If you’re reading this it means we’ve successfully launched our new website! Thank you for visiting and caring enough about Prairie Berry to read what we post on our blog.

After several years, we decided it was time to update our web presence. We wanted it to reflect the things we care about the most–customer service, our South Dakota roots, fantastic food and events, and amazing wine!

We hope you make time to visit our heritage page and see how Prairie Berry has grown since 1876. Stop by and pick up a few new recipes from the Kitchen, our restaurant. Find food pairings for your favorite wine. See where we get the thousands of gallons of honey for Raspberry Honeywine. Find out who is playing at our Summer Music Series. Plan the perfect bachelorette party with the help of our party planners.

Whatever you love, or want to know, about Prairie Berry, we hope you find it here. If you don’t, please let us know. We always love to hear from our friends and we want to make sure the information you care about is easy to find.

Feel free to connect with us via Facebook, Twitter or call us at 877.226.9453 to talk to a real person (during business hours–we have to sleep too).




In: News, Prairie Berry

Comments Off on Robert Whitley: American Wine

American Wine


Creators Syndicate

American Wine, a comprehensive look at the history and state of wine in America co-authored by Master of Wine Jancis Robinson and wine journalist Linda Murphy, is scheduled to be released February 1. It is available on pre-order now ($45) at Amazon. It should be an eye-opener.

Although the focus promises to be on the most important wine-growing regions in the nation, i.e., California, Washington and Oregon, the most important detail is the revelation that good wine is made throughout America, often in places the average American would consider improbable turf for winemaking.

The subject is near and dear, for I have become a convert to the exciting viticultural possibilities in, say, South Dakota. I won’t pretend that it is a budding Napa Valley waiting to be discovered, but I do know there is a winery, Prairie Berry in Hill City, SD., that has consistently racked up awards at the San Diego International Wine Competition.

The wines of Prairie Berry are made from grapes, such as Frontenac Gris and Vidal Blanc, that may not be familiar to the average person, but at Prairie Berry they are transformed into delicious, well-balanced wines that impress even grizzled wine judges with more experience, and perhaps a small bias, toward more traditional grape varieties.

Even more startling than the recent success of Prairie Berry was the accomplishment last year of a winery from Wisconsin, Wollersheim, which racked up four platinum awards and was named Winery of the Year at the San Diego International. Wollersheim is located in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, where it, too, features hybrid grape varieties made in a range of styles from dry to sweet, but with an emphasis always on exquisite balance.

Less surprising but equally obscure for most Americans are the superb wines of New York, where the primary growing regions are the Finger Lakes upstate and the eastern end of Long Island. The Finger Lakes specialize in aromatic whites, such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Gruner Veltliner, while Long Island is a friendly environ for Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with a smattering of good Riesling and Chardonnay.

I’ve also tasted award-winning wines from neighboring New Jersey, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

Further south, Virgina, North Carolina and Georgia have made tremendous strides with more traditional grapes. I’ve grown fond of the Cabernet Franc and Viognier from Barboursville and Jefferson Vineyards, both near Charlottesville, Va., at the southwestern tip of the state. Barboursville also makes what I consider one of the two finest Nebbiolo wines (this is the grape of Barolo and Barbaresco in northern Italy) in North America (Baja, Mexico’s LA Cetto makes the other) and Jefferson’s Chardonnay and Bordeaux blend are perhaps the best made in the East Coast and always competitive when up against California rivals in major wine competitions.

Georgia has a small but significant wine-growing region in the mountains in the southwest corner of the state, where the climate is hot and dry by day and somewhat cool at night. Frogtown Cellars, located in Georgia’s Lumpkin County, concentrates on elegant reds and lush whites made from traditional French grape varieties. These wines also compete successfully on the world stage, always winning a fair share of medals when entered in competitions that attract entries from California, Washington, Oregon, Europe and the Southern Hemisphere.

I’ve also tasted award-winning wines in recent years from Texas and Colorado.

The reason you may not be aware of this booming culture of American wine is that California, for the most part, gets all the glory. Washington and Oregon pick up California’s crumbs on the publicity front, and the rest of the country goes begging for attention.

