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Michael and Lori Budd are Fresno transplants who came to California following a career opportunity, but moreover chasing a dream. While living in New Jersey, the Budds were fans of good wine and had been customers of a place that allowed members of the public to ship in grapes and try their hand at making their own wine.
With Michael being a food chemist and Lori a microbiologist, they both were inclined to pay close attention to the science and details involved in wine-making, and while friends and fellow casual makers created their wines, the Budds created a masterful product that others took note of, asking, “Why does your wine taste so much better than all the others?”
It wasn’t long before the Budds began to dream up plans to open their own winery, and when a job opportunity in Fresno came up for Michael, the Budds decided to make their move to the Golden State. Michael and Lori studied wine making at UC Davis, and fell in love with the Paso Robles area and ultimately purchased land there to bring their winery dream to life.
The Budds are major dog lovers, and their lives were graced by the life of their beloved weimaraner, Draco, for 14 years. To honor his life, they planted a Draco Tree where he liked to eat. The scientific name for the Draco Tree is Dracaena, (druh-see-nuh) thus Dracaena Winery became the perfect name. (You’ll see the image of Draco in front of Draco Trees hand-drawn by a close friend on the wine labels from Dracaena.)
In 2013, the Budds began producing their own wine, focusing on their favorite varietal, the Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc is the parent grape to both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and offers features that make it a great wine for both pairing and enjoying on its own. According to Lori, the Cabernet Franc has the body of a Cabernet Sauvignon with the finish of a Merlot, and softer tanins that allow it to go with a juicy steak or lighter foods like pasta or pizza.
It wasn’t long before the scientists and new wine experts won their first awards. Their 2013 vintage received a score of 91, and their current vintage scored a 92. Last year, they took home a Gold Medal from the San Francisco Chronicle and this year, a Double Gold.
The Budds are actually so good at making stellar Cabernet Franc, that they were awarded best in show at the Cabernet Franc Day event, and tweets published by Lori led to the creation of an international holiday for Cabernet Franc day – now recognized in multiple countries on December 4th each year!
Currently, the Budds are producing three wines: their Cabernet Franc (95% Cabernet Franc, 5% Syrah), their Cabernet Franc Reserve (100% Cabernet Franc) and a Rosé of Syrah.
When I asked Lori how they are liking the Fresno area, and what they enjoy most about living here, she had nothing but praise for our city. “People are so nice here – they’re friendly, they say hello, and the city is so dog-friendly – our dog Vegas goes everywhere with us!” When they’re not making wine, the Budds enjoy standup paddle-boarding at the lake and exploring the many microbreweries of the area. She joked, “It takes a lot of great beer to make great wine!”
Now that you’ve gotten to know the Budds and the story behind their winery, I bet you’re wondering, “So how do I get my hands on some of their wine?” Simple… head on over to their website for a list of upcoming tastings and how to get your wine shipped directly to your door.