Friday, October 23, 2009

Vino de South Dakota?

If you thought the idea of Wisconsin wine was odd, wait until you hear this: South Dakota's wine industry is booming. Well, it's still relatively minescule, but as I recently found out at the SD State Fair, it's doubled in size almost every year for the last 5 years. Wine is catching on all over the country! The state agriculture board is boasting grape growing as a potential boon to poor farmers. One thing to consider is, like Wisconsin, much of the wine made in SD is made from fruit like black currants. Now, you know I don't like fruit wines, but you'd have to be a real "snob" to not at least sample them and THEN judge how poor they are. And the fact is, they are not all bad.

Prairie Berry is a Winery Located in Hill City, SD, which is pretty much in the black hills area. I have not been to their winery (yet!), but they are doing it right. They have well manicured grounds, a classy tasting room, and food in addition to their wines- which might surprise you should you sample them. Certainly not as sophisticated as offerings from say- Washington or California, but interesting none the less. As a side note, you might think that on average, South Dakotans are less sophisticated wine connoisseurs than other states- and you'd be right. However, like many americans, wine is slowly catching on all over the place.

I recently tried the last two generations of Black Currant wine from Prairie Berry. The older being "Deadwood" and the newer being "Lawrence Elk". I believe these wines normally sell for around $17, which is a little steep for me, but not bad. What does black currant wine taste like? Well, like black currants. No really, they do. If you read a lot of wine reviews, you'll notice that it's a flavor that pops up a lot in reviews of red wines, often Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. In these wines, it's the dominating flavor. It starts off sweet and finishes with a slightly tart dark fruit flavor. These wines are sweet, but probably not as sweet as you might think- they are very pleasant. The color is a rich red, reminiscent of light-bodied french reds such as Beaujolais wines. The aroma has fruit on the nose. It's a simple flavor, not a lot of spice, fairly low acidity, but the nature of the black currant itself is a rich and somewhat complex taste.

We enjoyed the Deadwood with a meal of baked Salmon, roasted red pepper risotto, and roasted green beans. The light red wine with a touch of sweetness actually complemented the meal quite nicely, which was a pleasant surprise. Unlike many wines I served, everyone enjoyed the wine and the pairing of the food- the bottle was gone quickly. Next time you are driving through the black hills, I recommend you check out Prairie Berry or another fine SD winery. You might be surprised at what you find.

Mt. Audubon- it's COLD in the mountains!

I recently climbed Mt. Audubon, which is a a "13er" at about 13,200 ft above sea level. In fact, Colorado has so many mountains HIGHER than this one, it's tough to claim some sort of moral victory from climbing it. However, it does offer an excellent view and a moderate difficulty trail (moderate when compared to 14ers, fairly strenuous for a normal hike). It's ONLY 4 miles long, how bad could that be?

Well, let's find out shall we? Keep in mind, I did this hike in September. It was 39 degrees when I started out around 11,000 feet. (yes, the trailhead is really high)
That's the top! Much further away then it looks.
Yes, that's snow coming down, rather fast. The clouds eliminated the possibility of any good "views"

This is me at the summit, cold, wet, tired. But still smiling (kind of)! This little 4 mile hike took me over 2 hours to summit. Of course, the "rock scramble" at the end was at least 35 minutes of that!
Let it snow! This was about 2 hours of accumulation. The phrase "winter wonderland" crossed my mind.

Look familiar? This is the same hillside as portrayed in the first picture, with snow on it. I was so happy to get down to this point- it's only about a half mile to the car from here.