Hopefully “American Wine” will alter that dynamic. I am reminded of a query from a San Diego restaurateur just last week, wanting to know of any California distributors who might have inventory from New York or Virginia. Sadly, I know of none.

Even in New York City it is sometimes difficult to find a New York wine, and my experience says the same is true of Virginia wines in Virginia and Georgia wines in Georgia.

Perhaps you will read “American Wine” and seek out some of the more interesting wines from unusual places. More than likely you will be thwarted by your favorite wine merchant, but the internet has changed the rules. Now you can hop on the computer and join a winery’s wine club, bypassing the gatekeepers who either don’t know there are exceptional wines made all over this country, or have little interest beyond the easy sell of California wine.

There are amazing wines being made across America. A book that documents the breadth of America’s winegrowing chops is long overdue.


In: News, Wine

Comments Off on Calamity Jane Claims Jefferson Cup

Calamity Jane & Jefferson CupHILL CITY, S.D. — At the end of two days of wine judging, Prairie Berry Winery’s sweet Concord, Calamity Jane, was one of just 29 wines to win the prestigious Jefferson Cup. The Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition is open to wineries by invitation only. This year’s competition included 700 wines from 23 states. Six Prairie Berry wines were invited, and their 2011 Frontenac Gris, a South Dakota-grown white grape wine, was also a nominee for the Jefferson Cup. Four other Prairie Berry wines received Medals of American Merit.

“We had a representation of the best of what every quality wine producing region in the country is offering right now,” said Doug Frost, Jefferson Cup Invitational founder. “While many competitions insist upon selecting a pre-ordained number of sweepstakes winners, our judges are allowed to find the top wines, whether there are only one, two or three, or even no winners in some categories.”

Sandi Vojta, Prairie Berry’s winemaker, said, “It was an absolute huge honor not only to be a South Dakota winery invited to participate in the Jefferson Cup Wine Invitational, but also be awarded a Jefferson Cup for Calamity Jane and have Frontenac Gris chosen as a Jefferson Cup Nominee. We are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to compete with top notch wineries from across the United States.”

These six awards bring Prairie Berry’s total medal count to 719 for the last 11 years. In wine competitions the wines are judged on standard criteria by certified judges. Judges are looking for balance in the acidity of the wine, as well as how well the wine represents the fruit it is made from.

Prairie Berry Winery is located near Hill City, S.D., but its roots are in the plains, where Vojta’s great-great-grandmother homesteaded in 1876 and made wine from the “prairie berries” that grew nearby. Prairie Berry is family-owned and all their wines are made in the Hill City winery. Many of the fruits that go into the wines are hand-picked in South Dakota.




In: Wine

Comments Off on Common Sense Wine Tasting

Several senses–well, all of them really–come into play when you’re tasting wine. Okay, so you don’t actually taste with your ears, but the sound of the wine hitting the glass, the clink of a glass during a toast–these are part of the experience. The color and clarity of the wine are important and the temperature of the wine can make a difference. So, there are three of the five senses that you’ve used before you’ve even tasted the wine. But the big two are taste and smell.

The condition of your mouth can greatly affect how you taste wine. If you’ve eaten cheese, spicy foods or nearly anything else with a moderately strong flavor (including gum), there’s a possibility it will skew your perception of the taste of the wine. Fats and oils can coat the tongue, rendering your tastebuds ineffective at detecting the subtle flavor nuances that are so enjoyable in a glass of wine. Get around this by avoiding food until after the tasting or eating a few mild crackers or a piece of bread between the food and the wine. In our tasting room we encourage guests to have a few oyster crackers before switching wines, and also suggest they wait until after the tasting to have lunch. Rinsing your mouth with plain water can also help. Of course, the right food paired with the right wine can bring out the best of both elements, but if you’re tasting wine just to taste the wine, it’s best for the wine to be solo.

And now, the nose.  Since a great deal of tasting is actually smelling, keeping your nose in tip-top shape is as important as cleaning your mouth. But cleaning your nose? Yeah. Gross. We’ll assume you know how to clean your nose. We won’t go there. But keep in mind that your nose’s ability to pick up the intricacies of a wine bouquet can be hampered by distracting aromas. If you know you are going to be tasting wine, skip the perfume and move away from the man with the aftershave aura. Other scents, like coffee and barbecue smoke, can be equally effective at keeping your nose from focusing on the wine. In some cases, if there’s nothing you can do about a strong aroma, you may want to postpone your tasting and try again sometime when you can focus on the wine.

