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Wine Trippin’ in South Dakota
Wine, Picnics and Campfires
By Linda Kissam 'Food, Wine & Shopping Diva'
I am advocate for “tasting the place.” This Wine Diva believes in doing more than just standing at a winery tasting bar demanding some outstanding Cab. The true wine tasting adventure involves getting to know the area you’re visiting.
Taste like the locals. Take the time to understand why and how local wines came to be in the style being presented to you. It’s not about tasting something exactly like you’ve had the past 3 years. It’s about understanding different wine styles, and being part of that exploration. Get out beyond the tasting room and try a “lifestyle sip”. What’s a lifestyle sip? Drink wine in the places the natives do. Trust me on this; it’s the best way to earn your Wine Explorer badge.
South Dakota is an interesting place, and about as different from Napa Valley as
a place can be.
When I heard, “Let’s do some winetasting,” while visiting the Sioux Falls area I was expecting an infinite amount of lush rolling vineyards, fancy tasting rooms, and a long list of varietals to taste. Not so much. What I got were rolling plains, some small vineyards growing alongside farm crops, charming tasting rooms, and a whole lot of fruit wines. I found that the locals love to BBQ, picnic and camp out. Once I adjusted gears, I found the whole lifestyle opportunity to be a wonderful way to relax and connect with nature. All I really needed to do was channel my inner Girl Scout and enjoy the ride. Who cares if I wasn’t sipping a fancy Merlot in a trendy restaurant? I had clean air, blue skies, pristine lakes, immaculate parks and unspoiled camp grounds to soothe my soul. And refresh my palate.
My advice when in the Sioux Falls area of South Dakota? Pass by the hotels; go directly
to the Lewis & Clark Lake State Recreation Area.
With 366 sites on 864 acres for RV or tents, there’s a spot just right for you –and several wineries easily within driving distance. There are also showers, flush and vaulted toilets. I liked the serene waterfront sites and appreciated that 30-
I was lucky enough to get some wine tasting in. Here are my recommendations for some wineries to visit.
Valiant Vineyards Winery -
Owner Eldon Nygaard wrote South Dakota's Farm Winery Act in 1996. Together with his wife Sherry, he started the first winery in South Dakota by establishing Valiant Vineyards. I enjoyed meeting Eldon. He’s the epitome of a gentleman farmer. His enthusiasm for the business is evident in his words and actions. Eldon is a current member of the South Dakota House of Representatives (17th district). He has been in office since 2006. I don’t want to take the surprise element from your visit, so suffice it to say take time to stroll the gift shop which is filled with exciting memorability from Eldon’s past and current careers. This stop is certainly a testament to the South Dakota spirit.
South Dakota Bonded Winery Number One, Valiant Vineyards Winery is located on the Vermillion River overlooking the Missouri River. Its proximity to downtown Vermillion, home of the University of South Dakota and the attached charming B&B should be noted.
I enjoyed sampling several wines in a private room overlooking the Missouri River. The B&B provided a lovely lunch. Our server set a slow pace and let us converse about the wines. I like tasting wines with food – just the way you would most likely do it. It seems to give a clearer picture of the potential of each wine. After our tasting, my group went to the tasting room for some shopping fun. As usual, finding just the right gift was not at all difficult. I was able to whip my credit card out for two Wine Diva shirts and a couple of bottles of wine, which was the perfect ending to a lovely South Dakota kind of tasting day.
Strawbale Winery -
Definitely the most picturesque of the group I visited. It certainly had the most
extensive, adventurous wine list. Upon arrival, we were treated to an outdoor winetasting
and picnic. Somehow barbecue pork sandwiches paired with a glass of Valiant wine
tasted on a picnic bench was a true example of a “lifestyle sip.” Throughout our
The grape wines are made from cold-
This is a wonderful place to see how the farm and winery format comes together in a harmonious blend. Go online or call ahead to check hours. Come for a tour. Walk through the rows of vines then rest awhile in the colorful Adirondack chairs perfectly staged on the manicured lawn or tasting room porch. I think you’ll enjoy this simple sip of good food, fun wine, and caring “go green” owners.
Schadé Vineyard & Winery -
Another warm and welcoming winery awaits you at Schadé Vineyard & Winery. A selection of interesting wines, lovely grounds and a compact tasting room (attached to the owner’s home) makes this stop a real treat. There is a small charge for tasting, but it is worth it. It is the third bonded farm winery in South Dakota and reflects the lifestyle essence of South Dakota culture: relaxation, tranquil scenery, welcoming faces and mature grapevines.
Owner’s Jim & Nancy Shade’s goal is to produce wine made from SD grown products. Current wines include such beauties as Oakwood Red Table Wine, Prairie White, Dakota Red, Plum, Chokecherry, Rhubarb, Strawberry Rhubarb, Goldsmith, Raspberry Apple, Honey, and Tawny (a port style wine). Of note is their beet wine. No eye rolling please. By the sip it is earthy and rich. Not necessarily a sipping wine, but a definite two thumbs up for cooking and pairing with a rich meat and vegetable stew served up at a roaring campfire. Watch this short video to learn more about the winery:
Wilde Prairie Winery -
Another great place to enjoy a sip of the country, Wilde Prairie Winery is run by
Jeff, Victoria, Sarah, Chris, and Pam Wilde along with the help of many friends.
They’ve been making wine for 15 years and became South Dakota's 9th farm winery in
July 2004. Their first vines were planted in 1997 and currently stand at 2000 vines.
Take a walking tour of the vineyards intermingles with a few crops to get a better understanding of the charm of a farm winery. They grow several varieties of grapes as well as rhubarb and dandelion and have recently planted bushes and trees that will produce distinctive new wines in the future. It’s a grand experience tasting through their reds, whites, fruit and flower wines. Don’t miss it. I think you’ll be especially impressed with the sweeter wines, and the dandelion wine was a clever addition for its taste and marketing possibilities.
According to the owners, “We are always looking for South Dakota grown fruit to create
our wines.” I like that. Buying local just seems to come naturally to these folks.
I am thinking any of their wines goes well with camping and picnics.
South Dakota Winery Resources
Valiant Vineyards Winery -
Strawbale Winery -
Schadé Vineyard & Winery -
Linda Kissam ‘Food, Wine & Shopping Diva' is a professional travel, food and wine
writer based out of Southern California. Through her websites and
she specializes in easy, breezy destination stories sharing
her favorite things about the places she visits.