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1933 – 2019

Benito “Beni” Dusi was first and foremost a farmer and a grape grower in Paso Robles and his passions in life were his vineyard, his family, his friends, his greyhounds, and his equipment. Born in 1933, just as Prohibition was ending, in the midst of the Great Depression, Benito’s story begins with his parents, Sylvester and Caterina Dusi who emigrated from Northern Italy to settle in Paso Robles. Benito was the youngest of three boys; Guido and Dante were his older brothers. Together, they farmed the vineyard that their parents planted in the early 1920s.

 

The Bentio Dusi Ranch is renowned for its quality Zinfandel grapes and, during his lifetime, Benito was an important figure in the rebirth of California wine.  Benito did it all, from farming the vineyard and making the wine, to selling it out of their cellar door in the 1950s. In 1967, when Ridge Vineyards founder Dave Bennion knocked on Benito’s door, a legendary relationship began with Ridge Vineyards, transforming the wine into a vineyard designated label, which was the first vineyard in San Luis Obispo County to receive such recognition.

 

Benito was known for his integrity, his smile, his handshake, and his generous heart. He was a mentor to many in the wine industry. Above all else, Benito was a beloved member of the Dusi family. This is the only family of growers in San Luis Obispo County that has had five generations of grape growers. Only two members of the family have made wine commercially—Benito and his grandniece Janell Dusi who has carried Benito’s legacy into the 21st century.

 

Benito Dusi died on July 17, 2019 at the age of 86. He lived modestly and peacefully, never marrying. Benito’s relatives miss him every day: sisters-in-law Earnestine and Dorothy Dusi, nephews Rick and Mike Dusi and their families, nieces Gina Dusi, Barbara Vanderpol, and their families, including grandniece Janell Dusi. A documentary celebrating Benito Dusi’s life will be released by the Wine History Project in the fall of 2019. Benito Dusi vineyards will have many harvests ahead, and the ranch will remain in the Dusi family. Mike Dusi has indicated that he intends to continue selling grapes to Ridge, honoring a handshake made over 50 years ago. We think Benito would have wanted it that way.

 

By Rebecca Robinson

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