Cab Franc Chronicles: Dracaena— from Humble Beginnings to Authentic Excellence

By Published On: September 10, 2023

Credit: Dracaena Wines

In the world of wine, passion often emerges from unexpected places. Lori and Michael Budd’s journey began humbly, as they met at work and enjoyed early dates strolling to the supermarket. There, they carefully selected wine, returning to Michael’s apartment where he, the food scientist, showcased his culinary skills. As their careers advanced, so did their wine exploration, transitioning from the bottom shelf to eye-level wines, revealing the depth of the wine world. Vacations soon revolved around wine regions, captivated by the diversity of wines and the stories within each glass.

Their venture took a serious turn during a “Make Wine With Us” event in New Jersey. As scientists at heart, this was an opportunity to approach winemaking meticulously. Their attention to detail, from fruit quality to the removal of unwanted materials, set them apart. At the tasting event, fellow participants marveled at the exceptional quality of their wine, discovering that their secret was simple: no mold in their wine. This revelation ignited their passion for winemaking.

In 2013, they decided to pursue winemaking as their retirement plan, founding Dracaena, a heartfelt tribute to their first Weimaraner [dog], Draco, named after the celestial constellation. Their passion eventually centered on Cabernet Franc after a tasting experience in Napa Valley.

Cabernet Franc, with its notes of bell pepper and jalapeno, along with a spectrum of red and black fruits, showcases its versatility. The grape also reveals elegant hints of graphite and lavender aromatics in the right terroir. Managing the grape’s pyrazines responsible for the bell pepper and jalapeno notes is crucial. They strategically expose the vines to more sun, allowing pyrazines to dissipate while avoiding intense afternoon sun, ensuring their Cabernet Franc offers the desired flavor profile. In Paso Robles, Cabernet Franc has cultivated a devoted following among local wineries due to its versatility in producing various wine styles.

They also source grapes from Clarksburg to craft a Chenin Blanc. Paso Robles’ calcareous soils didn’t align with the grape’s preference for silt soils. The unique Delta gap and protective levees in Clarksburg form the ideal conditions for Chenin Blanc, known for its fresh and fruity flavors and aging potential.

Rather than using hard-selling tactics, the Budds prefer to showcase their genuine selves through marketing and outreach, allowing their wines to convey their narratives. Lori, a media personality and blogger with “Exploring the Wine Glass,” uses these avenues to share her passion and promote Dracaena Wines. What started as support for the winery has evolved into an independent venture, with authenticity as the key.

Dracaena recently opened its tasting room, marking a new phase of the business. Paso Robles, conveniently located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, draws visitors with diverse wines, charming towns, and stunning scenery. Looking ahead, the hope is that Paso Robles will retain its distinctive identity and sense of community, nurtured by the collective passion and camaraderie among winemakers and residents.

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story.  As always, the top priority is to provide the readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations

2021 Cabernet Franc-  with every inhalation, it imparts an intoxicating aroma of boysenberry jam.  Upon savoring, the essence of black cherry and plum dances on the tongue.  As the experience culminates, a protracted and velvety finish ensues, escorted by resolute tannins and impeccable acidity.

2022 Chenin Blanc- a bouquet of citrus notes and a delicate fragrance of white blossoms.  Upon the palate, flavors of green apples, pear and melon frolic in tandem followed by an invigorating finish and a touch of minerality.

About the Author: Joe Campbell

Avatar photo
Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : .