Norman deLeuze, the aerospace engineer who turned a hobbyist’s passion for winemaking into a business, died October 26, at his home in Napa Valley.
The cause of death was cancer. DeLeuze was 75.
DeLueze and an engineer friend, Gino Zepponi, began making wine in 1969. In 1978, DeLeuze left his job at an optical coatings laboratory to operate ZD Wines fulltime. The winery, on the Silverado Trail in Rutheford, established a reputation for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, joined later by Cabernet Sauvignon.
DeLeuze was a pioneer in organic grapegrowing. The story is that when he was advised to spray his vineyard with a chemical, in the early 1980s, he donned a chemical suit, then posted “No Entry” signs around the perimeter. It wasn’t long before he thought to himself, “No way. We’re never going to spray again.”
Among his other achievements was the building of a relationship with the U.C. Davis Oncology Department that eventually resulted in the creation of the deLeuze Family Endowment for a Non-toxic Cure for Lymphoma.
Norman Charles deLeuze is survived by his wife of 52 years, Rosa Lee; a daughter, Julie, the winery’s administrative director; sons Robert, who is ZD’s CEO and wine master, and Brett, ZD’s president, and 5 grandchildren.