Prairie Berry WinesMaybe you’re just starting to drink wine, or maybe you’re ready to expand your wine experience. Here are some tips for experimenting and finding some new favorites.
Look for new (to you) growing regions for exciting new wine frontiers
The major growing regions around the world are pretty popular: California, Australia and Italy, for example.  Try a wine that pushes those boundaries a bit.  Riesling from Alsace is bright and crisp, perfect for early fall sipping.  The Finger Lakes region of New York is growing into a powerhouse region for Eiswein and other dense, perfumed dessert wines.  Right here in South Dakota, hybrid grapes are sticking through our tough winters to create everything from delicate whites to dense port-style reds.  It doesn’t have to be a new growing area to be new to you!
Explore new grape varietals and interesting blends
Single varietal wines made from classic varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc.) can be tough to produce and expensive to procure.  Try a blend or a grape varietal that is new to your repertoire.  Blends are a great choice for easy sipping as the grapes can help each other to create a well-balanced wine.  Maybe the Cabernet crop suffered with too much sun.  Instead of making a flabby wine, the producer can blend in some cool climate Merlot and add some much needed acidity.  The same applies for lesser known grape varietals.  Grapes have been developed to survive in tough climates without needing “perfect” weather to make great wine.  Try a hybrid grape wine that can shine even in the toughest circumstances.
Find a buddy at your favorite wine store or winery
Do you have a wine retailer that you enjoy talking to and trust for suggestions?  This relationship can be a great asset to expanding your palate.  Make sure your wine store contact knows the flavors you like, knows what kind of food you like to eat and knows your price point.  This is a perfect example of a Gen5 Wine Club perk.  Our staff is always here to answer questions about Prairie Berry wines and beyond!
Consider your food
What kind of food do you like to cook at home or order when you go out?  Do you head straight for traditional Italian flavors like tomato and basil?  Look for an Italian wine you HAVEN’T tried.  Skip the Chianti and try a Montepulciano from the same region.  Let the food you love guide you to different wine pairings for a completely new experience!
Find flavors you love
Learn how to describe the flavors and sensations you like in wine.  Do you enjoy sipping a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc on a hot summer day?  Understanding and being able to describe what you like is 90% of the battle.  Once you know some general styles that tickle your taste buds, you can find new wines to try.  If you enjoy that bright, fruity white to cool you down, why not try an Albarino from Spain or Brianna from South Dakota?  Your description will help guide restaurant servers, tasting room associates and wine retailers wherever you visit and will help open doors to new tasting experiences!


In: Wine

Comments Off on Summer Sangria

Now that temperatures have actually hit summer levels, your thirsty thoughts may be turning toward icy drinks. (Read: Not wine.)

Don’t abandon that bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon just because the thermometer happens to read 95. When the sweltering temperatures have you sipping in the shade, an iced pitcher of sangria on the table beside your lawn chair may be just the refreshment you seek. It’s light, fruity and cold—everything you want in a hot-weather drink.
Sangria originated in Spain and there are as many variations of the recipe as there are people who make it—and probably more. Sangria is essentially wine mixed with fruit and some other ingredients. That’s about all the parameters there are for sangria.
Here’s a basic, traditional sangria recipe courtesy of www.spain-recipes.com
•       3 1/4 cups ( 26 fl. oz) dry red wine
•       1 tablespoon sugar
•       Juice of 1 large orange
•       Juice of 1 large lemon
•       1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise
•       1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise
•       2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
•       1 cup (8 fl. oz) club soda
Combine all the ingredients except the club soda in a large punch bowl or serving pitcher. Mix well. Refrigerate overnight. Immediately before serving, mix in the club soda for added fizz. Ladle into cups with ice cubes.
(Yes, you will be putting ice cubes in wine. RED wine. It’s really okay, just relax!)
Here’s a Prairie Berry recipe:
Black Currant Sangria
  • 1 bottle Lawrence Elk black currant wine
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/8 cup simple syrup (equal parts of sugar and water heated until sugar dissolves)
  • Sliced limes, lemons and oranges
Fresh fruit of your choice (we use red grapes, oranges, blueberries, blackberries, limes and lemons)
Orange zest
Mix first four ingredients and chill for a few hours. It gets better the longer you let it sit! Rim a wine glass with orange zest and sugar, add ice, fresh fruit and sangria. You can also add the simple syrup to your taste.
Pink Slip SangriaWe also make sangria with our Pink Slip, a white zinfandel and Steuben grape wine. Just add a splash of Lawrence Elk and some fresh fruit. But don’t let our ideas limit yours.
Like summer, sangria is all about making the most of what’s on hand, being creative and making the situation fit your mood. “Season to taste,” so to speak. So lighten up and get creative with your wine. It’s okay. Really.


