The Winery & Estate
You are cordially invited to visit RagApple Lassie Vineyards and Winery located under the western gaze of majestic Pilot Mountain at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills. Tours and wine tastings are available daily, noon to six p.m. Click Tasting & Tours for details.
Frank W. Hobson, Jr., has lived in Yadkin County, North Carolina, his entire life and is the third generation of Hobsons to farm the same land.
Growing up, Frank, Jr., -- and he is always referred to as Frank, Jr., as opposed to Frank (Sr.) his father, and Frank, III, his son, by everyone (including his Mom)-- was a typical farm hand, helping with chores on the farm, playing with all the farm animals, grooming his own show calf, and honing lots of other skills that would come in handy in the future.
One such skill was great agility, and one of the favorite family stories tells of his secret (meaning his mother had no idea he could climb so well) ability to climb a 100-foot oak tree in the yard of his home. So when he wanted to escape -- or just have fun -- he would climb to the very top of the tree and listen and watch as his panicked mother ran about calling and hunting Frank, Jr. Legend has it that he succeeded getting away with this for two years before folks realized what he was doing! His story is, "He liked to climb up high to watch the birds."
As a teenager, Frank, Jr., was active in 4-H, participated in most of its programs for farm boys and excelled in high school athletics. He earned letters in varsity baseball, football and basketball from Boonville High School, and was named to the coveted "All Northwest Basketball Team" in 1962.
After graduating from Oak Ridge Military Academy Junior College, he returned to the farm, married "one" of his high school sweethearts, and began taking over the operations of the dairy farm from his father. The Vietnam War interrupted life on the farm when, in 1970, the Army Reserve Unit in which Frank, Jr., was a member, was called for active duty and sent to Vietnam.
By the time he returned from Vietnam, Frank, Jr.'s father had closed the dairy and sold all the cows. Frank, Jr., being perfectly happy not to get up each morning at 4:00 a.m. to milk cows, set his sights on becoming a successful tobacco farmer.
Frank, Jr.'s uncle, Joe Hobson, spent many hours teaching Frank, Jr., about the nuances of curing tobacco and how to "read its leaves" as it cured. To this day, Frank, Jr. declares, "Uncle Joe taught me all I know about curing tobacco!" But in the years before he was old enough to care about tobacco curing, Uncle Joe taught Frank, Jr., how to whistle, how to fish, and even made suggestions about how to kiss girls!
Following the public assault on tobacco products, allotments for farmers have been reduced by 53 percent. As most farmers already owned the land they farmed, many began looking for alternative crops to help replace lost income and Frank, Jr., was no different. He had farmed successfully his entire adult life and was not ready to retire. In fact, his wife, Lenna, told him he could not retire! By now, he had married "another" high school sweetheart (after his first wife died of cancer), and she wisely observed that he had no hobbies other than farming and traveling, so he had to keep farming, otherwise he would be miserable.
At the same time, the Shelton Vineyard and Winery was being built in neighboring Surry County, and, after visiting it several times, Frank, Jr., began to seriously research the possibly of planting a vineyard. Initially, he was just interested in "growing grapes" for market. With this aspect he was very comfortable because he knew he could grow quality "anything" and do so successfully. But as his research continued, his excitement grew; Lenna, his wife, became involved, and they made the commitment to plant a vineyard and build a winery.
As Frank. Jr., began all the preparations,-- soil tests, soil amendment, choosing and ordering plants (which must be done one year in advance of planting), locating supplies for end posts, trellising poles, trellising wire, etc., etc., etc.,-- other area farmers would stop by his store (S & H Farm Supply, which he and Alex Shugart opened in 1992) to ask if he was "really going to plant a vineyard?" Without hesitation, Frank, Jr., would tell them, "Yes," and then share what he had learned that convinced him to become involved in this new venture.
After almost a year's advance preparation, the first vines, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were planted in April of 2000. Almost immediately, the vineyard became a local "tourist attraction," with farmers and other interested people coming by almost daily to see how the vines were doing. In fact, gravel had to be added to a pull-out point twice to accommodate the traffic!
Many were intrigued by the idea, but were concerned about learning a new business and the investment required. Transitioning from tobacco to grapes is not such a stretch agriculturally as one might think, and now other local farmers will begin planting this spring. Profit per acre from tobacco and grapes is similar. Profit per acre from grapes made into wine is significantly higher. So Frank, Jr., and Lenna's decision to build a winery is a good fit for them. Frank, Jr., is the quintessential farmer, Lenna is a marketing professional, and both are very comfortable in their respective roles.
Choosing a name for the vineyard is a good example. When Frank, Jr., was courting Lenna, he told her so much about RagApple Lassie, his Grand Champion Show Calf, that she instinctively knew the affection they shared. So when choosing a name for their vineyard and winery, the opportunity to combine the farm heritage of Frank, Jr.'s life, with a name that was both unique and memorable, made "RagApple Lassie" the obvious choice and a marketer's job easier!
So now the grown-up RagApple Lassie, is once again in the spotlight as the unique and sophisticated logo decorating the wine bottles of her namesake winery. RagApple Lassie Chardonnay along with Cabernet Sauvignon have been joined by Pinot Gris, Viognier, Kaleidoscope Gold, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Kaleidoscope Red and three off dry wines: Boonville Blanc, "First Blush..." and Rockford Red! And a point of pride is that all our wines are made 100% from estate grown grapes.
RagApple Lassie Vineyards and Winery and its owners, Lenna and Frank Hobson, are pleased to welcome you to Boonville's first winery. Constructed of common galvalume and concrete, the building was designed by the UNC-C School of Design architect, Greg Snyder, to look like typical farm buildings in Yadkin County including the de riguer silo of most farms.
However, that is where all things "typical" end. The building is entered via a catwalk running along the South wall ceiling that allows one to look down upon the fermenting tanks, the Wine Tasting Room and Gift Shop. The Catwalk displays pictures of Frank W. Hobson, Jr., RagApple Lassie Vineyards and Winery Owner, with his showcalf, RagApple Lassie, pictures of the first RagApple Lassie grape harvest, and other family mementos. Parading across a large wall directly in front of the entrance is the storyboard "A Year in the Life of a Vineyard" telling of the monthly chores required to maintain a vineyard. Doors just under the entrance lead visitors into the underground Wine Cellar where wine is aged in French and American oak casks and allows one's imagination to visit vineyards and castles of Italy and France as one views the forty feet of wall mural painted by local artist, Janet Key, of Yadkinville. The Silo, situated, at the front of the winery, on a large concrete crushing pad, houses a circular stairway leading to and from the underground Wine Cellar.
RagApple Lassie was one of the first vineyards planted in this area, and due to the successful farming heritage of its owner, Frank W. Hobson, Jr., and wife, Lenna, it is already one of the leaders in North Carolina viticulture.
The estate includes enough acreage to allow site-specific plantings for several varieties. Beginning with a ten acre plot of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, RagApple Lassie will add Shiraz, Syrah, and Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Noir.
All vineyards are planted on a north-south orientation that best allows sunlight on the vines and air control, around the vines. Relying on his own knowledge of soils and plants coupled with the advice of consultants and other growers, clones and varieties were chosen specifically for the diverse soils and sun of the estate. In other areas of the estate, golden-leaf tobacco, corn and wheat are grown.