Paso Robles is home to some of California’s oldest and most distinguished Zinfandel vineyards, including the Dante Dusi Vineyard, planted in 1945, the Pesenti Vineyard, planted in 1922, and the Uerberroth Vineyard, planted in 1885. A few days ago, Dusi Vineyards hosted a special tasting for us at its Paso Robles vineyard where we tasted Zinfandels from these three very special vineyards made by J. Dusi Wines, Cypher Wines and Turley Wine Cellars. Complete tasting notes on these and other wines will be published in our forthcoming report on The Wines of Paso Robles.
From the Dante Dusi Vineyard, we tasted 100% Zinfandels made by three producers—J Dusi Wines, Cypher, and Turley. In 1923 Sylvester and Caterina Dusi, recent immigrants from Northern Italy, planted Zinfandel on a parcel of 25 acres on the east side of Highway 101 in Paso Robles. [Since 1967, Ridge Vineyards has purchased most of the fruit from this vineyard, called Benito Dusi Ranch, for its Paso Robles Zinfandel, which we didn’t taste.] Twenty years later, the Dusis planted another 100 acres to Zinfandel on the west side of 101 in a vineyard now called the Dante Dusi Vineyard. Dry farmed and head trained, these vineyards produce some of California’s very best Zinfandel fruit today.
Janell Dusi winemaker at J. Dusi Wines, does open top fermentation in small lots and uses just 10% new oak in aging the wine. Her 2009 vintage Zinfandel is a spicy, red-fruited wine that drinks easy and beautifully.
Christian Tietje, winemaker at Cypher, gives his Dante Dusi-sourced wine a little more oak—18 months in 30% new French, Hungarian, and American oak. His 2010 vintage Zinfandel shows loads of up front red raspberry and cranberry fruit with noticeable vanilla oak on the nose and finish.
Karl Wicka, winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars, makes Zinfandel from the Dante Dusi vineyard as well as two other highly regarded Paso Robles vineyards—the 45 acre Pesenti Vineyard, planted in 1922, and the Ueberroth Vineyard, planted in 1885, and the oldest vineyard in the Paso Robles appellation. We tasted Turley’s Zinfandels from all three Vineyards. The Turley 2010 Dante Dusi Zinfandel shows superb purity and focus on a palate of red cherry, black raspberry, and toasted oak. The Turley 2009 Pesenti Zinfandel is less aromatically effusive than the Dusi and reveals savory dark red fruit with a saline note on the palate. Finally, the Turley 2009 Ueberroth Zinfandel exhibits real complexity of flavors, finishing with earth and chalky mineral notes.
Thanks to Dusi Vineyards for hosting the tasting and to the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance for organizing our trip to Paso Robles and giving us the opportunity to taste some of the finest Zinfandels made in California today.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler