Written by Kylee Jepsen, Communications Coordinator at Visit San Luis Obispo County

Harvest on the Central Coast is a bustling time of year. Grapes are being picked, sorted, pressed and transformed into the complex beverage we know as wine. For tourists and locals alike, Harvest is one of the best times of year to visit your favorite winery (or maybe a new one) and discover the secrets behind their masterful creations.

Last weekend a few friends and I had the opportunity to visit a few of the Paso Robles wineries during their Harvest Wine Weekend events. The first stop was J Dusi, at their new tasting room on 46 West. Opening just days earlier, J Dusi was lively with visitors ready to try a variety of wines from Pinot Grigio to the coveted Dusi Zinfandels.

J Dusi is owned by Janell Dusi, the grandchild of Paso Robles wine veteran Dante Dusi. The family has winemaking roots that reach back to the 1920’s, when Sylvester and Caterina Dusi migrated from Italy to Paso Robles. The couple, along with their three sons, Guido, Dante and Benito, introduced some of the first Zinfandels into the Paso Robles region. Three generations later, Janell Dusi is following suit by continuing the legacy of Dusi Vineyard and creating some of the areas finest Zinfandels, along with Pinot Grigio, Syrah, and various Rhone, Spanish and Bordeaux style blends.

Upon arrival at the J Dusi tasting room, there was an excited energy. Harvest Wine Weekend guests were greeted by friendly tasting room staff and quickly escorted to an open tasting area at the bar. After being poured a first taste, the attendant whisked into the barrel room only to return with a plate of cheese, salami and fresh seedless grapes from a nearby vineyard. Of the three, the grapes were the delicious favorite and disappeared within minutes! The overall tasting room experience at J Dusi was very fun with a relaxed environment and, of course, great wine. Janell was readily available in the tasting room to answer questions about the wines and give quick facts on their current harvest.

The second stop on our itinerary was the Shale Oak Winery tasting room, on Oakdale Drive off of 46 West. This tasting room has only been opened a few years, but at first glance is stunning. The face of the building offers a modern style look, with immense stained glass windows from foot to ceiling. In fact, in doing some research on the architecture of the building, you will find that it was designed to create a balance between modern day engineering and the natural elements that surround the facility. The building is in the process of a LEED Certification, which is granted by the U.S. Green Building Council. It is obvious that Shale Oak strives to minimize its impact on the environment by creating a facility that conserves energy and reduces water consumption.

Shale Oak is owned by entrepreneur Al Good, who began his career as a vineyard owner, growing and selling winegrapes. He soon partnered with winemaker Kevin Riley (of Proulx Winery) and created what we know as Shale Oak Winery. Along with Curtis Hascall, Riley has crafted some beautiful wines, reflecting a perfect blend of sustainability and Central Coast quality.

As we walked into the tasting room we were greeted by a very friendly staff, winding down for the day (it was 4pm). They poured us a taste of the first wine, a 2011 Albariño, and we scooted our way to the outdoor seating area. As if the building itself wasn’t beautiful enough, the courtyard beckoned you to stay and relax on benches, wicker couches and chairs scattered throughout.

For the next hour the tasting room staff made sure we didn’t fall behind on our wines, as they brought out each taste to us just as we finished the previous. The wines were excellent and of course, the best was saved for last as we finished up the day with a bold 2009 Petit Verdot. We all readily agreed we needed a bottle for our own collection.

It was 5pm and our Harvest Wine Weekend experience had come to an end. We had the opportunity to visit two great Paso Robles wineries, just a small taste of what the rest of the region has to offer!

Kylee Jepsen is the Communications Coordinator at Visit San Luis Obispo County. She has been a part of the tourism industry on the Central Coast for five years and can think of no other area she would love to represent. Kylee loves traveling and has a great passion for gaining new food and wine experiences. Feel free to contact her at kyleej@visitsanluisobispocounty or at 805.541.8000.