If vintners are going to do the hard work of making wine in South Dakota, I'm going to honor their hard work through the fun of tasting it. That's how my hubby and I ended up in Stone Faces' hip, friendly (and loud) tasting room when we were visiting the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore. We'd go back and drink their wines again if we were in the area.
Newish and medium sized, they weren't serving food (as Prairie Berry Winery up the road does) at the time of our visit although it appears that may be in future plans. Friendly and hip interior design but the almost dance club loud music was distracting. That's the one thing I'd change here. Then again, maybe that is just a more mature (aka aging), oneophile (aka wino) perspective. Otherwise, there was a great vibe and energy among the staff in this room.
Wines are not made at this facility, but at the winery on the other side of the state in Vermillion. Given it makes sense to put the tasting rooms where the tourist traffic is, this Hill City location is a great one to capture the tourists on Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park trips. And appropriate to do given this IS a South Dakota winery.
THE TASTING SET UP
Tasting had no fee as I recall and we could choose a certain number of tastes from a list of roughly five (dry to medium) reds and eight (off dry to sweet) whites. On the day of our visit, our tasting experience was all the more fun because a relative, nephew I think, of the owner poured for us. This delightful guy was knowledgeable not only about his family's wines but wine making in general. He made our hour in the tasting room well worth the time.
As with tasting rooms for three other South Dakota wineries we visited, we found many fruit other than grape based wines here and a few that were from wine grapes. Between my husband and me, we were able to taste most of the wines on the list.
We suspended for the time we were in South Dakota our "wine snob" orientation and found we enjoyed several wines we tasted in South Dakota, including several here, and leaned more to liking the fruit wines than the grape varietal wines. In particular we enjoyed "Tickle Me" rhubarb wine, which was amazingly off dry in character in spite of 7% RS due to the nice acid balance from the fruit, and my hubby appreciated the Artisan red which was a blend of Cabernet grapes (from CA?) and a South Dakota grown varietal.
The winery has some whimsy in wine naming, like Full Throttle (red) with a nod to the motor cyclists that take over the area at the Sturgis rally each year. Labels follow the whimsy of the names. As in the Tickle Me rhubarb which has a childhood photo of the owner along with snippets of his report card on the label.
One of the happiest surprises in all of our South Dakota wine tasting was sampling a wine made by Stone Faces from the wild grape varietal Vitis Reparia for which they actually harvested grapes in the wild. No longer making this wine given the cost to do it and the price point they need to charge for a bottle (as I recall around $50), the tasting room host opened a bottle for us to try. We liked it a lot and had the price point been 15% lower, we would have bought a bottle or even two to travel with us. I've since learned that Vitis Reparia is the wild root stock that Vitis Vinifera was grafted to for much of American wine making. So that makes it doubly fun, after the fact, to have tasted wine made from the wild grapes.
Bottle prices ran from as little as roughly $13 to as much as about $30 with only one more than that, in the $50 range. We walked away with a couple of bottles.
THIS N THAT
1) ACCESSIBILITY: Newish building, it is level in the entry and all on one floor in the tasting room. However, an inexplicable fail is that although this is a new parking lot as well, they have no designated accessible - aka ADA van accessible - parking as has been required by both Federal rules and SD State Codes for almost 23 years. Stone Faces needs to fix this error.
2) SUMMER HOURS: Mon - Sat: 10a - 8p. Sun: 10a - 6p.
3) ANOTHER ONE TO VISIT: If you have time for only one wine tasting experience in this area, choose Prairie Berry Winery just up the road. But if you can fit in two, then Stone Faces is definitely worth the stop.
4) ONE TO AVOID: Oregon vintner Naked established a tasting room nearby. Irksome. Who wants to drink vino from a (marginal) OR winery when in SD? Apparently tourists who are entertained by the "tee hee" double entendre of wine names like "Orgasmic" and "Foreplay" and "Dominatrix" and...well, you get the bad idea. If the wine were better either they would not need this schtick or I could overlook it.
If you own or manage Stone Faces Winery, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.