A visit to Paso Robles is never complete for us without a visit to J Dusi Winery. Admittedly, it’s personal.
We first met Janell Dusi in the mid-2000s at a roadshow tasting for Paso Robles wineries held at a hotel in Santa Monica. At that time, she was pouring her first commercial vintage of Zinfandel made from the family’s historic Dante Dusi Vineyard off the west side of Highway 101. Planted by Janell’s great-grandparents in 1945, the amazing fruit had been traditionally sold to other wineries who were proud to designate the vineyard on their label. But Janell took the family business to the next level by making and bottling the wine under her J Dusi brand.
Since then, we’ve visited Janell many times, initially at the family home on the vineyard property and more recently at the winery/tasting room on Highway 46 West. Whether they know it or not, Janell and her family have become our Paso family.
Janell has also grown the wine selections beyond the flagship Zinfandel and even added another brand to the mix – Paper Street.
The first thing we noticed on this trip was how much the outside tasting area had expanded, with lots of comfortable seating and umbrellas, much of it colored the signature Dusi blue.
Then, Janell greeted us and, although we forewent our usual hugs, it was with immense joy that we sat down with her to talk about the last several months and sample several of the new releases.
We started with the 2020 Pinot Grigio. We found this to be super bright and fresh. Its low alcohol makes this a true summer wine, although we drink a lot of this all year long. It is not just popular with us, as Janell’s customers love it and buy it by the case. One of them even referred to it as “Dusi Water”, a term a stickler might find offensive, but not Janell. Hey, whatever keeps the customer happy, right? [Just a thought from us – much like in our neck of the woods, Agua Dulce means Sweet Water in Spanish, maybe she should rename it – not Acqua Dolce – but Acqua Dusi. What do you think, Janell?]
Second to be tasted but always first in our hearts was the Dante Dusi Zinfandel. This was the 2019 vintage and we noted that it was fruity and spicy [specifically with pumpkin bread spices] with a nice long finish. Classic Dusi Zin.
The next two wines were from the 2017 vintage. The Escandalosa is a blend of – not Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre – but Zinfandel, Syrah and Mourvedre. We’re not sure if the “scandal” is the unusual blend or what happened at the naming party that came up with it, but it had a beautiful cherry color and great spices from the Zinfandel. The other 2017 was the Caterina’s Vineyard Syrah, which was full bodied, well rounded, with notes of white pepper and a looong finish. Sadly, the 2018 version of this is the “last Syrah” from this great vineyard, although other varietals will be forthcoming.
We also tasted one of the wines from the Paper Street label – the 2017 Narrator. This is a classic GSM [40% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre] and was just perfectly balanced. The Paper Street vineyard was planted by Janell’s brother Matt and their father Mike on the West side of Paso Robles. Planted not only to Zinfandel, but also to Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah and Clairette Blanche [among others], Janell is doing great things with this vineyard, as are other wineries in the area. The name Paper Street has a double meaning, referring both to the vineyard not having a true address and as an homage to Matt’s favorite movie, Fight Club. Ditto with the name Narrator, referring both to Mike Dusi and to the Narrator in the movie.
Janell also told us of an exciting new development involving J Dusi Wines. You may have heard of the emerging market for canned wines. My initial observations have been these tend to be lower-end wines designed for maximum quaffing. Maker Wine Company (www.makerwine.com) is taking a different approach – focusing on quality wines from smaller producers in a convenient canned package. Janell’s contribution to the brand is a blend of the Zinfandels from the Dante Dusi and Paper Street vineyards. This should really “up” the perception of what canned wine is all about.
It was wonderful to visit with Janell, but she had a winery to run. We said our goodbyes after quick tastes of the yummy 2016 Zinfandel Port and the 2018 Haute Blanc Viognier Port and headed out, knowing we would be back to J Dusi on our next trip to Paso Robles wine country.
1401 CA 46 West
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Michael and Karen Perlis have been pursuing their passion for wine for more than 30 years. They have had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show them the way and after a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as they possibly could, they had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Michael and Karen do their best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers.