Exploring Paso Robles: Winemaking Traditions and Innovations with Janell Dusi of J Dusi Wines

by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Jun 13, 2023

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Exploring Paso Robles: Winemaking Traditions and Innovations with Janell Dusi of J Dusi Wines

Last Updated on June 13, 2023 by nicole

Janell Dusi J Dusi Wines
Exploring Paso Robles: Winemaking Traditions and Innovations with Janell Dusi of J Dusi Wines 11

Janell Dusi, the fourth-generation owner, and winemaker at J Dusi Wines, leads the way in crafting exceptional wines at this boutique Paso Robles Zinfandel winery. As a female-owned and operated establishment, J Dusi Wines embraces Janell’s expertise and vision. Janell’s roots run deep in the world of winemaking, having been born and raised on the Dusi Vineyard, where her grandfather Dante imparted the old-world Italian winemaking traditions to her. The Dusi family’s legacy in Paso Robles Wine Country dates back to the early 1920s, and Janell continues their heritage by upholding sustainable farming practices passed down by her great-grandparents.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Janell tells us that she’s a fourth-generation owner and winemaker; her great-grandparents immigrated from northern Italy and settled in Paso Robles.
  • Janell shares her winemaking journey and the process behind creating J Dusi Wines.
  • Discover when the inaugural vintage of J Dusi Wines was released
  • Learn about the diverse range of varietals thriving in Paso Robles, and how the region’s soil and topography contribute to their excellence
  • Janell discusses their house style and the characteristics of J. Dusi’s Zinfandel and other wines
  • Explore how Janell’s winemaking philosophy allows the vineyards to express themselves
  • Janell introduces the exciting new vineyard project, the Paper Street Vineyard
  • Learn about the evolution of Janell’s wines over the years and the factors that have influenced their development
  • Dive into the interplay between art, science, and passion in winemaking
  • Janell discusses upcoming wine ventures and experiments she is looking forward to exploring
  • Janell shares her vision for the future of Paso Robles and offers cautionary advice for the region’s evolution

In this episode with Janell Dusi

Janell Dusi, a fourth-generation owner, and winemaker, shares her captivating journey from her great grandparents’ migration from Italy to Paso Robles, to her own winemaking process and the evolution of J Dusi Wines. Discover the diverse varietals in Paso Robles, the house style of Zinfandel, the influence of vineyards on flavor profiles, and the common denominator between their different wines. 

In today’s episode of the Legends Behind The Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks is joined by Janell Dusi, Owner and Winemaker at J Dusi Wines. Explore Janell’s latest vineyard project, Paper Street Vineyard, and delve into the challenges and rewards of managing two brands. Learn about their harvests, the evolution of J Dusi wines over the years, and the delicate balance between art and science in winemaking. Janell also shares her excitement for future wine ventures and experiments, while discussing her motivation and what drives her passion. Finally, envision the changing landscape of Paso Robles over the next years and discover the cautionary advice that Janell wants to share with wine enthusiasts.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

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[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Drew Thomas Hendricks here, I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. On this show, I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry.

Before we get on with the show, brief sponsor message. Today’s episode sponsored by Barrels Ahead. Barrels Ahead, we help the wine and craft industry scale their business through authentic content. Go to barrelsahead.com today to learn more. You know what? Last week on the show I talked with Jeanette Tan.

She’s founder of QB Winery Solutions. We talked about the biggest mistakes wineries make in setting up their accounting and what KPIs wineries should be looking at to ensure scalability and profits. If you haven’t listened to that episode, be sure to check it out and make sure that your KPIs are online with where your, with your goals today.

Super excited to talk with Janell Dusi. Janell is a third-generation owner and winemaker at J Dusi Wines. Welcome to the show, Janell.

[00:00:49] Janell Dusi: Hi. I’m so glad to be here.

[00:00:51] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Thank you. Oh, thank you so much for being on. So, Janelle, third generation, we gotta just hop into it. What’s it like?

[00:00:57] Janell Dusi: Okay, well hold on a second.

It’s fourth generation.

[00:01:01] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Fourth generation. Generation.

[00:01:02] Janell Dusi: Yeah.

[00:01:02] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh my gosh. I had a, oh, I had a completely wrong. It’s even more impressive, fourth generation. Talk to me about that.

[00:01:08] Janell Dusi: Yeah. We go even deeper into our roots. Yeah. My great-grandparents came over from northern Italy in the early 19 hundreds, and when they settled here in Paso, it was kind of like, what are the other Italians doing?

You know? What are our friends doing? So they were all planting Zin. And in the early 1920s, there was about five Italian families that planted Zinfandel here in Paso.

[00:01:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What brought them to Paso?

[00:01:29] Janell Dusi: They like, the charcoal, they started making charcoal, with all the oak trees and stuff, I believe. Wow. Sounds really bad today’s world.

But Paso Robles, it was halfway between San Francisco and LA and it’s kinda where they stumbled upon and had a little contingent of Italians from northern Italy that were all here. Oh. And yeah. And they all started planting Zin. Fortunately ours are still intact and all 150 acres are still here and.

Yeah. Producing.

[00:01:56] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And where did they, so they plant 150 acres, and this is on the west side of Paso.

[00:02:00] Janell Dusi: It is pronounced on the west side of Paso. They planted 40 acres 40 to 50 on the off Ramada in 1925. And then they planted another hundred acres, which is the vineyard I grew up on and live on today, on the other side of the highway in 1945.

So, okay. You know, over 20 years they planted the a hundred.

[00:02:18] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s amazing. That’s amazing. So what was it like growing up on the

[00:02:21] Janell Dusi: vineyard? I grew up a farmer’s daughter, you know? So it was three generations ahead of me that were farmers. And I was, you know, lived in the middle of a hundred acres of old vines Zin.

So I lived in the middle of dirt and back here in Paso Robles in the eighties. It was not a thing, wineries were not all around us. It was kinda like, oh yeah, you’re that kid on the vineyard over there, you know? And we, we were farmers. My dad was actually a wheat and barley farmer and did the grapes on the side.

Oh, wow. Yeah. But I had two older brothers and we were just extra sets of hands. We were pure, like extra labor for him. So, I grew up in the dirt and it was blood, sweat, and tears out there. And I just was like, guys, why? You know, we pick all these grapes, we work so hard all year long, and they go out the driveway and that’s it.

And all these other people have wine and uhhuh, you know, do these things. So I was 12 years old and I said, I wanna make wine. And my dad said, no, you’re crazy. We’re farmers. We’re not winemakers.

[00:03:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And he hadn’t, he hadn’t dabbled. No one previously was dabbling in homeowner.

[00:03:19] Janell Dusi: No, my great-uncle did in the fifties when great prices, you know, back in the fifties.

Americans didn’t drink a lot of red wine. Yeah. So, when the great prices went down, my great-grandfather Sylvester said, “Benito, you’re gonna start making wine.” You know? So he started making wine, got some redwood tanks in the cellar, and on the property, started making wine. And about seven years later, when great prices went back up, my grandfather said, my great-grandfather told him, “All right, Benino, you can close the door if you want.”

So they went back to just being farmers in the late fifties. Oh wow. So technically I’m fourth generation, the first one to make wine in the family in 60 years.

[00:03:54] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s amazing. So you’re 12. You’re 12, and you’re like, I’m gonna make some wine. How did you go about doing that?

[00:04:00] Janell Dusi: I begged and pleaded my grandfather to teach me the basics.

My dad wanted no part in it. He is a true farmer at heart, and that’s what he loves and breathes and his passion. So, thought it was crazy. My grandfather thought it was a fun project and, you know, it was really basic. It was picking the grapes that were outside my house. It was stomping them, fermenting them, put in a barrel.

Bought my own 15-gallon French oak barrel when I was young. Cause I raised pigs and used money and bought a new barrel and I just bottled it. However, it turned out it wasn’t like I was blending and trying to make the best creation of the best Zinfandel I could make. I was purely just making due season from 1992, kind of something like that.

So, I entered it in our local amateur winemaking contest here. I think they didn’t. That probably I was turning the wine in for somebody else who had entered but didn’t know what a 13-year-old at the time was entering homemade wine. But I printed it up in the newspaper and I have the newspaper hanging in the tasting room now.

Oh, that’s cool.

[00:04:55] Drew Thomas Hendricks: How did you do in there?

[00:04:56] Janell Dusi: I got honorable mention.

[00:04:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Nice.

[00:04:58] Janell Dusi: It was probably the lowest medal they gave out, but hey, they printed my name in the newspaper and said honorable mention. So

[00:05:05] Drew Thomas Hendricks: First time they didn’t tell you to get out.

[00:05:07] Janell Dusi: Right? Yeah, I think it’s a win.

[00:05:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, that’s fantastic.

So 13 first wine and then what? I mean, it just progressed from there.

[00:05:15] Janell Dusi: You know, through high school, I made a little batch every year in my grandfather’s garage, and it was fun and I gave it away his gifts, I was bringing it to school and giving his teachers and they’re like, sweet.

And then through high school, I got this mentorship program. So I would get these men, the group of men that met about winemaking and they’d pick me up and I was 16 years old, and we’d go to these biddings and I look back, I’m like, “Mom, what were you thinking? You let me just go with like the local pharmacist to the local town meetings of wine and.”

She goes, “I know it was crazy.” But it was so harmless and the town was so small back then that it was no big deal. But then through college I made, I toured Davis. I did not end up going and I I didn’t apply. Actually, I went to UC Santa Barbara and made wine in the garage every year. And

[00:05:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What did you study Santa Barbara?

[00:06:00] Janell Dusi: Global and international studies,

[00:06:02] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Global and inter, now what was your goal there? Was it were, were you, did you think you were gonna become a winemaker or,

[00:06:07] Janell Dusi: I loved wine. I was, I went to Davis in high school thinking, “I’m gonna go here, I wanna make wine.” And when I toured there, it was so heavy on the viticulture.

And I grew up with farmer’s daughter and it was like, I don’t wa I wanna do anology. And here in San Luis Obispo Cal Poly didn’t offer anology at that time, just viticulture. And I was like, I don’t wanna go to college for farming, you know, my whole life. So, I went to UC Santa Barbara. I loved to travel.

I knew I wanted to travel and make wine other places. And I love just different countries and I, and so we learned a lot about exporting, importing, things like that. Really studied the regions. And got a degree in international studies, which was the first year of that degree. My parents and my brothers make a lot of fun of me saying, I don’t, not really, it’s a

a real degree, but hey, I got a college degree. So you’re studying international? Yeah, but then I went on to, I went and worked in Australia. I am in the Barossa Valley and traveled a bunch.

[00:07:01] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Is that right After college or in college?

[00:07:04] Janell Dusi: After college.

[00:07:04] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, after college. So went right back into fo following your dream of wine.

[00:07:09] Janell Dusi: Yeah. Immediately after college, I came up here and started working at Turley. I went to South Australia, got an internship, you know, it was seven days a week, 12 hour shifts. It was intense and to do two vintages in a year, you know, follow that crush from Southern Hemisphere of Northern Hemisphere.

