Sunday, December 8, 2013

Go north by northwest for wine in South Dakota

The American wine craze has spread north by northwest, too. In 1997, the South Dakota legislature approved winemaking in the state, and the vintners immediately began producing fine wines. I visited two great wineries within 15 minute’s drive from Sioux Falls.
Jeff Wilde, who was born in South Dakota, was already ahead of the wine game because he grew up in California. After moving back to the Mount Rushmore State, he grew alfalfa on his farm. He quickly switched, and now grows four red grapes and two whites. His Prairie Red is made from his Valient grape and Sweet Red from his Frontenac. With his fruit wines, he uses only produce from South Dakota. His wife, Victoria, won a bronze medal at the International Women’s Winemakers for the fruit wine, Rhuberry (made from rhubarb and raspberries).
Don South has gone “green” with compressed straw bales that insulate his winery, thus reducing energy needs. He specializes in producing fruit wines, in addition to the grape varieties, because… “it opens up connects with people and opens up conversations.” He says that the fruit wines remind them of their past when family members made wine, like his Grandpa Pete’s Strawberry Rhubarb Wine. My friends and I had a picnic supper on Strawbale’s expansive lawn, and if you’d like to eat there, contact them in advance.

If you like good wine, you should go in any and all directions.

Photos by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel