Z'IVO Wines


Z’IVO is named in honor of the Zelko family Czech heritage. In Czech, the word means “alive” so Z’IVO can be interpreted as wines that are vibrant. Led by slightly crazed winemaker John Zelko, Z'IVO has been quietly producing world class Pinot Noir in Oregon's famed Willamette Valley for over a decade. Recently we have added some White wines from Oregon and Washington.

Location Description

Located in the heart of Dayton, Oregon.


  • Celebrating Wines of Willamette Valley

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Dr. John Zelko comes from a family of doctors. His father was an ophthalmologist and was always disappointed that he didn’t follow his career path, (but at least his brother did). John and his wife Kathy moved to Oregon in 1983 from Hawaii filled with romanitic visions from Ken Kesey’s “Sometimes a Great Notion”, perhaps the greatest Oregon book ever written. Looking for a lush landscape of frontier and promise they sought out experiences that were fresh, cool and offered a hint of craziness.

They became enamored of the local wines and at the request of a good friend, Rachel Starr, they spent several years as part-time “cellar rats” helping her make wine and learning what it takes to produce a superb vintage. Eventually John and Kathy bought a ton or two of Pinot Noir from lesser known vineyards and made their first wine in Linton. This went on from 1992 to 1999 when Starr Winery moved to Newberg. By 1995, the insanity was in full fever and they purchased 40 acres of exceptional land in the Eola-Amity Hills in the north Willamette Valley. This is where their estate vineyard was planted in 1996 and where Z’IVO was born.

Practices & Techniques

John and Kathy admire the old world emphasis on terroir and also ascribe to the new world viticultural and enological techniques that are emerging today. The winemaking reflects the high quality of the grapes, which also allows for risks and continual experimentation. The Zelkos employ small lot fermentations often with native yeasts: In most vintages they do some whole cluster fermentations.

The Zelko's personally prefer Pinot Noir that has gained complexity with age - looking for those surprising nuances that only older great wines possess. As such, the Z'IVO releases are sometimes out of sequence because some vintages need more bottle time than others. Z'IVO strives to showcase the best of each harvest through minimal handling in small lots and wild yeast fermentation. The goal is to taste the year and the vineyard in every vintage.

The wine spends 10 months in barrel, usually about one third new French oak using a mix of cooperages to avoid monotonal characters. John designs the wine to be laid down for quite some time since he and Kathy personally prefer Pinot Noir that has gained complexity with age. This delivers those surprising nuances that only older great wines possess.

Estate Vineyards / AVA

The Zelkos preferred the wines from what is now the Eola-Amity Hills AVA because they liked “the gutsy, earthy backbone and black fruit flavors.” The site is situated at 150 to 400 feet with soils ranging from Yamhill to Woodburn.

Pinot Noir gives a sense of the place where it is grown. In truth, every soil has its own flavor, but no other grape variety changes as much depending on the site of the vineyard. As Z'IVO now enters the second decade of harvests, John and Kathy remain convinced that they chose an ideal location for our vineyard. The shallow volcanic and sedimentary soil in this rocky, east-facing hillside produces Pinot Noir with intense black fruit, spice and earth tones. They planted five separate clones of Pinot Noir because they believe the site and the clones make an ever-changing and improving mix as the vines age.

The Z'IVO estate vineyard sits on the north tip of the Amity Hill facing due east at the northern edge of the Eola-Amity Hills AVA in the northern part of the Willamette Valley. They chose this site because of the shallow volcanic soil at the top of the hill and the river sediment from the ancient Missoula floods at the bottom. Both are excellent for producing Pinot Noir grapes.

The soil types found here are the volcanic Yamhill B and C on the upper slopes, blending into the fresh water sedimentary Woodburn series at the lower part of the vineyard. Although these two soil types are radically different, their location on this hill and the local microclimate provide full flavor development in both Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc.

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Thurs-Sun: 11am - 4:30pm


18201 Walnut Hill Road
Dayton, Oregon 97114
United States

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