For me, a road trip just isn’t a road trip without a wine tasting! Neek, Sar and I were not sure what we had in store for us on this excursion. We’ve tried some unique wines over the years, but wine made from currants? Rhubarb? Chokecherries?
Strangely enough, this has actually been a winemaking tradition in South Dakota for over 100 years and five generations at Prairie Berry Winery.
The winemaker of Prairie Berry is Sandi Vojta. Her family originated in Moravia, Czechoslovakia and her great-great grandparents settled in Dakota Territory in 1876. They had been winemakers in Czechoslovakia, but found very few grapes in their newly adopted land.
So the family matriarch, Anna Pesa Vojta, utilized the “prairie berries” around them; chokecherries, buffaloberries, wild plums and currants and made them into wine. This started a family tradition that continued until 1998, when Prairie Berry became the second winery in the state of South Dakota to obtain a commercial license.
The winery moved near Hill City, South Dakota in 2004, and we were fortunate to find their tasting room off of Highway 385, as it was a very rainy day! There is plentiful parking there and we found a spot near the entrance. From the moment we entered the winery, we received nothing but friendly vibes!
One of the pourers came up to us with a tray filled with tiny paper cups containing what looked like purple ice. She said it was something they were coming out with in the summer and to give it a try. Well, despite the rain and cold outside, coming in and sampling those ice shots of wine was very refreshing! Just wish I could remember what kind of frozen wine it was.
Before we walked up to the tasting area, we took a good long time walking along the aisles checking out the humorous names of the wines. The one most heavily promoted is Red Ass Rhubarb. This wine has won hundreds of awards and is a blend of raspberry and rhubarb wine. It was also cool to see they named some of their wines after local legends: there is a Calamity Jane wine as well as a Wild Bill!
Also, they had a number of wines named in honor of the family matriarch Anna Pesa, including a Chenin Blanc (yes, some of their wines are made from grapes!) that I decided to include in my tasting.
When we did amble over to the tasting area, Neek, Sar and I were very pleased to have our pourer tell us they offer free tastings! We gazed upon the list of wines we were given and made sure we all chose different wines so we could share sips and hopefully find a wine we all enjoyed.
I’ve always been a fan of blends, so I made sure to include a number of those. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t sure what we had in store for us, but I thought the quality and taste of their wines was consistently good!
There was quite a bit of back-and-forth debating between the three of us over which wine we all agreed to get a bottle of. So we sort of split the difference and decided to buy two! We went with a white wine called Gold Digger that was a delicious pear wine. Our red wine was Lawrence Elk (the band leader Lawrence Welk happens to come from North Dakota) which is a black currant wine. Both wines are on the sweeter side, but not dessert wines. They should be refreshing summer drinks!