The New Napa Valley?

Good news for wine lovers who live East of the Mississippi River! You don’t have to fly to the valleys of Central California this Fall to tour vineyards and sample custom made wines during peak harvest season. Thanks to a recent winemaking explosion in North Carolina, some of the most expansive vineyards and finest wines can be found in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

"Wine is bringing in people by the thousands to the Yadkin Valley," said vineyard owner Lenna Hobson. "It's now beginning to be viewed as a destination area."

The center of the winemaking industry in the Southeastern United States can be found in North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley. That’s where Hobson and her husband Frank converted the 150-year-old family tobacco farm into vineyards to keep up with changing times. As demand for tobacco products decreased significantly over the past two decades, the couple started growing grapes and opened The RagApple Lassie Vineyard. The farm also continues to produce soybeans and corn, but wine is the main attraction.

"Just the number of wineries here now, we’re at 24 now and just a couple years we were at 8 in the Yadkin Valley" said Hosbon. "And each year you add another and hope the traffic keeps up and it does."

The winery hosts hundreds of walk-in customers each week. Many tour the vineyard and then sample some of RagApple’s award winning wines. It is open 7-days a week to keep up with demand and there are more than 11 varieties of red and white wines to try.

"The neatest thing is the pride people express in having wine country near them, meaning 3 hours as opposed to a country away or a plane ride away," Hobson said.

According to John Byrd, the owner of Yadkin Valley Wine Tours, Inc., there are five S’s to tasting wine: See, Swirl, Smell, Sip and Savor.