In: News, Prairie Berry

Comments Off on True West: Drinking With the Friars

Drinking with the Friars

Tracing the history of wine from New Mexico and beyond.

Written by Sherry Monahan
Published May 13, 2013 in True West Magazine

friar-Garcia-de-Zuniga_kolache. After moving to White Oaks, New Mexico, in 1886, Albert Zeigler was awaiting 10 gallons of “very fine wine,” as the pioneer put it, that ox teams were transporting from San Antonio. “When the keg came we were all so anxious to get a good drink,” he recalled, “but when we opened the keg you can imagine our great disappointment to find it filled with water. Someone had taken the wine out and filled the keg up with water.”

Wine in New Mexico dates back to 1629 when Franciscan friar Garcia de Zuniga and Capuchin friar Antonio de Arteaga smuggled grapevines out of Spain and planted them at San Antonio de Padua Mission at Senecu, a Piro Indian pueblo near Socorro.

California, Arizona and Texas also have wine roots dating to the Spanish Missions. Phoebe Arnett, who lived in Stranger, Texas, in 1866, recalled a divine wine incident. Baptist deacons were serving communion when a young man remarked he wanted some. The deacon refused because the man was not a Baptist. “He comes back with, ‘Well I’m a Methodist. Besides this church belongs to us all.’ The deacon replied, ‘It may be your church, but this is our day, our time to hold service,’” she said. “…and the outcome was the Baptists built their own church….”

California’s mission grapes weren’t the best, and the 1849 Gold Rush brought a large influx of immigrants who appreciated good wine. Many went north to Napa and Sonoma Counties and planted vine clippings they had brought with them.

Oregon and Washington’s first wine grapes were planted at Fort Vancouver by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1825. Peter Britt planted some of Oregon’s earliest vines at his Applegate Valley vineyard in 1858; the photographer called his winery Valley View. Adam Doerner opened his Umpqua Valley winery in 1888 and crafted a blended wine called Melrose Red.

Royal Muscadine grapes had grown with great success in Lewiston, Idaho, in 1865. In 1872 Frenchmen Louis Desol and Robert Schleicher and German immigrant Jacob Schaefer helped make Clearwater Valley known for its wines.

By the late 1840s, German settlers in Hermann, Missouri, were turning out more than 10,000 gallons of wine each year, which increased to two million by the 1880s. They planted Norton—the state grape—and the Concord.

Other states, like Montana and South Dakota, made fruit wine. Lizzie Miles, who moved to Superior, Montana, in 1891, remembered an Indian resident who enjoyed fruit wine. She recalled, “She used to smoke a corncob pine, the kind they make themselves…. She liked her drink pretty well and used to make raspberry wine. She’d say, ‘Um, good. Just pour down throat from bottle.’”

Anna Pésa Vojta, who arrived from Czechoslovakia and settled in Dakota Territory in 1876, made wines from berries in the region. Her great-great-granddaughter Sandi Vojta operates Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City, South Dakota. The best dessert to drink with her fruit wines is the kolache, a Czechoslovakian pastry that Sandi shares with us from a family recipe.

Prune/Apricot Filling

Take 1 cup of prunes and  cup dried apricots. Add enough water to cover fruit and let simmer in a small saucepan for about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain water. Finely chop fruit. Add   teaspoon allspice, cup sugar, one tablespoon lemon juice and one tablespoon grated lemon rind.


c. sugar

c. shortening (part butter)

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs

c. warm water

2 packages dry yeast

4 c. flour

Cream sugar, shortening, salt and eggs. Dissolve yeast in water and add to creamed mixture; add two cups of flour to yeast. Stir by hand (or beat on low speed). Stir in remaining flour. Let rise in warm place for 1  hours. Stir down and turn onto a well-floured board. Divide into 24 equal pieces.

Shape each piece into a round ball. Place onto a greased baking sheet. Cover with cloth and let rest about 15 minutes. Form each ball into a flat four-inch square. Place one tablespoon of fruit filling (Vojta family uses a prune and apricot filling) into the center. Bring opposite corners together. Moisten with milk, overlap about one inch and seal well. Let rise about 30 minutes.

In a 375-degree oven, bake kolaches for 15-18 minutes or until brown. Brush with melted butter and lightly dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serves 24 and can be eaten warm or cold.


Vojta family recipe courtesy Prairie Berry Winery

Sherry Monahan has penned California Vines, Wines & Pioneers, Taste of Tombstone, The Wicked West and Tombstone’s Treasure. She’s appeared on the History Channel in Lost Worlds and other shows.


