Six years after she sold her first bottles of cranberry wine, Diana Hobson of La Crosse and her DnA Vintners wholesale winery continue to win major awards.
Although she also continues to increase production, Hobson isn’t sure she wants her business to grow from a small one to a large one.
“I’d have to become full time,” said Hobson, who retired in 2003 as a Wisconsin Department of Corrections field supervisor for probation and parole offices. The Sparta native has lived in La Crosse since 1988.
Hobson makes three different cranberry wines and said she is looking at developing some other cranberry-based wines.
Her first two wines were Frost Watch Red, described as a semi-sweet wine for people who like a tart, crisp wine, and Sweet Paradise, which is sweet and smooth. Both were first sold in 2006 by Hobson’s first customer, Burnstad’s Market in Tomah.
Three years ago, Hobson added Chocolate Paradise, a dessert wine made with cranberries and chocolate. It has become her biggest seller.
“It’s unique from other chocolate wines on the market as the texture is a wine texture, not a milky, Baileys-type texture,” she said.
Chocolate Paradise won the best dessert wine and best blended wine awards, along with two gold medals, in the 2012 Wisconsin State Fair Professional Wine Competition. Meanwhile, Sweet Paradise won a gold medal in the 2012 International Women’s Wine Competition in California.
DnA Vintners has been entering contests and winnings awards for all of its wines for about three years. “I did it for fun, just to see how they would do,” Hobson said of entering her first contests. “I’ve been surprised” to win so many awards.
DnA Vintners is a member of the Wisconsin Winery Co-op and distributes its wines through the co-op. Hobson collaborates with the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center in Warrens, which provides tastings of her wines as part of the co-op’s Wisconsin Wine Tasting Tour.
“I participate in a lot of wine tastings for various fundraising events and wine promotions,” Hobson said.
Upcoming tastings include 2 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Premier Meats near Viroqua and Dec. 24 at Festival Foods in La Crosse — from
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Copeland Avenue store and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the State Road store.
DnA’s winery in La Crosse is not open to the public, as it’s licensed for wholesale only.
“My production level is small, and I have a small area for distribution – La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Tomah, Warrens, Black River Falls, Viroqua and Prairie du Chien,” Hobson said. The list of grocery stores and other retailers that sell her wine is on DnA’s website, www.dnavintners.com.
Hobson expects to sell about 700 cases of her wine this year; there are 12 bottles in a case.
“My production has steadily gone up,” she said. “I sell as much as I make.”
Hobson’s wine business has no employees, but she gets help from her niece Kit Thomas, her son Case Hobson and from her “significant other” Arvid Larson. (The DnA name was derived from Diana and Arvid.)
DnA’s cranberries come from Habelman Bros. Co. of Tomah, which bills itself as the world’s largest fresh cranberry grower and packer.
Hobson said she uses a pound of cranberries to make each bottle of her wine, and added that cranberries have health benefits.
She started making wine as a hobby in 1999, using grapes on her backyard fence. She began making cranberry wine about two years later after a Warrens cranberry grower offered her some of its product.
“My first batches (of cranberry wine) really weren’t that great,” Hobson said. “But I was hooked, so I read books, studied the Internet, joined a wine-making club and made a lot of wine.” She also took classes in wine making.