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.

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