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 90 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."