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Firehouse Wine Cellars wins three medals at international competition

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Firehouse Wine Cellars in Rapid City was awarded one gold and two silver medals at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, which is one of the largest and most influential wine competitions.

Firehouse Wine Cellars competed against about 4,000 other wineries worldwide.

All three wines the Firehouse entered won medals at the competition, held Nov. 15 through 19. The 2020 Gravier Blanc — a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc and a wine from the Firehouse’s new Winemaker’s Collection line — received a gold medal. The 2019 limited edition estate Marquette, The American, and the newly released 2019 Grenache Noir each won silver medals.

“It’s really amazing for a boutique winery in South Dakota to be competing against these big wineries and international wineries, and our wine competes head to head,” said Michelle Pawelski, general manager of Firehouse Wine Cellars in Rapid City and SmokeJumper Station in Hill City.

“It is always exciting to see your hard work recognized by your peers,” said Adam Martinez, Firehouse Wine Cellars’ on-site winemaker. “Our production crew is honored to have our wines medal in one of the biggest international competitions out there.”

The San Francisco International Wine Competition, now in its 39th year, is one of the oldest international competitions in the world. It is a member of the Tasting Alliance, the parent organization of the world-renowned San Francisco World Spirits Award Competition, New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, and Singapore World Spirits Competition. A complete list of winners can be found at

Firehouse’s 2019 Grenache Noir will be featured Dec. 8 when Firehouse Wine Cellars hosts a virtual wine tasting at 5:30 p.m. Wine club members and the public can join via Zoom (meeting ID: 886 8373 9637; passcode: 730945).

Sommelier Kara Sweet, Pawelski and Martinez will host an online interactive wine tasting of Grenache Noir and Maltese Cross. With savory notes of cranberry and sage, Grenache Noir pairs well with stuffing, turkey and other holiday foods.

“We talk about the wine-making process. It gives wine club members and guests a chance to ask questions. We are all drinking the same wine at the same time,” Pawelski said.

“It’s fun. You can come and buy the wines so you’re drinking them at the same time, and a lot of times people will make a food and say, ‘This pairs well with (the wine).' It’s very interactive,” she said.

Locally owned Firehouse Wine Cellars opened in 2014 and features a working winery and tasting room. Year-round, it sells a selection of 15 to 31 traditional grape wines. Some of the grapes are grown in South Dakota; others come from wineries in Washington, Oregon and Nebraska.

“Good grapes start at the vineyard and we do our best to round up grape growers to make it easier (to produce quality wines),” Martinez said. “Our concentration in the off-season is looking for wonderful growers with our same philosophy so we can produce these wines year in and year out.”

Firehouse Wine Cellars began entering its wines in competition in 2015, and has had at least one winning wine at every competition it's entered, Pawelski said.

Martinez became the on-site winemaker in 2016.

“When you dip your toe in the wine industry, you want to plunge in,” Martinez said. “It’s artistic, it’s scientific … no matter what kind of person you are, there’s something for you here.”

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