South Dakota is famous for the incredible Mount Rushmore, stunning hikes in Badlands, and the one-of-a-kind Wind Cave National Park. But did you know this state is becoming a real player in the wine world? Here we share with you exactly why South Dakota wineries are starting to hit the big time, and which ones you must visit!
Commercial South Dakota wineries are relatively new to the state, with the first – Valiant Vineyards – being established as recently as 1996 by the Nygaard family.
But don’t be fooled by that recent date. Nineteenth century settlers to the Black Hills region of South Dakota started creating family vineyards as soon as they discovered the fertile soil in the region centuries ago. In fact it’s been something of a state secret for generations that South Dakota and wine goes hand-in-hand.
What parts of the state should you be visiting in order to have the most enjoyable glass of wine next time you’re in South Dakota? Well we know this region well, so can help you there.
So keep reading to plan your next wine tour in South Dakota! Below we explain exactly why you have to visit South Dakota’s wineries, and then share with you our favorite wineries in the two best wine-producing regions of the state. We also give you recommendations on what to try. It’s our good deed of the day!
Why you should visit South Dakota’s wineries
You don’t need to go all the way out to the West Coast in order to sip on spectacular wines. South Dakota has a growing wine country that is just as amazing, if not better.
South Dakota’s wineries have a relaxed environment perfect for sitting back and enjoying a glass without feeling rushed or like you’re in a crowded tasting room. It’s laid back drinking – our favorite kind!
There are many wineries here that have tours, so you can visit multiple South Dakota wineries and tasting rooms and make a full holiday out of it.
What makes South Dakota especially interesting though, is that due to the climate here many of the wines produced are fruit, rather than grape, based.
Whether you have had plenty of fruit wines before, or if this is your first time, you will be pleasantly surprised by how much you like the flavors as you try samples and tastings in the various wineries that we share with you below.
For grape wines, South Dakota wineries typically use French American hybrid grapes such as Marechal Foch, Frontenac, and Seyval Blanc. All of which can withstand the sometimes brutal winters South Dakota can experience.
Which South Dakota regions have the best wines
In eastern South Dakota, from the Glacial Lakes to Sioux Falls, you will find many family-owned wineries and vineyards that strive to use locally sourced ingredients in their South Dakota wine barrels. The result is unique and special flavors in each sip.
These wines are truly special to this part of the world. That’s why the Sioux Falls has some of the best wine in the US.
If you head out to the western regions of South Dakota, you will also find that the fertile soil and mild summers found in the Black Hills make this region perfect for sweet grapes and fruits that produce wonderful locally sourced wines.
It’s therefore Sioux Falls and the Black Hills, with their rich fertile soil, that produce most of the wine in South Dakota. And if you ask us, they both deliver when it comes to exceptional wine production. Below we show you the best wineries to visit for tasting tours – and a glass too many – in each.
The best South Dakota wineries in Sioux Falls
There are plenty of wineries and vineyards in eastern South Dakota for you to choose from, but some of the best are situated around Sioux Falls.
One of the top wineries near Sioux Falls is Humble Hill Winery. This small, family-owned farm vineyard and winery has many fruit and grape wine options for guests to sample. Our recommendation is to try the Brianna. This medium sweet grape wine has aromas of citrus, pineapple and mango.
Many of the wines at Humble Hill are available based on the growing season, so be sure to check with the winery before heading there to see what they are currently offering. Located on a humble hill, you can easily visit this winery if you are coming back from outdoor activities in Garretson, such as enjoying the stunning pink quartzite formations nearby, or seeing where infamous outlaw Jesse James escaped the posse.
For a beautiful, family-owned winery day trip, head to Wilde Prairie Winery. Serving grape, honey, and fruit wines, you can’t go wrong as you dive into the delicious bottles available in their tasting room. Our recommendation is to try their American Frontenac – this off dry red wine pairs perfectly with steak.
They also have a tasting room that is big enough to host a party! Our top tip is to visit on the second Sunday of the month as they usually have live music.
If you want a unique setting while you’re sipping, then stop by Strawbale Winery. This winery was named after the bales that have been used to construct the building!
