Prairie Berry Winery in the Black Hills of South Dakota offers truly unique and distinct fruit wines - we were pleasantly surprised!
So South Dakota was the first state we really drove fully through on our road trip. We drove straight from New York to Milwaukee, WI, and after three days in Milwaukee, we drove across Wisconsin and Minnesota to our first campsite outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sioux Falls is all the way on the eastern side of South Dakota, so it was a natural first stop. We spent the next few days traveling across all of South Dakota, making a few stops along the way.
One of these stops was Whitetail Campground in the Black Hills, all the way on the western side of the state, where we camped for three nights. We took Interstate 90 across the whole state to reach this campground, and along the way, we saw billboard after billboard advertising Prairie Berry Winery and their flagship wine, Red Ass Rhubarb.
Not to judge a winery by its name, but Prairie Berry just seems so... tacky. We honestly thought it wouldn't be worth visiting based on its name alone (lol). In our defense, pretty much the only other billboards in South Dakota are annoying advertisements for Wall Drug Store which is in fact super tacky and not worth visiting at all, so maybe we were just feeling negative. But it's not just the winery with the tacky name - their most popular wine is called Red Ass Rhubarb! I mean, whatever, it is clever. And it'll catch someone's eye on a billboard (it certainly caught ours).
I'm really glad that Prairie Berry was on the way to Whitetail Campground because if we didn't pass by and see how nice it looked, we would have missed out on such a unique winery just because we were too hung up on its name! I guess it's kind of embarrassing to admit that the aesthetic of the building is what convinced us to finally check it out and the multiple billboards with actual information about the wine didn't positively sway our decision at all, but hey, these things matter to us.
When we arrived the next day, we really lucked out with timing. We showed up expecting to be able to walk right in, but they actually require reservations for wine tastings. You are able to go in and inquire about a reservation; it's not essential that you make one in advance, and lucky for us, they had a tasting starting in five minutes!
Note that the reservations for wine tastings are a COVID-19 precaution so there are a couple of things to keep in mind if you're planning to visit. Only groups of 6 or fewer people are allowed per wine tasting (including children or people who aren't drinking) so if your group is larger than that, you'll have to reserve more than one tasting session. This also means that your group is the only one at a particular wine tasting station. (We were really grateful for this - it made us feel more comfortable and it was more personal, too)!
With the wine tasting, you get to sample five different wines for free, but you can always opt to do a flight (say if wine tastings are all booked up) which includes three 2 oz samples for $5.
We had our wine tasting with Carol, who was wonderful and knew so much about the history of the winery and each wine. Turns out, Prairie Berry is quite a fitting name because most of their wines are fruit wines, meaning there are absolutely no grapes in them - just other fruits! I don't think I've ever had fruit wine except for like, Barefoot fruit-infused wine which is NOT a good reference point because it is definitely not the same thing.
It's easy to assume that fruit wine = sweet. But that's not necessarily true! Sure, most of their fruit wines probably do lean a little on the sweeter side of the scale, but it's not like every wine tastes like a Moscato. They all have really, really interesting flavors. The Red Ass Rhubarb was actually really good - it's one of those wines that has such a distinct flavor and is so unique to this winery and this winery only. Made with a blend of rhubarb and raspberry, it's sweet but pretty tart too (almost like Sweet Tarts!).
Another one I really enjoyed was the Pumpkin Bog! It's made with pumpkin and cranberry so naturally, it's perfect for Thanksgiving. I know it's hard to even imagine what a pumpkin and cranberry wine would taste like, but it's so light and refreshing. As soon as I tasted it I decided I was going to order a few bottles to have shipped home for the holidays so my whole family could try it!
While they're famous for their fruit wines, they also have a few traditional-style wines too. But honestly, go for the fruit wines! South Dakota isn't a wine destination because, well, it can't be - it's just the nature of its location and climate. But Prairie Berry has managed to make something different and special with what South Dakota does has to offer - fruit!
It's a great little place to stop for a few hours, especially considering it's right next door to Miner Brewing Company, owned by the same woman! After your wine tasting, you can grab a glass or a bottle to enjoy on the patio, or take it to go and hit up the brewery for a few more drinks (which you know we did).
If that classic American road trip to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and all of the other Black Hills attractions is in your future, considering paying a visit to Prairie Berry for some fun and uniquely South Dakotan wines along the way!