood slats every six inches that disguise the metal, allowing in light and preventing heat loading. Inside, natural light pours in. Upstairs, the side of the building folds out giving shade to the vineyard overlook.
Beyond is storage for up to 90,000 gallons of rainwater. Robert notes, "That's not a huge amount, but it helps. We are very short on water here so it's not a game." Municipal recycled water will also soon be available for irrigation in Carneros. The solar system on the barn's roof provides more energy than they need on the property, but Robert says, "We were lucky because around the same time we installed this solar array, Marin Clean Energy launched in the Napa Valley. We opted to go ‘Deep Green,' getting 100% of our energy from renewable sources. We get paid for our excess solar production."
"We recyle almost everything."
When Norman and Gino purchased ZD's Rutherford property in 1978, Robert says the first thing their vineyard manager did was thoroughly spray the 6-acre property. "My father looked around and saw everything was dead and said, ‘This isn't healthy.' At first, going organic was about what we weren't going to do rather than what we were going to do, but over time we realized how important it is to invest in a healthy environment." Robert says over the years they've learned from their neighbors, including Frank Leeds, director of vineyard operations at Frog's Leap Winery, about dry farming and organic agriculture.
At the Rutherford property another solar array tucks into the vineyard next to the winery. This provided all of the winery's energy needs until they installed an anaerobic biodigestor to recycle all of their process water for irrigation. Robert has been part of the family business since he was 11. He quit college in 1979 to help his father build the winery. "We recycle almost everything," Robert says. "Stretch wrap, Styrofoam, cork, pallets, food waste – all of it." There are recycling bins by every trash bin. All green waste, pomace and lees are composted and used in the vineyard.
Winemaker Chris Pisani is revved up about a new motor system with variable frequency drives that will improve efficiency and reduce noise. Pisani thinks being environmentally conscientious is part of the culture at ZD. "I remember a decade ago during bottling we had three large waste containers being hauled away every week," he said. "Almost everything was going to landfill." Robert adds, "Today the only things that get collected are glass and pallets for recycling. Everyone on staff is trained to recycle."
In the winery parking lot, a Tesla and two Chevy Volts are charging at three of the four EV charging stations. If employees buy electric, ZD pays to charge their vehicles.
A Legacy of Stewardship
Name an aspect of winery operation and ZD has thought about its environmental impact: air compressors are on variable frequency drives; the two-stage chiller is highly efficient; the high-pressure water system and barrel washer are on an adjustable timer; night air exchange helps with cooling; motion detectors for keep lighting use to a minimum. The anaerobic biodigestor recycles roughly 40,000 gallons of water. It is stored underground, invisible beneath garden beds and vineyard.
Karen Steinhoff, who took the lead on the Napa Green certification process for ZD, says, "The Napa Green process was not difficult. You just have to pay attention to every element and be willing to sweat some of the details. I learned a lot." Robert notes that they've updated their employee handbook with Napa Green information and resources. He credits his father for starting them on the sustainability path, now a 35-year record of environmental stewardship.