Perlis Picks: J Dusi Wines

J Dusi Wines

My most recent visit with Janell Dusi was somewhat bittersweet, although definitely more sweet than bitter.

Let me explain…

Janell Dusi
Janell Dusi

I first met Janell Dusi a few years ago. At the time, the vintners association from Paso Robles had taken their show on the road, and held a tasting event in Santa Monica. That was the first knowledge I had that she was making wine from the family’s iconic vineyard in Paso Robles.

The Dante Dusi Vineyard produces exceptional Zinfandel grapes that have long been sold to other wineries. I’m not sure what creates their distinctive taste, but wines from this vineyard always excel – if for some reason they don’t, I am confident the problem is at the winery, not the vineyard. For example, the Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel from Turley Wine Cellars is typically my favorite wine from this winery, and Turley make well over 20 different wines. (And I guess I’m not the only one who feels this way – the 2011 Turley Dusi hit number 12 on the latest Wine Spectator top 100!)

When Janell, granddaughter of Dante Dusi, announced she wanted to make wine from the Dusi grapes, she was met with protestations of “we are growers, not winemakers.” I doubt if they protested too much, as this is a family that obviously supports its members, and as Janell started making her excellent Zinfandel, followed by Syrahs, blends and Pinot Grigio, her family has been with her every step of the way. It has been a lot of fun visiting Janell and the rest of the family at the family home right in the Dusi Vineyard – the property even feels special. We’ve brought several wine lovers there over the last couple of years.

Janell’s success has created opportunity for her. With the unfortunate closure of Edward Sellers Vineyards, Janell knew she had to move quickly to obtain a prime presence on Highway 46 West.

So now, after some remodeling, the J Dusi winery and tasting room are open to the public – no appointment necessary. No more visits to the vineyard, although Janell assures me there will still be some opportunities to do so.

More than just Dante Dusi Zinfandel is produced under the J Dusi label, although that is still the flagship wine. On our latest visit, the following wines were on the tasting list:

2012 Pinot Grigio (Fossil Creek Vineyard)

Syrah – La Casita – blend of 2008 and 2009 vintages

2010 Syrah (Caterina’s Vineyard)

And of course the 2011 Dante Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel

In addition, a new wine was on the list, called Sly. From the 2011 vintage, this is a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Syrah. An unusual blend that works beautifully. And, contrary to a rumor that’s been floating around, this wine was not named after one of my writer colleagues. The name Sly is a nickname for Sylvester, a traditional name in the Dusi family.

Janell makes other wines that are available for purchase – including a Carignane, a Zinfandel – Cabernet Sauvignon – Sangiovese blend, a Zinfandel Port, and my favorite Grappa anywhere. The highlight for me was the 2011 Caterina’s Vineyard “Whole Cluster” Syrah. The use of whole clusters added even more complexity to a wine that was already delicious.

J Dusi wines tend not to be huge overpowering wines – they do a great job of emphasizing the fruit and at the same time they are very food-friendly. Definitely a stop to make next time you are in Paso Robles, now that everyone can.

Chances are you’ll meet Janell, and a lot of supportive family members.

Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers.

(2013 Update: Eve and Michael announced Eve Wine 101 Consulting. Info is here: Michael can be contacted at