In: Wine

Comments Off on Pumpkin Bog Label Artist to Sign Labels

Saturday, October 5,  Meet artist Winston Barclay at bottle signing, 12:00 to 2:00 PM

Have your bottle of Pumpkin Bog signed by Winston Barclay, whose photograph graces the label. He’ll be on site in the event room Saturday, October 5th from 12-2 p.m. Meet and greet the artist, view the exhibit of Winston’s artwork in Prairie Berry Winery’s event room, and enjoy lunch or appetizers from Prairie Berry’s Kitchen.

Winston Barclay recently retired to Hill City after more than three decades promoting the arts at the University of Iowa. He is now working with the Hill City Arts Council, and is a board member of the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra. His photography has been published in books, magazines and online, and may be viewed at His show runs at Prairie Berry Winery from October 1-31, 2013.


In: News, Prairie Berry

Comments Off on KNBN News: Toe Jam 2013

Toe Jam 2013 brought some Merlot stomping and a great day at Prairie Berry. KNBN, News Center 1 in Rapid City came up and tried their hand…er, feet…at grape stomping. You can see the video here. This is our second annual Toe Jam, and we plan to do it again next year! Look for another fun fall event at Prairie Berry next September when the grapes start to ripen.


In: News

Comments Off on South Dakota-Made Wine at State Fair

 We’ll be there! 

From the Yankton Press & Dakotan

South Dakota-Made Wine, Beer, Cheese Featured at State Fair

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:12 pm

HURON — The South Dakota Wine Pavilion at the State Fair is becoming a tradition for some fairgoers.

This is the only venue in the state where people have the opportunity to taste samples from 11 of South Dakota’s wineries, several of the state’s breweries and eight cheese manufacturing plants in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and the winegrowers in South Dakota are working together to host this popular attraction at the Fair. Fairgoers can taste and purchase South Dakota wines, beer, cheese and other specialty food items, visit with these value-added businesses about their operations and learn more about the state’s growing industries. Participants will be able to pair the wine and beers with South Dakota cheese and other food products as well.

Tasting packages with more than 30 varieties of South Dakota wine and hand-crafted beers are available to purchase as well as beverages by the glass to enjoy in the wine garden. Wine-a-ritas, a refreshing blend of wine and margarita mix, will also be available.

This year the South Dakota Wine Pavilion will have many specials and features including a $5 savings on Border to Border wine tasting packages Thursday only, happy hour specials Thursday and Friday, and 25 percent off select cases on Monday.

“We work hard to create a very pleasant atmosphere for fairgoers to enjoy our state’s great wine, beer, cheese and specialty foods,” said Alison Kiesz, event organizer for SDDA. “We want consumers to learn more about agriculture and the industries represented in the pavilion.”

The 2013 State Fair runs Thursday, Aug. 29-Monday, Sept. 2. Preview day is Wednesday, Aug. 28. For more information on State Fair events, contact the Fair office at 800.529.0900 or visit You can also find the State Fair on Facebook and Twitter (@SDStateFair).


In: News, Prairie Berry

Comments Off on Sioux Falls Business Journal: Wineries…

Sioux Falls Business Journal: Wineries find growing taste


For the past three summers, guests at the Baumberger Vineyard Winery in rural Dell Rapids got the “farm-kitchen-table” experience.

The family made wine as a hobby for 15 years and slowly started a commercial winery in 2010, getting wine on some store shelves and invited visitors for sampling at the family home.

Sales are strong, owner Julie Baumberger said, and the family now wants to give guests a full winery experience. A tasting room will open later this month, and the winery will ramp up its marketing.

“You want this nice room people could sit in, ” Baumberger said. “There has been such good positive growth. It’s an important step for us to take.”

Baumberger, who serves as secretary and treasurer of the South Dakota Winegrowers Association, said her family’s story is a familiar one. Local industry followers said they expect more wineries to start in the state.

Commercial wine production in South Dakota is a relatively new form of agribusiness, made possible by the Farm Winery Act of 1996. The state has 26 licensed wineries, which produced 102,000 gallons of wine in 2012.

National wine industry analyst Doug Kelly from IBIS World said South Dakota is keeping up with the industry’s national growth. U.S. wine production is a $17.2 billion industry, growing 3.6 annually since 2008.

Increased wine consumption is fueling the industry, Kelly said. The country’s per capita wine consumption was 2.45 gallons a year five years ago. That has grown to 2.73 gallons, and Kelly said there’s more interest in drinking domestically produced wine.

“You’d think with the numbers of wines on the supermarket shelves we’d be reaching saturation, but it’s really fueled more growth,” he said. “There are a number of opportunities for wineries to enter and find their niche in the marketplace.”

Heather Taylor Boysen, owner and manager at Good Spirits Fine Wine & Liquor, has worked with South Dakota wineries since her business opened 15 years ago and said she has seen incredible growth.

