Thursday, June 11, 2015

Wine and Trees: Interview with Scott Zanon

A few weeks ago I was milling around at the annual Ohioana Book Festival in downtown Columbus and ran into one of my neighbors, Scott Zanon. I've known Scott for eight years, but only in the sense that we live on the same street and I am in a neighborhood Bunco group with his wife. 

I had no idea that Scott is a writer and so I was surprised to find him signing at the festival, and I practically keeled over in a serendipitous swoon when I saw the topic. TREES. I happen to be writing a book about a dryads, and fun fact: dryads are connected to trees. For months I've been doing tree research and all along, there was Scott, a few houses down from me, a freaking tree expert! 

We got to talking--mostly this was ME, asking him stuff about trees and probably sounding like a complete loon--and then the conversation turned to wine. Fun fact number two: I like wine. Scott, my mild-mannered neighbor, is a writer AND A WINEMAKER. 

So after the festival, I bought a bottle of Scott's wine and we sat down in the virtual sense and chatted.
(Scott Zanon. credit: The Columbus Dispatch

Jody: (drinking Scott's wine) Okay. This is good. First, I've got to know: how did you become a wine-maker?

Scott: I previously had spent sixteen years in the wine industry from both the retail and wholesale side. Zinfandel has always been one of my favorite grape varietals and over the past ten years the style of this wine has changed. Most of them available on the market are high alcohol, jammy, fruit-bombs that do NOT go with food. So I decided that I would create my own Zinfandel in the style that I grew to love in the 90’s, one that is lower alcohol, medium-bodied, with slight nuances of pepper, oak, and acid. It smells and tastes like the grape. It is the way Zinfandel should taste.

Jody: (drinking more of Scott's wine) This is really good. Admitting here that I know absolutely nothing about wine-making--I'm picturing the old I Love Lucy show with Lucy stomping around in a barrel of grapes-- but how does an Ohio guy end up making a California Zinfandel?

Scott: I've been long-time friends with a third generation Italian family who have been growing grapes and making wine since 1927. I went to them and asked if they would sell me enough wine to make 400-500 cases a year in Ohio only. So I flew out to California and we struck a deal. I go out to the beautiful Sonoma County twice a year for harvest in October and to blend in April. They give me estate grown and bottled wine and I blend my style.

Jody: And you set up some kind of distribution here in Ohio?

Scott: Right. I had to get a wine distributor in this area who buys, stores, distributes and sells the wine. When you are as small as Zanon Zinfandel is, it's difficult to get placements. But once folks try ZZ, it becomes much easier. I do as many tastings as possible.

Jody: It seems like it's working out for you. I was at the local supermarket the other day and saw a huge display. I was so excited. I know him I kept saying to everyone who walked by. So you're doing well...

Scott: Yes, but I'm really doing this for the fun and certainly not for the narrow profits it generates. Introducing a style of wine to folks is satisfying as well as having one’s name on the label. Of course that also brings high expectations, but I would never bring an inferior product to market. I am most proud that the label states Zanon Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley. This region is truly the best are in the world to grow Zinfandel.

Jody: Totally switching topics on you, but how did your tree book come to be?

Scott: Landscaping with Trees in the Midwest is actually my second book and was published in 2014 by Ohio University Press. My first book Desirable Trees for the Midwest was self-published in 2009. I could write a book on the self-publishing process!

I was Chair of the Green Committee at the Ohio State Golf Club for ten years and in 2003/04 the vaunted Scarlet Golf Course underwent a much needed and large restoration. I was appointed Chair of the Scarlet Restoration Committee and we removed many trees from the golf course to allow sunlight and air circulation. We started to discuss what trees to re-plant into some areas and there was nothing out there to help or guide us through the process. That is where the seed was germinated for the books.

In my latest book I describe sixty-five desirable tree varieties, their characteristics, and their uses. There are more than 325 color photographs--

Jody: Those photos are stunning, by the way. Did you take them?

Scott: Thanks. I did take most them. I wanted to illustrate the appearance of each species through the seasons – including height, shape, bark, flowers, and fall colors – as well as other factors that influence selection and siting.

Jody: Would this be a resource more for a professional landscaper to use?

Scott: Professional landscapers would definitely find it helpful. The book includes a table of growth rates and sizes, a map of hardiness zones, and plant usage guides by categories. I also touch on underused species of woody plants that are overlooked in the industry and discuss areas of concern for landscapers, such as the Emerald Ash Borer.

But gardeners at all levels of expertise have found the book to be a useful visual reference--something that helps them make informed choices when landscaping.

Jody: Nothing in there about dryads, though.

Scott: Ha. No. But I am working on developing a picture book. I've teamed up with an illustrator and we're in the process of searching for a publisher.

Jody: Well, best of luck to you! Thanks so much, Scott, for talking with me today and sharing this bottle of wine.

Scott: Thank you!

*Clink clink*


For more information on Scott Zanon's wine... or trees, see below.
Landscaping with Trees in the Midwest

1 comment:

  1. What a great find, Jody. You found a writer/wine-maker/photographer right in your backyard.