As winemaker for Little Black Dress Wines (LBD) Zidanelia Arcidiacono (“Z” for short) is responsible for one of the most popular, successful woman-centric collections of wines in the U.S. Yet, despite growing up surrounded by vineyards in Argentina’s Mendoza region, this accomplished young woman, barely 30 years old and with no family connections in the wine business, has had to make it on her own.
Z’s winemaking philosophy at LBD is simple: “Make wines that people can enjoy.” This means an emphasis on freshness for the whites and soft tannins for the reds. A special focus for Z is aroma: “Women in general are blessed with a keener sense of smell. With LBD, I strive to make fun, fragrant, approachable wines.”
Texan-born Z moved at the age of two to Argentina, where her family owned a restaurant in Mendoza. There she learned to deal with customers and discovered her life’s passion – wine. Her first hurdle arose while studying enology at university in Mendoza: almost no one was willing to give the young, unconnected woman a chance until, finally, Bodega Cruz de Piedra offered to let her work the harvest. Z did so well she was asked to stay on full-time, which she did — for the next four years.
Shortly before graduation, Z went on to pursue a second internship at Les Vignerons du Pays d’Enserune in France’s Languedoc Roussillon. Here, in rosé country, she learned to love those pink wines. “Fresh out of school, you think you’re ready for the big time. Instead, you are back at the bottom as a cellar rat!” she laughs. It was trial by labor and she loved it! Here she learnt the ins-and-outs of lees-stirring and low-temperature fermentation, especially as it relates to Sauvignon Blanc.
Z’s next move was to California. While looking for the right winemaking opportunity, she made ends meet selling wine at a South Padre Island store.
In fall 2007 Z began work at Sonoma Cutrer. When not in the winery’s experimental lab, she traveled the vineyards, sampling grapes for sugar. She was also asked to lead winemaking classes for the crew in Spanish and English. Initially nervous about teaching classes in English, her second language, Z soon discovered a real aptitude for explaining complex topics in simple terms.
In 2009 Z was head-hunted by Dennis Martin, head winemaker at Fetzer, for her expertise in micro-oxygenation – which helps reds to mature and soften and can either make, or break a wine. First supporting him on all reserve wines and in the process learning about LBD, Z was promoted to lead winemaker for LBD when Concha y Toro acquired the company in 2011.
Being attuned to what her audience wants has been key to Z’s success with the LBD brand. Add to that her passion, perseverance and a Can-Do attitude – “Ask me and I’ll try!” she says – and you have a female role model for a new generation of wine lovers.
When not making wine, Z spends time with her husband, her dog, and in her vegetable garden. She also runs, and as a hockey and tennis player she is always looking to join a game.