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5th generation winemaker sharing her family’s tradition & a piece of South Dakota history

“I eat, breath, live, and think wine and/or beer,” said Sandi Vojta, a 5th generation winemaker, and owner of Prairie Berry Winery. “It’s just, it’s in my brain, it’s in my DNA.”
The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox Sunday
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 11:05 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - When thinking of South Dakota, people’s minds fill with Mount Rushmore, Black Hills gold, the prairie.

What most people won’t think of? Wine.

One woman is taking her family’s legacy and expanding the idea and tastebuds of what it means to make wine.

“I eat, breath, live, and think wine and/or beer,” said Sandi Vojta, a 5th generation winemaker, and owner of Prairie Berry Winery. “It’s just, it’s in my brain, it’s in my DNA.”

For generations, one South Dakota family has made wine from mother nature’s gifts; using chokecherries, buffalo berries, and more, creating something expanding the notion of ‘what is good wine’?

5th generation winemaker sharing her family’s tradition & a piece of South Dakota history
5th generation winemaker sharing her family’s tradition & a piece of South Dakota history(Miranda O'Bryan)

“South Dakota wine, it’s definitely not Napa Valley. It’s definitely not Washington, or Oregon, or France, it’s completely different here,” explained Sandi. “In particular, my family really foraged for the fruit. They foraged for the wild berries, they foraged for the wood along the creeks and streams to create the oak barrels, so they really did what they had to do to make it work. To continue that tradition, we do the same. We still harvest chokecherries, wild buffalo berries, wild plums, honey, and then now there are also not cold-hearted species of grapes.”

Today, Sandi is proud to continue the tradition her grandmother started, a piece of South Dakota history.

“Five generations in my family, it has been absolutely an honor,” said Sandi. “I grew up with winemaking in my family and it’s grown, it started with my great-great-grandmother and it has been passed down for generations. I was born into it. I love what I do. I grew up making wine with my dad, so I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I used to tag along with him, he’d tie a bucket around my waist with a little piece of twine, and then we would go and we would forge wild fruit on my family’s farm. When I went to college, I would come home and help him pick chokecherries and make wine in the summertime.”

Reminiscing on a career, dominated for centuries by men, but like her grandmother, Sandi made her way into a ‘man’s world’.

“To be straight up with you, early on, a female winemaker, a female winemaker in South Dakota producing fruit wines, chokecherry wines, buffalo berry wines, pumpkin wine, it was a little challenging,” continued Sandi. “It was a little challenging, however, we have come a long way, winning multiple awards and gaining a lot of respect throughout the industry.”

Sandi says there’s always something ‘brewing’ at the winery and brewery in Hill City and there are some new brands launching yet this spring.

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