So it was contagious and I loved it. And I am, grew up, like I said, I grew up farming, so I grew up hands-on and that’s my winemaking style today. It was very hands on and learned by doing.

[00:07:36] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure, sure. When and now when did came back from Australia? When did the first kind of vintage of J Dusi come out?

[00:07:43] Janell Dusi: 2006 was my first vintage. I always say for legal sale because I did all of my paperwork. But I started and I started with Zin of course, because that’s what I had and what I knew and grew. So I started with a, a Zinfandel, a Zin Rosé, and a Zinfandel Port.

[00:07:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, nice.

[00:07:59] Janell Dusi: And then from there, that is a couple Zin based blends, which I, you know, Zin’s my house palette I think as well.

So I love, that’s what I grew up with, so I feel like it’s really ingrained in me and now I yeah, branched off cause I have the luxury of, playing with new things, having a little spice rack and the cellar now, and that I have my own stuff. So it’s been fun to grow, but definitely my heart and my roots are with Zinfandel and my passion for sure.

[00:08:21] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And that’s like back, I got in the wine industry in early nineties and we always just equated Paso with Zin. Nowadays. Nowadays it’s just so much broader with Cab and all the Rhone varietals.

[00:08:33] Janell Dusi: Seriously those three. It’s crazy cuz our, our history is Zinfandel. It’s what our base is of what got Paso Robles known to be a great, great, great growing region is Zin. But Rhones are fantastic here in our soil and our topography here, but Cabernet is actually the whitest bridal planted here. So it’s, we’re

[00:08:51] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I learned that, I was talking to Danielle Dowell and I, I mistakenly said, Cabernet you don’t normally think of Paso. When he quickly corrected me, quickly corrected me that that’s where, that’s what, by, by far the most planted.

[00:09:06] Janell Dusi: Yeah. We’re like a, an area known for three strong varietal.

[00:09:11] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So as far as Zin, talk to me about your Zin and the kind of your house style.

[00:09:16] Janell Dusi: I think when I talk about my house palate beans and, you know, I grew up with Zinfandel from a long, long time ago. So it was much more that restrain style. I almost call it old world style.

Cause it wasn’t that high, high alcohol, high jam, high fantastic crazy Zinfandel. It was old world style. And for an example, in the process of my grandfather teaching me how to make wine, the wine sitting in a barrel, I’m like, “Okay, now what do we do? I know we have to top or something.” And he was like,

he went and grabbed the garden hose and he is like, “Here we go. This is topping it up.” And I’m like, “What? I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.” You know? And I think we go back to visit our family in northern Italy and we bring all these like Turley infant Dusi Zin, and we’re so proud that the Dusi name was on all these things.

Yeah, I remember that. Huge Zinfandel, and they’re like, “Oh my God, it’s 16% alcohol.” It’s, they can’t even drink it because the lifestyle of old world is. Sit at lunch for four or five hours and drink six bottles of wine. At 12, 13, 14% alcohol, low alcohol, where you have all the, the complexity and the flavors and the profile of that varietal.

So what I really strive to do in my Zinfandel is to pick it at a little bit leaner. Little lower bricks. So you’re not getting that high alcohol high jam. But rather that bright fruit, little bit of spice. Nice. So I really refer to my Zinz as medium bodied and restrained in style.

And and another big part of my zela is I hope to not overshadow it or with oak, which can easily be done with Zin. So, yeah. My oak regime is only about 10% new oak on the Zen and mostly French with a little bit of American or maybe some hybrid barrels in there. But I think oak can really overshadow the fruit and fruit is.

Out of all the varietals, I think Zin is the most notorious for the fruit shining through. So I really wanna capture that and, and for my family, we’re in the vineyards every day. I wanna show our hard work. I wanna show what the soil is doing with those old vines, zen vines, and not over. Not mask it with anything.

So my winemaking style is all native ferments. I don’t use any yeast and I don’t do any additives or anything. So I really wanna show the pureness of our hard work in the vineyard and let you see what happened in the Dusi Vineyard in 2019. Yeah, was it too much rain? Was it too much wind at springtime?

Was it, not enough rain, a drought which you can see those. Minuscule little details come through by vintage if you do it that way.

[00:11:40] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I do miss the like the year-to-year variability that I used to see in a lot of wines. Wine makings become so, so scientific and it just seems like this, the consistency, especially in California wines, it’s very hard to tell one vintage from another.

Yeah. Walk us through, so I’m excited to hear a little bit about this. You can do it very generally, but over the last four vintages, how has the flavors evolved by allowing the vineyards to express itself?

[00:12:08] Janell Dusi: I think certain years we can have no one thinks about too much wind during April and May when the grapes are blossoming can blow the blossoms off and stunt the growth.

And so you’re getting this mixed bag on a cluster. And that can. That can hurt the grapes. You can definitely see the difference in ’em. This year, 21, we were in a drought, and so our production yields were down 40% pretty much. And hopefully, we get some more concentration from that.

And I have to walk a fine line between grape grower and winemaker. Because I buy the fruit from my family, which I’m a partner in as well, But it’s like, “Sweet. The vineyard’s down 40%, we’re gonna have more concentration, more this.” And then it was like, “Oh, then we’re down 40% of our yields and our money.”

Things like that. It’s always a fight every year with me and my dad and I’m trying to wear both hats on those things. But yeah, it’s definitely what I wanna show is vintage. What happens with Mother Nature and that, that’s the, what it comes down to is Mother Nature.

I definitely have a wine of $15 screw Cab red I put in the grocery stores only. That my goal is to make that taste the same every year.

[00:13:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah.

[00:13:09] Janell Dusi: And maybe I do probably use a yeast and some additives in that $15 bottle, but in the classic Dante Dusi Zinfandel or a Vineyard designated, I wanna show all those intricacies that happened over the course of the year with Mother Nature and expressed that in the vintage.

[00:13:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: How many wineries are making Dusi Zin.

[00:13:27] Janell Dusi: I’ve quite a few from Benito Dusi, which is a 1925 vineyard. It ridge gets most of the grapes, about 95% of it.

And we’ve been selling to Ridge Vineyards since 1967.

[00:13:39] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Wow.

[00:13:39] Janell Dusi: So every single year, all in a handshake. They do the,

[00:13:42] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s the first one. That was the first Dusi I tried when I started in the industry.

[00:13:46] Janell Dusi: Yeah. And we’re still, they’ll take as many grapes as they can get and it’s, it’s awesome. I’m able to squeeze a little bit of the vineyard out now, a little bit of the grapes.

Make a hundred percent Benito and I also make a dual blend of the two vineyards. But,

[00:13:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And they’re in that, they’re in that more European style of drinking Zin

[00:14:02] Janell Dusi: Absolutely. And I love how they break down their label. You know, there’s 3% Carignan, a little bit of Alicante Bouschet because that’s what is old vine Italian, Italian field blend of vineyards that are planted in the twenties and thirties and back in the day, which I think is so cool.

[00:14:18] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely. I know we’re not gonna talk about Ridge, but I do have to say their label has always been my favorite. It gives you just the facts that really, it’s classic. Yeah, it is. It’s classic.

[00:14:27] Janell Dusi: Yeah. The Dante Dusi Vineyard. The vineyard planted in 1945. I buy about 20% of that vineyard.

And the rest of it is pretty much goes to Turley. Since the late nineties, as well as Tobin James since probably the early nineties or may, maybe late eighties.

[00:14:40] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And I guess Turley would be the opposite expression of. Yeah, from what I remember of Dusi, I remember when that the first time I had Turley Dusi was I think in 98 or 96. And that was the first time that we really saw that 17, 18% alcohol.

I think Aaron Jordan was doing some bionic yeast or something at the time.

[00:15:03] Janell Dusi: Yeah, exactly. Because it’s then as uncontrollable when it comes in, it’s hard to catch it, especially dry farms in. You can’t just, you get a heat spell of over a hundred degrees close to harvest. You can’t just turn the irrigation on and let it ride it out.

You, those sugars climbing, you’re gonna have to deal with that and that’s gonna directly relate to high alcohol. But I think even their winemaking style has changed a little bit and you know, come down a little bit.

[00:15:25] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It’s just amazing. The same vineyards, so many different expressions of the varietal.

[00:15:29] Janell Dusi: Yeah, my favorite thing to do, we do now for staff parties is get 2019 Dusi Zin from multiple that’s what I was getting to. Yeah. Love it. It’s so cool. You can still see the underlying characteristic of the vineyard and then just different winemaking styles on it and oak, oak regimes, how they can play be so different.

[00:15:47] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That would be a fun tasting. I do a lot of like location ones, but of a vineyard specific and to have that many options. What do you see the common denominator between the all the different wine?

[00:15:57] Janell Dusi: It’s definitely the fruit. The fruit that comes through. It’s almost like this tart cranberry, cherry cola kind of thing that is so distinctly Dusi Vineyard. Depending on, you know Tobin James likes it really, really ripe. So they like that Jammier one. We sell a little bit to McPrice Myers. We’ve been selling to Ledge, Stephen Ross, quite a few other people and they like a little bit leaner, to try and stay away from those flavor profiles.

But there’s always, it’s the fruit that definitely people. Someone yesterday in the taste room was like, “I had a wine” and I said, “This is Dusi.” And it was a Dobra Canyon, a really small guy that gets like two tons a year or something. And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s cool.”

[00:16:32] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That is awesome. Talking about like different expressions, you’ve got a new a new vineyard project coming up, Paper Street that also has a few different people producing wine.

[00:16:41] Janell Dusi: Yes. We sold about 10 different producers off that vineyard. And again, I buy 20%, but my, this is the very first vineyard that my family has planted from the ground up. So we own about five other vineyards in town. And most, the two big Dusi ones have been handed down by generations to my dad.

Other ones we’ve bought that. We’re a great, needed some tlc. We got in there and, and revamped them and had these vineyards. But Paper Street is a vineyard actually a piece of property we bought that we started from the ground up, so bought some raw land and planted it, and there’s about 106 planted acres up there now.

[00:17:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Wow.

[00:17:15] Janell Dusi: And what’s so cool about this property is that it’s about a thousand feet higher elevation than we are now. Than our other vineyards. So the high elevation, this steep, rugged terrain is just intense and rugged and just special, but dangerous and gnarly and scary at the same time.

[00:17:33] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, yeah. I mean, I’ve looked at the video.

There is, it is a night, it sits right on the top of that hill. Yeah. When you guys were thinking about planning it and organizing it, what did you take into consideration and how did you, what’s some of the things you’re most proud of how that vineyard’s operating?

[00:17:49] Janell Dusi: Going up here for the first time, it’s about 20 minutes up this dirt road that’s not even a road.

It’s like a glorified ditch of a road. And I were just getting to the top and being like, oh my God, what are my dad, my brother’s thinking with this property. How are you gonna get fruit down this mountain? Oh, you know, so they had the, the wherewithal in the foresight to look at it and be like this is gonna be amazing.

Look at all of our neighbors up here producing qual top quality fruit from the land around it. It’s in,

[00:18:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Was it just brush at the time?

[00:18:15] Janell Dusi: Completely unfarm. Yeah. And there was about 20, it’s it’s 350 acre piece of property and about 20 acres of almond trees were up there that had been neglected for about 40 years.