In: Wine

Comments Off on Chill out! Summer wine care

It appears that summer is here with a vengeance. One of the best witticisms I’ve seen regarding the recent heat wave is, “Satan called. He wants his weather back.”

While there are a lot of things to consider when the temperatures are forecast to be in the “lower hundreds” as I heard on the radio the other day, wine may not be at the forefront of your mind. Unless it’s chilled and served in air conditioning.
When temperatures start climbing, give a little thought to how you transport and store wine, or you may be sorry.
1. Wine should always be kept in a cool, dark place–55 degrees is perfect. I have an ideal wine cellar, but people refer to it more colloquially as a basement. You might try a closet, which would offer protection from light and temperature fluctuations.
If you have your wine in a decorative wine rack, consider where you put it and make sure it’s out of direct sunlight and away from other heat sources. The top of the refrigerator may seem like a good idea, but the motor produces heat and vibration that can damage your wine.
2. In the summer, the deadliest place for any living thing–and wine is a living thing–is in a car. If you know you will be buying wine, plan to make that your last stop. If you aren’t going to be stopping, put the wine in the front of the car where it is air conditioned, rather than the trunk. If you’re stopping with the windows rolled up for more than 15-20 minutes, the trunk actually stays cooler.
3. Pack a cooler. A few reusable ice packs in a cooler can make the difference between “mmm” and “blech.” I keep a collapsible cooler under the seat in my car so I’ve always got it when I need it, whether for wine or ice cream.
Wine can stand heat up to 120 degrees for several hours without being noticeably affected (the temperature in a car can quickly reach 140 degrees and higher), but it’s best to keep it cool.
So, when you grab a bottle of wine on a hot day and get distracted by the Farmer’s Market, a garage sale and the Little League car wash, there’s only one way to tell if your wine survived the trip home–taste it.
The heat speeds up the aging process, so the wine quickly begins to deteriorate. If you know it’s been too warm, chill and drink it as soon as possible. A wine that’s gotten too warm may taste “cooked,” like stewed fruit, but won’t hurt you.
Keep in mind that most red wines should be served at about 55 degrees, MUCH cooler than the “room temperature” you may encounter in late July.
The single most important rule when dealing with wine is this: If it tastes good, drink it. If it tastes bad, don’t.


In: Wine, Wine & Food

Comments Off on What to sip with salads

“What’s for supper?”
The phrase has become the bane of my existence, especially in the summer. I don’t feel like cooking and I don’t feel like eating something that’s been cooked. The solution? Salad.

Pasta salad (yes, there is some cooking involved). Tossed salad. Steak salad. Chicken salad. Seafood salad. The term “salad” is so vague it can refer to anything from vegetables to gelatin. But generally, salads are cold, crisp and crunchy. Wines paired with salad should be the same-well, almost the same. Crunchy wine?

Pairing a wine with a salad can be tricky. Most salads are dressed with an acidic dressing, so a wine needs to complement that, not get bulldozed by it.

For those salads, you’ll want to choose a wine with a fairly high acid level. Dry rosés are pretty safe bets for most salads, like a romaine and arugula salad tossed with herb-marinated grilled chicken. Top it with grilled salmon or lemon shrimp and you’re still safe with a dry rosé. One dry rosé to check out that is fairly inexpensive and widely available in South Dakota is LaVielle Ferme. All the wines from this French winery are great dry, summer wines. If you’re looking for a local wine, try Prairie Berry’s Pink Slip or Crab Apple.