She carries about 30 types of local wine made at five wineries and said they’re all selling – everything from sweet blueberry varieties to dry reds. Some customers will ask for the wines by name, having tried them at winery events.

“As a whole, they’re doing a better job of marketing the product to people in South Dakota,” Taylor Boysen said. “There’s a lot of new players I need to find space for on my shelf.”

The wine store owner said some local and regional wineries have their own sales staff and handle their own distribution, while others use distributors. She said she’s impressed by the sophistication in area winery facilities.

“It’s no longer a hobby that is being done in someone’s garage,” Taylor Boysen said. “It’s a market that’s really coming into their own.”

Ag-related tourism grows

In South Dakota, wineries also play a role in ag-related tourism, said Wanda Goodman, deputy secretary of tourism for the state.

“Our wineries have done the best job of carving out that niche with their tasting rooms and many hosted events,” she said. “It’s really a long tradition in South Dakota, and it’s fun to see the industry really get off the ground.”

A 2012 survey of tourists showed that 10 percent had come to South Dakota to visit wineries.

Prairie Berry Winery, based out of Hill City, traces its history back five generations to Czechoslovakian pioneers who brought their family tradition with them, co-owner Matt Keck said. Prairie Berry was the second to be licensed in the state and made its first wine in 30-gallon lots. Today, it produces 30,000 gallons at once.

Prairie Berry has shaped its business model to concentrate on retail sales and tourism. While the winery is located in the Black Hills, it hosts a wine club event in Sioux Falls four times a year. The winery is looking for more visibility in the city and will start weekly tasting events at retailers in the coming months, Keck said.

“We really look at the whole state in our plans,” he said. “A lot of people go to the Hills, but we want to make sure that they know they have the ability to buy the wines they like on a regular basis.”

Special events niche

The events business is a growing niche for many wineries.

Don South, owner of Strawbale Winery near Renner, wasn’t planning on making entertainment part of his business, but his model has evolved. Six years ago, an artist friend suggested the winery hold an event during the week for artists to sell their works.

(Full article)


In: Prairie Berry, Wine

Comments Off on 4th of July in the Black Hills

At Prairie Berry we grew up with those great 4th of July traditions –parades, lemonade, fireworks, good music, family and laughter. This 4th of July we want our guests to experience those moments of Americana that make us proud to be from the US of A.

July 4, 6 & 7 (Thursday, Saturday & Sunday)

  • Featured Drink Specials: Patriotic Poker Face Punch & Blue Suede Lemonade
  • Featured Dessert: Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Coconut Ice Cream
  • Kids’ Jumping Castle 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Bring your lawn chair or picnic blanket!

Here are some photos from our Memorial Day celebration, which was very similar to what we’re planning for the 4th of July.



In: Heritage, Prairie Berry, Wine

Comments Off on A Dad to Share Things With

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
~Clarence Budington Kelland

When I was growing up, my dad, Ralph, was always watching for things. We’d go for a drive and he’d see a fox or a fruit tree or a flower, and he’d point it out to me. As I got older I started to realize that I was doing the same thing. I was paying attention to the details that a lot of people miss.

When my dad taught me to fly fish it was the same way. He’d say, “Think like a trout. If you were a trout, where would you be? Lay the fly where you think you’d be.” I’d do that and
BAM a trout would hit.

He made me conscious of things I wouldn’t otherwise think about. That’s become part of my personality and is an important element of my winemaking. It’s been hugely influential and I’m so thankful for that.

I’m very blessed to have a dad to share life’s details with.
~Sandi, Prairie Berry Winemaker


In: Prairie Berry, Wine, Wine & Food

Comments Off on How to Drink Red Wine in the Summer

Before all you red wine lovers sadly put away your stemware for the summer, listen up. Red wines don’t have to be like your wool sweaters–enjoyed during the chilly weather and traded in for beer when it warms up. Not that you trade your sweaters for beer. Well, depending on the sweater and the beer…

My point is, you can drink red wine in the summer. Not only is it okay, it’s delicious. Keep in mind a couple of things, though:

1. “Cool room temperature” — the serving temperature for most dry red wines — is not the temperature of the room you’re in. It’s the temperature of a room in which you’ll probably want that wool sweater. 61-63 degrees. You can achieve this temperature by storing the wine at real room temperature, then putting it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes just before opening.

2. Breathing room. Many dry red wines benefit hugely from decanting, which is simply a fancy way of saying, “pouring the wine into a different container before serving it.” There are all sorts of fancy decanters out there, but any glass pitcher will work, since the object of this exercise is to introduce oxygen to the wine. In a situation in which the wine will be consumed soon, the wine and oxygen get along beautifully. The oxygen lets the aromas out, smooths out the flavors. But when oxygen and wine keep company for an extended period of time, it turns ugly. That’s why red wines that have been opened typically have only a 2-3 day lifespan. Of course, you don’t have to do this. Play with it and see what you like.

