A long history in California and Paso Robles

An important part of our story is that in addition to decades-long careers in viticulture, winemaking, operations, and hospitality, we have deep family roots in California. We each come from five to six generations of California natives: Shelly in Orange County and Jimmy in San Luis Obispo County. Everything we do comes from a commitment to showcasing and preserving the place we love, not only for us to enjoy but also for our son Rocco and future generations.

Not many American wine families can trace their U.S. roots back to 1830, but Jimmy’s family emigrated from Italy to San Luis Obispo County. His family has been part of the community and region ever since. Fast-forward to 1998, his family carried on the wine tradition and planted a dry-farmed, head-trained vineyard in the Templeton Gap District of the Paso Robles AVA. Jimmy grew up in the vineyard and wine business, initially with the families Bella Luna Vineyard and Winery, where he developed a deep understanding and affinity for the region, specifically the western portion of the Paso Robles AVA.

Falling in love over a passion for wine

While Jimmy then joined Eberle Winery in Paso Robles, working for Central Coast legend Gary Eberle and their team as an intern and then assistant winemaker, Shelly was busy building a career in hospitality and service with roles at The Mission Inn, The Four Seasons in Newport Beach and JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery. During her tenure, she interacted with customers worldwide; Shelly’s love of fine wine, food pairing, ambiance, and personalized hosting came alive. Simply put, she was hooked.

The family theme is key in the next part – Jimmy and Shelly met because Shelly’s mother set them up. You heard that right. When she met Jimmy, she had a hunch, and not just because she knew they both loved wine. Of course, that didn’t hurt. They met in 2008, fell in love over wine, continued their wine journey together, and married in 2010.

Moving to Napa

Both Jimmy and Shelly believe that being curious and adventurous is part of what makes life worth living, and both of those things brought them to Napa Valley in 2011. Jimmy grew his love and craft for making elegant reds while working as a production assistant at Heitz Wine Cellars and then as a Cellarmaster at Sodaro Estate Winery and Failla Wines. Shelly continued her career as hospitality manager for Wm Harrison Vineyard & Winery, a small, family-run business that makes beautiful estate wines in the heart of Rutherford. It was there that Shelly’s love for being part of and building a winery community was really ignited, and its owner, Bill Harrison, showed her what it meant to be hands-on, approachable, and authentic in each guest interaction.

How ZANOLI was born

In 2014, Jimmy returned to Paso Robles to lead the winemaking efforts at the family winery, Bella Luna. Shelly joined DAOU Family Estates, focusing on distribution logistics, and later, Bella Luna as Director of Sales and Marketing. The couple dreamt of opening their own winery, focusing on the Rhone-style wines they loved. They would use all of Shelly’s hospitality, service, and consumer-focused experiences to create a hands-on family brand appealing to wine lovers of all kinds. That’s where Grandma Betty comes in.

About Grandma Betty and The Big Z

Jimmy grew up close to his grandparents, Betty and James Zanoli (“The Big Z”). It was The Big Z who inspired the vinyl collection and vintage vibes of the tasting room. Some of Jimmy’s fondest memories were with his grandfather by the swimming pool, spinning songs from his 300-record collection (now with Jimmy); the Big Z would sip a martini and talk to his grandson about his love of music, fishing, and sports. The memory of music, something great in the glass, and terrific company are a big part of the ZANOLI visitor experience.

His wife, Grandma Betty, was Jimmy’s biggest fan—she loved tasting Jimmy’s wine at all stages of his career. When Shelly and Jimmy talk about their dream of starting a winery, Grandma Betty makes it a reality and gives them a leg up to make it happen. They launched ZANOLI in December 2014, focusing on minimal intervention, Rhone-style wines that express the unique soil and character of Paso Robles. The rest, as they say, is history.

Last but not least…

Their son, Rocco James Zanoli, was born in 2018. He’s a huge part of their life at the winery and runs the show at home. Pretty soon, he’ll probably be running the business as well.


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