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HILL CITY, S.D. — The judges in San Francisco seem to like what South Dakota does with raspberries and honey.  Prairie Berry Winery’s Raspberry Honeywine was among 80 Best of Class winners in the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. About 5,500 wines were entered in the competition. Since Raspberry Honeywine’s competition debut in 2003 it has garnered nearly 40 medals.

Sturgis Honey, a family-owned business near Sturgis, S.D. produces the honey, which makes up about 60 percent of Raspberry Honeywine. “The honey traveled less than 60 miles from the collection facility to the winery,” said Bob Weyrich, Prairie Berry’s grower relationships manager. The winery uses as many South Dakota products as possible in their wines, including hand-picked native fruits like buffaloberries, chokecherries, river grapes and wild plums. Prairie Berry partners with Lewis & Clark Vineyard, near Yankton, S.D. for their South Dakota-grown grapes.

Four wines made from those South Dakota-grown grapes earned medals in San Francisco. Port-style Frontenac 2011 and semi-dry white wine Frontenac Gris 2011 each brought home a gold medal. Semi-dry white wines St. Pepin 2011 and Brianna 2011 earned silver medals.

All of Prairie Berry’s wines are produced, start to finish, in their winery near Hill City, S.D.

“It is awesome to have South Dakota wine recognized at this level,” said Sandi Vojta, Prairie Berry’s winemaker. “We have amazing partners in Sturgis Honey and Lewis & Clark Vineyard that work really hard to give us high-quality products to start with.”

In their 10 years in the commercial wine business, Prairie Berry has won 617 awards for nearly 50 different wines. For more than a century before commercial wineries were legal in South Dakota, the Vojta family produced wines from the fruit of the prairie, having brought those skills to the Dakotas from Czechoslovakia in 1876. A family tradition that started with wild chokecherries and homemade oak barrels has grown into one of the largest and most acclaimed wineries in the Midwest.

“I try to make wine people like to drink,” Vojta said. “It’s always an honor to have those efforts recognized by the judges, but nothing compares to hearing from someone who just loves our wine.”



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HILL CITY, S.D.–Prairie Berry Winery took home nearly 10 percent of the gold medals at the American Wine Society’s Commercial Wine Competition. The competition, which took place in Rochester, N.Y., attracted 540 submissions from around the country. Twenty-one gold medals were awarded and Prairie Berry’s Raspberry Honeywine and dry Phat Hogg Red earned two of those.

“These judges are really well-versed in wines and what to look for,” Sandi Vojta, the winemaker for Prairie Berry, a family-owned winery near Hill City, S.D. “To be two of only 21 wines to win gold at this competition is a huge honor,” Vojta said.

What made the honor even better was that the co-chair of the competition, Harvey Reissig, called to personally congratulate Vojta on thewinery’s showing.

The winery entered 10 wines in the competition, and all 10 brought home medals.

“It’s really an honor because I know these people have really discerning and educated palates,” Vojta said.

The American Wine Society has been around for nearly 45 years and is the oldest and largest consumer-based wine education organization in North America.

This year Prairie Berry has brought home nearly 100 awards for 22 of their wines, all of which are made at the winery in South Dakota.  Prairie Berry Winery’s medal count for the 10 years they’ve been making wine commercially is just over 600.

The Vojta family was making wine long before they gave any thought to awards. Vojta’s great-great-grandmother, Anna Pesa Vojta immigrated to central South Dakota in 1876 and brought along her family’s tradition of winemaking. Five generations later, Vojta is still making wines from the “prairie berries” of the Plains.



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A South Dakota Wine Winner – Red Ass Rhubarb

by on 1st Feb, 2010

A Best of Class award for a South Dakota winery.

Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City is enjoying the attention surrounding its latest success, a success that’s been a long time in the making.

The family behind Prairie Berry Winery’s been making wine – oh since 1876. That’s nearly 135 years of experience in every bottle.

Most recently that experience helped them bring home the Judges Choice and Best of Class awards back to South Dakota from the San Francisco Chronicle’s wine competition.
Marketing Director Michele Slott says, “They have really high standards, a silver’s like a double gold at another competition. It’s a big thing, it really is.”

Their red rhubarb wine is what has the judges talking. Made of 10 percent raspberries and 90 percent rhubarb.

“They named the top ten things they learned, we were number 3. They said that they had to drink more fruit wine, especially from Prairie Berry Winery – we’re the only ones named in the article,” says Slott.

Prairie Berry gets their fruit from all over the state of South Dakota. While the family’s been making wine for decades, Prairie Berry opened as a commercial winery in 1998.

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