Friday, May 4, 2012

Wine Country: South Dakota - Strawbale Winery

South Dakota’s wine industry is a tiny one, as the summer heat and winter cold provide too wide a swing for the survival of most wine grapes.  Cold-hardy French Hybrid grape varieties are the basis for South Dakota’s winegrowing business.  The first license for a winery in the Mount Rushmore State was handed out in 1996. Since then, only a handful have joined its ranks.

A friend of mine, who lives in a state more amenable to the shipment of wine - picked up a bottle on his travels and got it to me.  I’m indebted, Kevin, and I hope you got to try some yourself.

Strawbale Winery is in Renner, South Dakota, in the southeastern corner of the state, just across the border with Minnesota.  The winery is made from strawbales!  The insulating properties of hay apparently makes it easier to reduce the energy needs of the winery while still maintaining a cellar-like temperature inside.

Don and Susie South run Strawbale Winery, making wine from grapes and other fruits as well as mead, made by fermenting honey.  They are self-described as a “hardworking Midwestern Family” on the homespun label.

Red Barn Red is named after the red barn on the property  Branded simply as a “Red Table Wine,” it is made from 75% South Dakota Frontenac grapes and 25% Petite Sirah, which Don says "helps balance out the acidity of the Frontenac."  The wine has an extremely reasonable 12% alcohol content.

This wine is medium-dark ruby in the glass and immediately captivates me with a rich and earthy nose.  The cherry aromas smell as if the fruit had been tromped into the dirt below the tree from which they fell.  A dusting of allspice is hinted at, too, in what turns out to be a pretty amazing bouquet.

Medium-full in the mouth, the wine shows a brilliant acidity and flavors of black tea and raspberry.  It tastes to me like a Midwestern Pinot Noir. The finish is tart and lengthy.  It should go nicely with a skirt steak or a pork chop.  I’d like to try it with a bratwurst..


  1. Thanks for the kind words. We enjoy making wine for people who enjoy it!

  2. Susie, thanks to you and Don for representing South Dakota so well in Wine Country!