Now, on to the enjoying.Phat Hogg Red wine

  • Drink: Rich, Dry Reds (3Rednecks, Rimrock (Zinfandel), Legacy Sand Creek, Merlot, Syrah)
  • Eat: These are your steak or portobello wines. The tannins go nicely with the rich flavor of these hearty foods. Saute some spinach, add some cracked black pepper and life is good.
  • Drink: Light, Dry Reds (Phat Hogg Red, Pheasant Reserve, Chianti, Gamay, Pinot Noir)
  • Eat: These light-bodied red wines are really versatile and summer-food friendly. Try Phat Hogg Red paired with plank-grilled salmon and a fresh Caprese salad. Grilled pork loin with sage and thyme would be good company for these wines.
  • Drink: Semi-sweet Red Wines (Calamity Jane, Chokecherry Medley, Blue Suede Shoes–serve chilled)
  • Eat: These are great barbecue or spice wines. Use a touch of one of these wines and some smokey chipotle peppers in a barbecue sauce or a meat glaze, then serve a chilled glass of the wine alongside–mmmmm.
  • Drink: Sangria
  • Eat: The ice and wine-soaked fruit. Sangria is a traditional Spanish drink that mixes dry red wine with ice, fruit and fizz to make a light, refreshing summer drink. Check out our Summer Sangria blog for recipes.



May 17



In: Heritage, Prairie Berry, Wine

Comments Off on Celebrate!

There’s so much to celebrate this time of year! Graduations, weddings, birthdays, warm weather…

For my family, wine has always been part of celebrations. Even as a kid, I knew wine was special. I got to help my dad make it and knew how much work he put into it. When the family got together for special occasions and the wine was uncorked (this was before we had Stelvin caps) it was a celebration of not just the occasion, but of the work and time that went into the bottle. The adults in my life set the example that wine was something to be savored, to be appreciated for itself and to be consumed in moderation–it was too much work to make to drink a lot of it!

That’s still how I view wine. I celebrate with it, whether that’s the end of a long day, a birthday or a milestone. I do know how much work it takes to make wine and I think about that when I have a glass, whether it’s a wine I make or one a winemaker on the other side of the world put her heart and soul into.

I think about the generations of my family that picked chokecherries and sipped wine from cherished Czech crystal glasses on the South Dakota prairie.

I think about the people who are celebrating with the wine that I put my heart and soul into.

And I’m thankful. I’m thankful that I have so much to celebrate, and I’m thankful for all the people who celebrate with me and our wines.

As you uncap a bottle of wine this summer, take a minute to  appreciate your blessings, and please celebrate responsibly.



In: Party planning, Prairie Berry, Wine, Wine & Food

Comments Off on Cinco de Mayo–South Dakota style!

It’s May 3, which means your shopping list should include:

Cinco de Mayo is the perfect time to kick off summer sipping season with all those mouth-watering fresh flavors. Like margaritas and guacamole. Put a South Dakota spin on Cinco de Mayo with our Red Assarita, a sweet-tart, raspberry-rhubarb take on a traditional margarita. Our Red Ass Rhubarb wine (and drinks made with it, like the Red Assarita) pairs perfectly with Tex-Mex food.

Prairie Berry’s Red Assarita

  • 2 parts Prairie Berry Red Ass Rhubarb wine
  • 1 part margarita mix (without tequila)
  • Fresh lime, cut in small wedges
  • Margarita salt (optional)
  • Ice

Individual serving: Run lime wedge along the edge of the glass and dip in coarse salt. Fill glass with ice as desired. Combine appropriate proportions Red Ass Rhubarb wine and margarita mix in glass. Squeeze remaining lime juice into glass and drop in the lime wedge. Stir and enjoy!

Basic Guacamole

  • 2 large ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped yellow onions
  • 2 teaspoons minced jalapeno or serrano chiles, seeds and membranes removed, if desired
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons cored, seeded, and finely chopped plum tomato (1 small tomato)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • warm tortilla chips, for serving

Mash together 1 tablespoon of the cilantro, 1 teaspoon of the onion, 1 teaspoon of the peppers, and ½ teaspoon of salt in the bottom of a medium-size bowl. Add the avocados and gently mash with a fork until chunky-smooth. Fold the remaining cilantro, onion, and peppers into the mixture. Stir in the tomato and lime juice, adjust the seasonings to taste, and serve with a basket of warm corn tortilla chips.