If you switch to steak to top your greens you’ll want to stick with conventional wisdom and serve it with a red wine. Italian wines are good served with steak salad because they are created to stand up to hearty, acidic tomato sauces and work well with both the beefy flavor and the high acid of the dressing.

If you go lighter and leave off the meat, try pairing a tossed salad with Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.

Generally, steer clear of sweet wines with salads. And pick a wine you can chill. It is summer, after all.


In: Wine, Wine & Food

Comments Off on Break the rules!

A summer evening isn’t complete without the smell of barbecue smoke in the air. When it’s time to break out the charcoal and marinate that special cut of meat or skewer the vegetables, think beyond beverages in boxes and allow a bottle of wine to turn that regular backyard barbecue into a special occasion. But before you venture out onto the patio, nervously clutching the grill tongs and a bottle of wine, let’s set a few ground rules.

Saying white wines are best for summer is like saying you should wear white shoes only between Memorial Day and Labor Day—it’s outdated and bossy. Consider whites the lemonade and reds the iced tea of wines. Both are acceptable in the summer, it’s just a matter of finding out what you like and what you’re in the mood for.
Barbecue naturally provides a smoky flavor. A lighter red wine can enhance this while adding a touch of sweetness and spice. A Beaujolais wine, made from Gamay grapes, would be perfect for a summer evening with a cricket serenade. This French wine is light and fruity and—bonus—served lightly chilled. Who wants to end a hot summer day with a warm drink? For grilling beef, buffalo or Portobello, or meats that are basted in a sweet barbecue sauce, a heavier-bodied red wine may be more appropriate. Some red wines to try this summer—Zinfandel, Shiraz, Barbera, Chianti or Syrah.
Even if a red wine is supposed to be served at room temperature, keep in mind that South Dakota’s summer temperatures will probably be between 20 and 40 degrees warmer than that ideal temperature.
Most red wines should be served at around 50 degrees, which you can achieve by putting it in the fridge for about 20 minutes before serving. Since you may want a wine that is enjoyable at a cooler temperature, don’t crack open that wine you’ve been aging for years, or a very complex wine. The flavors you most want to savor may end up being overwhelmed by the flavorful food and the bouquet will lose to the chill.
If you’re still nervous about serving a red when the temperature starts climbing, head for the old standbys. Chilled white wines and blushes can be more appealing in the summer because of their temperature and lighter flavors. Try a high-acid white wine, maybe a Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc, but steer clear of the Chardonnays for a grill-centered meal.

If you can’t decide whether to go with red or white, split the difference and pick a blush, or rosé. These wines, with their flavors of red fruits with notes of tea, citrus or even watermelon, may be just the summer sippers you’re looking for.


In: Prairie Berry, Wine

Comments Off on What’s in the bottle?

What’s in the bottle? Usually, wine. But even more simply, there’s glass in the bottle. And in the bottles we use at Prairie Berry, there’s a lot of thought, consideration and research.

At Prairie Berry one of our values is sustainability. We view ourselves as stewards of the environment. Our building and grounds were designed with that in mind and now this commitment to sustainability and environmental friendliness extends even to our bottles.

We have started using the ECO Series™ sold by Caliber WinePak and manufactured by Saint-Gobain Containers because they fit with our values.

These bottles are slightly smaller than standard wine bottles, so use less glass, but hold the same amount of wine. Magic! They require less energy to manufacture. Because the bottles are smaller, the cases can be smaller. Less cardboard. More cases will fit on a truck. Less fuel. And they are made in plants in Seattle, Wash., and Madera, Calif. Yeah, that’s in the U.S.A.

You probably couldn’t tell these bottles from the standard ones if you put them in a line-up. They look very similar and are manufactured with both cork and Stelvin closure options. As for durability, well, when we were bottling one of our latest wines in the ECO bottles, one of our staff (who shall remain nameless), dropped an empty bottle on the concrete floor. Steeling ourselves for the crash and dash for the broom, we were impressed to see it bounce. It was recovered without a chip.

So, you may have already bought Prairie Berry wine in ECO bottles and didn’t know it. We’re just telling you because we hope you, like us, want to do what you can to help the environment bounce, not break.