What is in this article?:
• RagApple Lassie Vineyard is owned and operated by Frank and Lenna Hobson, and they have a big story to tell about their 2012 grape crop, but to understand the story one has to understand the importance of the winery to a way of life they hope to preserve.
AS THE ONLY winery in North Carolina owned by lifelong farmers, RagApple Lassie Vineyard has been recognized widely for its heritage, its 4-H Show Calf logo and reputation for good wines.
As the only winery in North Carolina owned by lifelong farmers, RagApple Lassie Vineyard has been recognized widely for its heritage, its 4-H Show Calf logo and reputation for good wines.
“Frank loves being a farmer,” Lenna beams. In fact, she says the reason their grapes are so good and their wine so much in demand is that Frank sings to the grapes during his near daily trips through the vineyards.
On a blustery, cold May night and day last year the music stopped for most Yadkin Valley wineries when a highly unsuspected May freeze destroyed a big part of the grape crop in the area.
The effect on the wine industry would have been much more severe had it not been for the grapes produced by Frank Hobson.
A killing frost and lingering sub-freezing temperatures, which got as low as 29 degrees F. simply destroyed any grape variety that was in the tender reproductive stages of growth. Hundreds of acres of Yadkin Valley grape vines recovered from the freeze, but made no grapes last year.
Despite the devastating freeze, grapes at RagApple Lassie vineyard did more than fine. “It was the biggest and best crop of grapes we’ve ever had,” Frank says.
The grape crop for the Yadkin Valley grower was so good in fact he had much more, 50 percent more, grapes than he needed for his winery. Frank sold grapes at a fair market price to many, if not most, of the Yadkin Valley’s other 37 small wineries.
Singing to his grapes may make the grapes grow better and the wine taste better, but he contends it had nothing to do with saving his grape crop.
Keep in mind Frank has been farming all his life. The name of his winery, RagApple Lassie, comes from the name of a pet dairy calf-cow that his father gave him when he was seven years old. “Other kids had dogs and cats for pets, I had a dairy cow that followed me around everywhere I went,” he says with a hint of distinction in his voice.
From his dairy cow pet to his modern day farming practices, Frank Hobson has always been a purist at heart, growing his crops the best he could by using all the technology and expertise he could glean from many sources.
One of those sources for more than 30 years was Lynn Howard, who was until his retirement two years ago an agronomist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
When Frank got started in the wine growing business, Lynn Howard helped him, and perhaps more importantly supported his venture into this new area of agriculture.