So my dad was like, Hey, they’re still holding on. There’s, there’s something magical up here because those haven’t been touched in 40 years and they’re still doing okay. So, that was up there, but. We tried to, my brother and dad didn’t wanna plant this vineyard without having like, some contracts or some people who wanted it, you know, cause that’s a big endeavor.

So they got a whole the McPrice Myers at the time was buying some fruit from us. And they respect him and his quality and his winemaking and his passion. Big fan of his Paper Street Zin. Yeah, he’s an amazing winemaker. More than a few bottles past coffee. He was on board, he saw the property. He was like, yes, I’m in.

And so we really relied on him a lot and collaborated with him of like, what varietals would you wanna see? North, south east Wests exposures. What varietal would go well, where. And so, they collaborated a lot on the, on the planting of the vineyard. And he signed up, he takes about 50% of the fruit off.

[00:19:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh wow. Oh wow. Yeah. Now when you did the planning, what type of vines were you doing head pruned, like your other vineyards or you doing?

[00:19:21] Janell Dusi: It was a mix of everything. We really try to see what varietals did well with what style. And I was a trial learned and by trial and error I guess.

Of course the Zinfandel we planted was head pruned and you know, no, not Trellis. We did that to the Carignan, the Petite Sirah and the Zinfandel up there. And the Grenache blanc. And Grenache are all had trained. And then we quickly realized that the Carignan was not thriving that way. And you know, the canes are super, super long.

They’re falling over in the wind. So we went in and add a trello system to the Carignan and everything else is doing really well. The old world style. So, there’s a little mix of everything. We’re probably trying to do what was best for each varietal.

[00:20:01] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s neat. And your label is Paper Street. When was the first vintage of that?

[00:20:05] Janell Dusi: 2015 I did Magnums only for just four barrels. And then 2016 I released three separate wines. So I was a hundred percent in Zinfandel, a hundred percent in Mourvedre, and a GSM blend. And I mean, I didn’t plan on doing a hundred percent in Mourvedre at all, but I was like tasting it by the barrel of being blown away.

It was nuts. It was

[00:20:25] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What was it like, what the expression.

[00:20:27] Janell Dusi: It had like this balance of like Earth, but yet this candy finish almost not sweet and I don’t need to use candy that way. But it just had this intriguing fruit component to it that just made you want more. And I remember someone in the taste room was like, swirling it in their glass at the tasting and just being like, this is what I want at midnight on New Year’s Eve. And I was like, yeah, that’s it. Yeah. So I’ve been fortunately years after that even through 2020, I’ve been bottling that Mourvedre a hundred percent by itself.

[00:20:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Well, that sounds delicious.

Yeah, that’s Now how old are those vines now?

[00:21:01] Janell Dusi: Those were planted in 2013. Okay. So, so I mean, it’s so cool to have the Dante Dusi Vineyard planted in 1945. We took those cuttings, put it on resistant rootstock over to the nursery, and then took that Zin cuttings and planted ’em a thousand feet higher at, at Paper Street.

Ah. So every vintage, now I have a 2020 Dante Dusi Zin. And the 2020, you know, Paper Street Zinfandel, which are essentially the same canes.

[00:21:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Genetics. Yeah.

[00:21:29] Janell Dusi: They’re planted in such different sites that it’s so cool to compare and contrast and, yeah. Not saying I’m picking a favorite over one or the other, but they really speak about place of sight, about the terroir, about the soil that they’re grown in.

That’s really interesting. Unique.

[00:21:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: How are they different?

[00:21:46] Janell Dusi: The Dante Dusi Zin, it’s so restrained and has a little bit of spice from year to year and between Christmas spice or white pepper or something kind of on the, on the finish of that, that vineyard, tangles between those two flavor profiles we’re the.

Everything, every varietal I get off Paper Street when it hits my crush pad. It’s just different. It’s, I think, a little bit thicker skin cuz it’s higher elevation maybe. But it’s darker from the initial squeeze of it. And when I start fermenting it, it’s darker, it’s bigger, it’s bolder. Even though you have 1945 in 2013 plantings.

Yeah. That new, those new plantings are just like, there’s just a different animal, you know. And the color. I do nothing to the color and it’s just intense and deep and dark. And you just wanna look at it and taste it and smell it.

[00:22:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It is, yeah. It’s a very jammy, at least the, at least ones that I’ve had.

[00:22:42] Janell Dusi: Yeah. More intense fruit on that one.

[00:22:47] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. On managing two brands, how do you let’s talk about more of the sales aspect of kind of your, the J Dusi Wines and Paper Street.

[00:22:56] Janell Dusi: Yeah. I started the J Dusi, I have about eight of those wines in the lineup, and they’re all silk screen labels.

So it’s my way of de defining the difference of the two is that Paper Street has, of course a paper label. It’s white, it’s really cool looking. It has pictures from the vineyard up there. And we call Paper Street, a vineyard designated series by J Dusi. And I’ve show, I just wanna showcase this vineyard.

I wanna highlight how extreme it is, how difficult it is, and how much of a lifestyle difference it is. It’s just, it’s completely different than any farming in anywhere else we do. And I wanna highlight it.

[00:23:31] Drew Thomas Hendricks: How so?

[00:23:33] Janell Dusi: What was that?

[00:23:33] Drew Thomas Hendricks: How so? The difference between one, one’s being on the hill, one’s down on the bottom.

[00:23:38] Janell Dusi: It’s steep. It’s so rugged. It’s hard to get to the fact like it’s a one lane, like a bike trail when we got there. And it’s about 20 minutes of this. And you can’t take a big truck up there. We have a gooseneck or a 10 ton truck we bring grapes down on and you can’t take four wheelers in certain spots cuz it’s too steep and two gnarly.

My brother-in-law broke a finger up there.

[00:24:05] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It’s fun to envision where this, where, I guess I could look it up, but I’m trying to envision that. So is do you pass by other farms when you go down this 20 minute road?

[00:24:13] Janell Dusi: Or is yes, there’s nothing up. Up there when is becomes an unmaintained road.

There’s nothing else really up there. And it goes through from Carter Canyon all the way to Peachy Canyon Road.

[00:24:23] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, okay.

[00:24:24] Janell Dusi: Yeah. So it’s the mountain that goes through the top. And you would go by Viking, the Viking Vineyard from Adelaida. Up there. You look straight across at law, which is really far away, but it’s an unmaintained road and there’s a reason for it. But we’ve been there, you know, since 2013. My brother has a trucking company and he loves big, heavy machinery. So whenever my dad’s out of town, he takes the dozer up there and makes the, tries to make the road all nice and right up his alley. Yeah.

We made it better, but it’s still just a difficult feat to get fruit down from there and get our equipment up there. And to get, you know, workers to come back the next day to pick grapes because it is straight up and down on a lot of pieces where it, it’s challenging and it’s difficult and.

[00:25:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Amazing logistics that needs to happen there.

[00:25:10] Janell Dusi: And it was so hot this year that we started night picking that vineyards. We started at midnight this year, every day up there. So it was like one more step of danger on that vineyard was picking in complete darkness, you know. But it was worth it because it was too hot to pick otherwise and to preserve the grapes was great.

But it’s an intense pizza property, so that’s. Yeah, you have to look at the video and that doesn’t show depth perception that well, but you get a little sense of how steep those mountain sides are.

[00:25:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So how, talking about the heat during harvest this year, which was pretty, I was up there right around that time.

[00:25:44] Janell Dusi: Oh, you were?

[00:25:45] Drew Thomas Hendricks: How did the 22 harvest go for you?

[00:25:48] Janell Dusi: It was good. It’s, it was interesting. I wanna say it’s good, but then on the farming hat side of it, it was like, well, we were down 35, 40%. So it wasn’t that great. But I think the quality is good. There’s a little bit of challenges in the seller right now on maybe, you know, 5% of the stuff, which still we’re still working through right now.

But I like really like the flavor profiles on a lot of things. I lost some. Unfortunately my biggest loss right now is the Mourvedre.

[00:26:13] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh no.

[00:26:14] Janell Dusi: Yeah, we’re replanting a section of it, so. Hopefully I’ll have enough to make a a hundred percent again this year. But it was quick, it was fast harvest.

It was super early. We wasn’t ready for it. I was still in the middle of other, a canning project and I was like, oh my gosh, grapes are coming tomorrow. We gotta get this, you know, get going, get everything clean and ready. And so it was really, really early and it just went by fast.

[00:26:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What canning project?

[00:26:38] Janell Dusi: The heat ripened everything fast, but also having less grapes to pick, made it fast.

What was the last question?

[00:26:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: You said you were in a canning project. What was

[00:26:46] Janell Dusi: Yeah, I have a canning project with these girls called Maker. Have you heard of ’em?

[00:26:50] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Huh? No, but it sounds fascinating.

[00:26:52] Janell Dusi: Yeah. There’s these three Stanford grad girls that started this project, and it was. They called it Maker, and they don’t make any of the wine, but they seek out winemaker throughout.

I was gonna say California, but I think they just got their first Washington or Oregon one. But most of ’em are either female winemakers or minority winemakers, and something special. So when they approached me and I was like, cause I make a lot of Pinot Grigio every year, and I was like, “Yeah, I’d love to make Pinot Grigio on a can.”

It’d be great. It’s like, no, no, no, no, no. They’re like, we want your good stuff. We want, we want what you’re known for. And to me, I was like, but that’s expensive. You know? That was my, and they’re like, yeah, we’re gonna pay top dollar per gallon for it and collaborate with you. And they’re charging $14 a can and it’s a.

Yeah. So they’re really trying to break that barrier of wine. Doesn’t have to be cheap in a can. And you can have a really great glass of wine and, you know, they’re, they’re really cute labels on these cans. And so mine has the, the Paper Street Mountains, it’s a hundred percent Zin of course. Oh cool.

It’s 50% due season, 50% pay per season in which I’m kicking myself cuz I love the blend so much that I’m like, why didn’t I do this? Yeah. But so it has the mountains on it and the truck on it and it’s, it’s amazing. I love the Zin in there and yeah.

[00:28:08] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I love, I love that canned wines are coming into their day.

Yeah. I mean, for all the camping we do, all the traveling to the beach and everything, it makes so much sense, especially if you’re buying it to drink it.

[00:28:19] Janell Dusi: Yeah. I was on a train ride the other day and I was like, “Perfect.” I’m bring a can, pop it open. I don’t need a glass, I need a cork screw to travel with and yeah it’s been out, it’s been doing it really well. The funniest part is that the labels are really cute and my dad. Is a club member now from them and he always, he drinks a can every night. I’m like, really dad? He is like, “Well, your mom doesn’t wanna drink wine and it’s a glass and a third, so it’s a perfect and it’s good wine. So I can have a good glass, one glass of wine each night.”

And so I think it’s pretty funny.

[00:28:45] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s nice cuz if you open the bottle you end up drinking the bottle.

[00:28:48] Janell Dusi: Yes, exactly. Yeah.

[00:28:49] Drew Thomas Hendricks: If you open the can, you’re gonna drink the can. You’re like, okay, it’s done.

