A Ray of Light at ZD Wines


I attended a private Carneros Wine Alliance tasting recently at the estate of ZD Wines owner Robert de Leuze.  After tasting the beautiful Wine Alliance Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines and hearing third generation vintner Brandon de Leuze speak at the gathering, I realized that the family’s restored 1897 Victorian and modern, daylit barn symbolize what Carneros stands for today – a respect for tradition but with a bright and shining future.

The Carneros appellation which straddles both Sonoma and Napa Counties at the head of San Pablo Bay, has often been considered a sleepy, charming and rustic place, very low-key, like the low-profile barns that dot the landscape. In fact, this was the first time the Wine Alliance opened up their tasting to outsiders, creating an interesting mix of jean-clad production workers and smartly-dressed somms.


Wine Alliance board members Brandon de Leuze (Secretary), Anne Moller-Racke (Vice Chair) of The Donum Estate/Stemmler Winery and TJ Evans (Chair) of Domaine Carneros (pictured left to right).  Photo by Teplin+Nuss

One would expect the dynamic, young board of the Wine Alliance to espouse the latest techniques in farming and winemaking, especially the de Leuze family, whose patriarch Norman de Leuze was a highly technical aerospace engineer. Instead, 30-year-old Brandon talked about “old school” and what it meant to him, such as continuing the organic farming started by his grandfather over 20 years ago and making Pinot Noir the traditional, gentle way, with manual punchdowns and minimal intervention. For Brandon, old school just means “doing the right thing.”


Photo by Leong Architects


Preserving the best of the old while embracing the new is also a passion of Robert de Leuze, who rescued the Victorian and built an energy self-sufficient, very practical yet striking new barn designed by Wayne Leong of Leong Architects. From a distance, the barn appears like a solid wood structure but inside, the barn is as light as day due to translucent polycarbonate siding that changes the perception of barns as dark, musty places. At dawn and dusk, it simply glows.

The barn maintains a traditional board-and-batten appearance with vertical cedar board turned on its side to expose as much of the polycarbonate siding behind it as possible, minimizing the need for artificial lighting. When open, 30-foot-wide hydraulic barn doors create more light while accommodating wide loads on the ground level. On the mezzanine, the “hayloft” door creates a large awning that focuses the view on the vineyards beyond.


Note the 12-foot overhang to the right that shelters outdoor equipment. Photo Leong Architects

The elongated roof gives a sleek modern look to the barn but has a practical purpose in maximizing the amount of south-facing solar panels installed to generate enough electricity for both the barn and house. A generous rainwater collection system and chargers for their electric vehicles add to the green design.

For the de Leuze family, building a sustainable business and homestead for generations to come is a Ray of Light.

ZD Wines‘ public tasting room is located in Rutherford where one can taste both their Carneros Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as their Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  8383 Silverado Trail, Napa.

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