Set in a hundred-year-old barn in a beautiful and relaxing countryside setting, you’ll get to taste wines made of grapes, fruit, and honey. All are created using ingredients grown in South Dakota. We recommend you try the Homesteader, especially during winter. This frontenac wine is fortified with brandy – perfect to warm you up on chilly days.
Soak in the aromas as you enjoy the unique wine flavors here. Strawbale also make frozen wine slushies and hard ciders that you can take home in growlers!
And last, but certainly not least, you must visit Calico Skies Vineyard and Winery. Here you can sip on dry reds aged in oak barrels, as well as fresh and fruity white wines. Walk outside the tasting room and you will find sweeping views of the lush green grass and big open skies South Dakota is famous for! Bliss.
You can also join a tour and learn how wine is made from the vine to the glass. On the weekends, you can also order wood-fired pizzas that are served through dinner. As for what to try, we thought the 2016 Marquette was spectacular. Expect unique aromas of fig, pepper, and mushrooms. It sounds odd, but it works.
The best South Dakota wineries in the Black Hills
The Black Hills region is a hidden gem for wineries in South Dakota. Whilst not as popular as Sioux Falls or the eastern part of South Dakota, family farms have been perfecting their fruit and berry wines for the last century here, crafting wines for their own personal supply.
The Black Hills region is also where you will find the hybrid grape types that are able to withstand the South Dakota winters and still ferment into tasty barrels of wine.
Visiting the Black Hills is one of our favourite things to do in South Dakota. Simply because it’s perfect for sipping wine and enjoying the scenery right outside a tasting room.
If you’re in the western part of the state, you absolutely need to visit the oldest official winery, Valiant Vineyards. Open during Thursday to Sunday, or by appointment earlier in the week, you can enjoy the first commercially operated winery in South Dakota alongside their perfectly crafted wine and food menu. We recommend their 2002 Wild Grape Port. It’s a 14-year-aged wine and the world’s only port made with wild grapes.
You also must visit the world-famous Prairie Berry Winery. Their wines have won over a thousand international awards.
You will have the option to enjoy a complimentary tasting of five wines including their most popular bottle, the Red Ass Rhubarb. They have a full, seasonal menu for you to choose from too, including vegetarian, gluten-free, and kids options. The menu is sure to pair perfectly not only with your wine, but also with the immaculate view of Black Elk Peak from the outdoor patio.
Created in 2011, Sick-N-Twisted Brewery and Naughti Wines is well worth visiting as well, and serves more than just wines. Here you can find many microbrews and it’s perfect for hosting events and parties. The wines are all grape based, with their grapes coming in from Washington State and Oregon.
The fun, laid back atmosphere pairs perfectly with the red, white, and blush options on the menu. Each wine has a story it wants to tell to the person drinking it, and at Naughti Wines you don’t have to be intimidated or feel like any question is too silly to ask. Try out the Sure Thing Symphony – a sweet white that goes well with seafood.
And if you’re looking for a more unique take on wines while you are visiting South Dakota, you must take an afternoon trip to Belle Joli Winery Sparkling House! Just like the name suggests, this winery creates sparkling wines using a traditional champagne method. Try their award winning Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine, which also pairs well with seafood.
You can go on a tour of the vineyard and production room and end your tour with wine tasting. Sit out on the outdoor patio looking over the five-acre vineyard that borders the Ponderosa pines that line the beautiful Black Hills. It’s hard to imagine anything better.
South Dakota wineries: What are you waiting for!
No matter what part of the state you wish to visit, you should plan to stop at a South Dakota winery for a nice glass of red, white, or fruit wine next time you are in The Mount Rushmore State.
Most tasting rooms are kid friendly – non-alcoholic drink options are always available – and we’ve found every one to be fun, welcoming spaces. You will leave wanting to come back and visit South Dakota wineries for years to come!
No matter what part of the state you are traveling through, we guarantee that you can find some spectacular wines to fill your glass with. In fact if you’re like us, you’ll be buying a bottle to bring home and share with your family and friends!