Note: The photographs of Durst Winery were taken by Bea Ahbeck Casson.

Cassandra Durst’s day-to-day life is designed to appreciate the world around her. At her home in Acampo, also the site of Durst Winery, there’s flora and fauna catching her eye at each step.

An egret lives in the trees around the perimeter of the property. Owls circle overhead and roost nearby, eager to feast on the plentiful gophers below. Sparrows and songbirds rustle about in the shrubs. A hover of hummingbirds has made an annual nest of the patio, which become off-limits to the Durst family in springtime when the baby birds are just beginning to try out their wings. In the garden, a little cottontail rabbit has found a happy hide in a bed of carrots.

On the first evening in their new home on Acampo Road, back in 1998, Durst and her husband Dan Durst dragged two chairs out to the lawn, each with a glass of wine in hand. The couple watched a pair of hawks dart to and from a tall tree across the road and knew these were the kind of scenes they wanted to share with friends.

“This is why we’re here,” said Durst, gesturing to the open lawn dotted with white chairs.

Durst Winery opened its tasting room on Dec. 13, 2014, after husband and wife spent four years making wine at home. They learned the trade through the Lodi Amateur Vintner’s Association, where both Cassandra and Dan Durst have been members since 2005.

Inside the tasting room, the vibe is rustic and casual. Planks salvaged from construction sites line the walls, and a large metal sculpture on the wall depicts the silhouette of a hawk in flight. That hawk also appears in blue watercolor on the Durst Winery labels.

Wines currently on the pour list include an Albarino, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and two old vine Zinfandels.

One is dry and elegant, says Durst, and the other is more fruit forward, but stops just short of jammy. There’s also two house wines, called Amada Mia white and red. Both are slightly sweeter and less dry than other wines on the counter, and are good for beginning wine lovers.

The name translates to “my beloved” in Spanish. Those wines are an homage to the house itself, a more than 100-year-old Acampo fixture that was in severe disrepair when the Dursts bought the land.

“It’s only because we loved the house so much, and its history, that we were willing to take the risk to bring it back to life,” she said.

Though the pair met at California State University, Sacramento in 1973 (he studied accounting while she majored in interior design), Durst is now taking classes at the University of California, Davis, to continue her wine education.

The winery opened with a lot of hesitation on the part of winemaker Durst. She’s not as focused as some winery owners, who want to be known specifically for Spanish varietals or crisp whites.

“I like to experiment and try new things,” she said. That includes buying grapes from all over Northern California, not just Lodi.

“Our Lodi grapes go all over the United States,” she said. “If we can do that, why not bring in lots of other grapes to a Lodi winery?”

Some of those experiments will be ready to taste in a few months. Durst has two new Zinfandels, a Barbera, a Petit Verdot, a Temperanillo and a Cabernet just about ready for bottling.

But before those are ready to enjoy, Durst Winery’s first event will be opening their doors for Lodi Wine and Chocolate.

Durst plans to have Mediterranean style food and live blues music on Saturday and Sunday.

“This is hard, hard work, but it’s so much fun,” said Durst. “I’m just passionate about making wine.”

Contact Sara Jane Pohlman at


Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus