They say time flies when you are having fun. Well, that must mean making wine is fun because I can’t believe that it has been five years since Mike and I began the pursuit of our passion with Dracaena Wines.
It was in January of 2013, that Mike and I made it official and filed our license for the winery. We immediately went into warp speed to contract fruit for that vintage. It was a busy January, I began the website, watching a lot of YouTube videos teaching me how to get it up and running. I began writing the blog after asking a college friend what a blog was. We spent a lot of time doing things that we never even thought about previously. The time and effort into creating a brand logo and label. Deciding on a bottle color and shape was even more difficult. Every decision, no matter how small, can make or break someone’s choice in purchasing our wine- talk about stress!
Every harvest is exciting to me, but there is something special about our first one. We flew cross-country, drove three hours south, arrived at the hotel around 2 am only to have to wake up at 4 am for harvest. Why we even bothered with the hotel still baffles me. I think our adrenaline allowed us to make it through that day, as we watched our fruit get picked, placed into bins. We turned around and flew back to New Jersey two days later.
That winter we received a sample of our wine. It was shipped to us overnight because of the horrible weather we were having in New Jersey. Unfortunately, we were in the midst of a snowpocalypse, and FedEx held our sample for an additional four days. We were greeted by an off- rubber like aroma and extremely acidic,way out of balanced wine. Tears fell down my face and I think I heard my heart actually break, as Mike called the winery to ask them to sample our wine. They insured us that what we were tasting was not what they were tasting. A first hand experience at what freezing temperatures can do to a wine. (which is why we hold our wines during the winter months until temperatures are above freezing) After the weather broke, we received another sample and thankfully, it was nothing like the original.
We bottled our 2013 and let it sit to get through the bottle shock and released in October. I remember the joy when we received our first order and the thrill (that still happens) every time we get notified of a new sale. Then it happened…. an email from Wine Enthusiast saying they tasted our wine and awarded it a 91! Words can’t describe that emotion. The good news continued as we were informed we won a Silver medal in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. And then the elation of realizing we were sold out. It was a phenomenal inaugural vintage.
2014 came and it was time to hopefully repeat our success, and thankfully we did. Once again receiving a 90+ score in Wine Enthusiast and a Silver medal in the SF Chronicle and selling out. We began reaching out to restaurants and got our first placements into restaurants. But, we knew if we were going to be successful in the wine industry, we needed to expand. So with the 2016 vintage, we decided to harvest from two clones and broaden our portfolio with a Reserve Cabernet Franc. In addition to being a different clone, the Reserve is seeing New French Oak and will be released later this year (2018.)
Even though 2018 is only two months old, it has been an extraordinary one thus far. It began with our 2015 Cabernet Franc being awarded a Double Gold in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. That remarkable news was followed by the fact that I was a finalist for the Millesima Wine Bloggers Award for my post about how Portugal’s Political History Affects Its Culinary and Wine Culture. It was a very long two weeks before I found out I won and I found out I will be visiting Bordeaux! I also was the podcast of the week at the end of January giving me extended exposure.
We welcomed the 2017 vintage with more expansion. We made the executive decision to make a Rosé. The decision came with both ebullience and trepidation. Our Rosé is made with the same care and passion as our Cabernet Franc, so we are confident our customers will find it as exceptional as they have found our Cabernet Franc. However, there is a well-known saying in the wine industry, “Making wine is the easy part… selling it is difficult.” We are doubling our case production between the Reserve and the Rosé. As if that is not nerve-racking enough, we are known for Cabernet Franc and we are for the first time deviating from that varietal in order to aggrandize. (*alert* bottling is loud)
The Syrah fruit emanates from the Mossfire Ranch. A scenic 320-acre property on the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail, in the eastern side of the Paso Robles AVA. The vineyard is admired for its striking beauty, epic views and superior fruit. It was originally planted in 1996 and varies greatly in both contour and soil-types alluvial bottom ground to steep hillsides, to loamy benches. Thanks to the coastal breezes and slight elevation of the vineyard, the fruit is allowed to experience pristine weather conditions throughout the year. The fruit, which was picked specifically for Rosé, was harvested at a low brix to ensure the crisp acidity that is expected with quality Provence style Rosé. It saw minimal skin contact and went direct to press. It saw gentle fining in juice stage during cold settling and was racked to Stainless and fermented between 58 – 62 F.
What does the rest of 2018 have in store for Mike, me and Dracaena Wines? I don’t know. I wish I had a crystal ball, but I guess that would take the fun out of it. I have a feeling that Vegas will be making an appearance, so keep an eye out for him. What I do know is that making exceptional wine is what we want to do and we are pouring our hearts and souls into pursuing our passion. This is what we want to do and where we want to be. It may be a rollercoaster of emotion, but what is life without excitement? You have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone if you want to enjoy life…. and that is what we are doing, but we also are being sure to stop to smell the rosés.
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