[00:28:53] Janell Dusi: Exactly. Yeah, it’s perfect.

[00:28:55] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, I think I love that trend and I so happy you’re on board. I gotta check out this maker maker line.

[00:29:00] Janell Dusi: And the wines are good. All of ’em. I’m a club member too with them. Really good.

[00:29:04] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s, that’s the key. Even I, and I wanna see more box wine. I mean, high box wine. I know I was just up at tables and they. Bottle. They did a three litter box of their pedal in, which is,

[00:29:17] Janell Dusi: I know our brother keeps sending me messages, you need to do this with a Pinot Grigio.

[00:29:20] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No. I think it’s so smart. Like for ecology and for just for transportation, if you’re gonna be drinking it over the course of the week.

[00:29:27] Janell Dusi: Makes total sense. It’s perfect. Yeah.

[00:29:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, I love all this alternative packaging. I wanna talk about your winemaking for a second, and since your first vintage up until now, over the last, like what, 10 my math is bad.

7, 8, 10 years of your wine, how has it evolved?

[00:29:43] Janell Dusi: I think it’s evolved cuz I am reaching out and branching out beyond just Zinfandel and having fun playing with other varietals. I’m also learning what varietals I like to work with. And which ones are a challenge for me, which you know, could be the vineyard, could be a lot of things. But I always find it funny when everyone’s like, “Oh my God, Zinfandel.”

I hate, you know, it’s the hardest varietal to make and I laugh cause I’m so comfortable with it and I, I feel like I know it so intimately that you know, I still live on that vineyard where these vines touched my bedroom window. You know, that’s who I am. So, and I think that’s a big thing on the winemaking side.

And I, you know, I went through a time where I was like, should I grow? Should I do this? Should I do that? I’m like, “No.” I’m really comfortable where I’m at now cuz I can still have my hands and all of everything I, it’s just me and two guys that do all of harvest. We do about 105 tons a year and we’re the only ones touching every single grape.

And I love that part cause that’s how I grew up and that’s how I feel comfortable is hands on with the grapes. So, I know I didn’t wanna grow, but I wanted to focus on more on, you know, more quality. If it can even get better, can I do even better? So paying more attention and of that I learned to do more lab analysis more often just to make sure everything’s staying on track and just getting deeper in and taking care of the wines, every one of them.

[00:30:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely. So, yeah. On your site you talk about, wine as part art, part science and a hundred percent passion. And I always like to talk to winemakers, like where does the art end and the science begin? And as you produce more and more vintages, does the art just take over a little bit more because the science is dialed in.

[00:31:15] Janell Dusi: No, I think it still stays for me. I think it still stays the same because a lot of the artistic part is, I feel like even more in the beginning where you have to like create these things. Now I know the path that the blends I wanna do, and I know what I, what all my vineyard sourcing is a hundred percent from family-owned vineyards.

So I know these vineyards, I know the soil. I know I can predict what’s gonna happen. So, the art now is playing with new varietals or new ideas, which I did do this year. I have a couple new varietals I’m working with, which is the fun part. Because the other thing else I’m used to .

I don’t say it gets boring, but it’s always fun to reach out and play with new varietals. But you know, I think the more part is new things are happening too. Technology’s getting better. Not that I use too much crazy stuff at all, but like I said, just staying more on top of the wines and making sure nothing gets outta sight.

Cuz wine living organism and yeah. I wanna keep it nice and tight and then keep it up.

[00:32:13] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. I think that the science really drives the art. Like you’ve got an artistic vision and you’ve got all these tools, which is science that help you like realize that vision.

[00:32:23] Janell Dusi: And then you have the customer, they’re in your. So then you have that aspect of it.

[00:32:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: When to listen and when to say. Nope. Nope, you’re wrong.

[00:32:30] Janell Dusi: Yeah. And I feel like the question’s always like, what are you doing next? What’s new? And I was like, isn’t this great? What, you know? It’s a new vintage and things like that.

So I, I do feel feedback from them is like, they always want a little something new and seeing what’s coming up next, what’s else is down the pipeline.

[00:32:45] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Got anything else under the cabinet? Yeah, no, that’s a. Don’t wanna ask what’s new, but like some of the varietals that you branching out into, what’s some of the more exciting things that you’re looking forward and experimenting with?

[00:32:56] Janell Dusi: Yeah I’m gonna do a rose off Paper Street. So I did some off the Paper Street reds this year that I’m gonna do for that. Usually I throw it in the regular Rose and stuff, so I’m gonna just keep it all separate. So I’m excited to do that. I did a Grenache blanc for the first time this year, and Plain Mountain with some Cab Franc.

[00:33:16] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, the Cab Franc.

[00:33:18] Janell Dusi: Yeah. So I don’t know where it’s gonna end up the Cab Franc, or how I’m gonna use it, but it’s, it was just a ton of it. My brother grows it, that’s it’s new that he did a replant on and I was like, “I need some of that.” So I had to like beg and plead him to let go of a ton. I paid for it, of course,

[00:33:33] Drew Thomas Hendricks: But where’s the Cab Franc from?

That’s from the Dusi Vineyard too?

[00:33:36] Janell Dusi: He has a vineyard about a mile down from us on the west side. Right on the corner of like the 1 0 1 and 46 West.

[00:33:43] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh yeah.

[00:33:43] Janell Dusi: It’s his vineyard. And so, I always get some grapes from him and he replanted the Syrah to Cab Franca. And I was like, I really, really, really wanna mess around with that and just see how it goes.

[00:33:55] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And that can be vary, I mean the flavor profile that can be vary, can vary greatly depending on the area. How has that expressed it in his vineyard?

[00:34:04] Janell Dusi: You know, it’s really, really new. 22 was the first year I got some. So it’s really just brand new for me, but I, but it’s, I’ve been seeing it more around here in past Robles and every blend I have with it in with my peers that do it.

I just, I love the wine. I think it’s really cool. I think it’s a little more interesting than the cabs and I kept it bay with that. So, Kate messing around some Cab Franc I think is gonna be pretty fun.

[00:34:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’ll be me. Now as we talked about the art and the science, the passion over the years.

How do you stay motivated and passionate? What drives you?

[00:34:34] Janell Dusi: Knowing that, I grew up on this land, on this property, something that has been through here for four generations and it’s getting passed down and that I’m still, I’m buying these grapes. I’m making wine, and I’m turning it back out with our family name on it. And having a tasting room that’s open seven days a week and seeing people talk about Zin or they see the name on the side of the road, they’re like, oh my God, you guys are known for Zin. And they pull in and it makes me happy that, and then they’re happy.

But also, we were some of the first vineyards here in Paso. We’re still here. We’re still here, we’re still farming. Yeah, we’re making some wine now. But we’re keeping that, that generation, that those roots still going and not tearing those vineyards out makes me really proud.

And it’s been fun. We’re all still a big family that is all a hundred percent involved, which is awesome.

[00:35:19] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s so good to hear. I love hearing those stories on talking about fourth generation OG and Paso, who’s just is changing dramatically every time I drive through. Where would you like to see Paso evolve over the next 20 years, or how would you?

What caution would you wanna shout out to people? Stop doing that.

[00:35:38] Janell Dusi: Yeah. Right. You know, I, I love the mix that Paso has. A really small boutique wineries. And you know, I’m respectful for the ones that are the large corporations here, because they really are putting the Paso Robles name on the map and they’re in all 50 states.

And so people are coming here because they. They have all those big guys on the grocery store shelves. It benefits all of us, but I love our balance. We have so many wineries here in Paso that I haven’t been to almost half of ’em. Because there’s just so many. But you know, between the winery that has two barrels with a wooden plank on it, serving wine cuz people love it and the owners behind the bar, you still have that here in Paso and I love that.

And you know, if people. Sell their house in LA and wanna come here and have a gentleman’s vineyard, they realize quickly that it’s a lot of work and it’s not just all fun. So, I just, I just hope that we can just get genuine people that really love it here and respect the land, and respect the place and not get too blown up or not too big in our own pants about it.

So, but keep it real.

[00:36:39] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Keeping the mix, I think is important. Yeah. Like it is okay to have, there’s gonna be a tasting room for every kind of desire and palate and budget, but it’s good to have a

[00:36:48] Janell Dusi: Absolutely. Yeah.

[00:36:48] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Some areas like Napa, you can’t find it. There’s no middle.

[00:36:52] Janell Dusi: No, no. We hear that a lot.

Yeah. People come in here and it’s just, it’s hard to go up there now.

[00:36:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, I love Paso’s one of my favorite places to visit. What advice would you have for, I know a lot of wine drinkers listen to this podcast. What advice would you have for someone visiting the region for the first time?

[00:37:10] Janell Dusi: Oh, visiting the Paso. Wow. Nothing gonna say good advice yourself or something. Coming to Paso, I don’t think you’re going to strike out anywhere. The wine quality is so good at so many places here, but I do think it’s cool to visit all the different sized wineries. Visit a mom and pop winery, visit somebody in the middle that might have a little distribution like myself, that I’m in like eight states.

You might have seen it in Southern California, but come to the winery. We all have more wines that are smaller boutique wines in the tasting room. And then go to one of the big guys. They’re fancy. They have lunches, they have all these things, they’re pretty. But it really shows you the diversity of Paso and I think that you’ll be surprised at the quality and how great across the board, a lot of our wines coming out of Paso are.

[00:37:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s great advice. Yeah. I excited to see more people tour the region.

[00:38:02] Janell Dusi: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s been, it was going crazy great, but now everything’s stopped in its tracks a little bit, but we’re slowly coming back and and what the greatest thing about the pandemic did was push us outside.

Paso Robles typically is pretty nice weather. If it’s hot, might be too hot or whatever usually that cold. And now instead of standing at a bar facing the tasting at attendants, people are outside and our, our patio is 10 feet away from the vineyard, so you’re overlooking the vineyard tasting wine.

And I was like, why didn’t we ever do this before? You know, it just seemed like outside was too cold or too hot. And we have umbrellas, and it’s great and it’s so pretty. And these oak trees are everywhere. So you’re out looking at vineyards, tasting the grapes that come, tasting the wine that come from those grapes.

And you can’t beat it. Why wouldn’t you want a vacation? And then or meet a meet, be local and meet a girlfriend out here for a glass of wine, or have your kids run around and, I mean, that’s not the greatest, but.

[00:38:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that sounds fantastic. Janelle, as we’re wrapping down, where can people find out more about you and J Dusi Wines and Paper Street?

[00:39:04] Janell Dusi: Yeah, it’s all on one website. It’s jdusiwines.com and Dusi is D U S I plug that in, you’ll probably find it. And there are hours in they’re open seven days a week. Like I said, we come out, we taste wines, we have couches, we have tables and chairs outside, and the sunshine, amongst the vines, which is pretty awesome.

[00:39:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Awesome. I am definitely stopping by next time I’m in town.

[00:39:27] Janell Dusi: Yeah, you have to.

[00:39:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Well, Janelle, thank you so much for joining us today.

[00:39:32] Janell Dusi: Yeah, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

[00:39:35] Drew Thomas Hendricks: You have a great day.

[00:39:36] Janell Dusi: You too. Bye.