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The best in Iowa, right here in the Corridor

By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
SWISHER– It’s the best wine in the state of Iowa, and it’s grown right here in the Corridor.
Cedar Ridge Vineyard’s La Crescent wine took the top honor of “Best Iowa Grown Wine” at the 5th annual Mid-American Wine Competition, held July 8-10 in Ankeny. The contest involved 82 commercial wineries from 14 Midwestern states and over 530 entries. The La Crescent also won a gold medal as did Cedar Ridge’s Reserve and Edelweiss wines. The winery and distiller also brought home a gold medal for Best Series Label Design.
Twelve silver medals were awarded along with 10 bronze. The grand total over the course of the three-day competition was the highest of any Iowa winery.
“The Mid-American Wine Competition shines the light on the great products being made in our region. We are humbled by the quality and quantity of our awards,” said Jeff Quint, founder of Cedar Ridge Vineyards. “We chose our site for our vines for the silty, loam soil and steep hills. We don’t irrigate, and the terrain is difficult to cultivate. But, this land produces superior fruit, allowing us to create unique, handcrafted wines.”
He noted his goal is for concentration and flavor, and one way to ensure that is dry soil. By growing on the slopes, the roots stay dry, which Quint thinks could be a factor in winning so many awards. Quint also emphasized the talents and efforts of winemaker Kolin Brighton.
Cedar Ridge grows 10 varieties, or “varietals” of grapes on 10 acres of land.
Quint describes the La Crescent as “a knock-out semi-dry white wine.” The varietal goes well with appetizers, meat and cheeses, but is best with fish or chicken. The Reserve is a red wine which goes particularly well with beef.
“It’s ideal for impressing friends” Quint said. The Reserve comes from what he described as the winery’s best lots, taken out of all barrels. Only a select few are set-aside for this wine, which Quint described as “our best shot at impressing anyone.”
The Edelweiss comes from a hybrid of French and American grapes which takes full advantage of the wine making ability of French grapes, and combines it with the heartiness of American grapes. “It presents itself best as a semi-sweet white wine which is best for after-dinner relaxing.”
Aficionados may have quite a wait for one of the Vineyard’s silver medal winners: Marechal Foch. “We’re sold out,” Quint said. For two years in a row, he added, this red wine has been “a knock-out. People just love it, and we’re hoping we can do it again. We have another crop hanging out on the vine.”
Cedar Ridge started cultivating its vines nine years ago, and the first wine was released in 2005. With 5,000 vines and a 7,000 square-foot winery, distillery, tasting room and event center, Quint has realized a dream.
“We set up to be an anchor winery for the corridor,” he noted. Cedar Ridge products are distributed primarily in Linn and Johnson Counties with some extension along I-380 into Buchanan and Blackhawk as well. However, Quint is not looking to go statewide as others have done.
“We service The Corridor; we’re here to support The Corridor.”
The distillery, Iowa’s first legal operation since prohibition, produces a variety of award-winning spirits ranging from Clearheart brand vodka and rum, to fruit brandy and Iowa Bourbon Whiskey. New this year is Griff’s Cowboy Whiskey, which Quint describes as “a bit edgier than our bourbon.” Griff’s is made “in the style of the old west.”
The facility at 1441 Marak Rd. South of Swisher has become a destination with events throughout the week such as live music, pairings dinners, singles’ night, and cigar nights. The winery has also hosted murder mystery parties and theme nights.
“We’re getting nice crowds,” Quint said, adding a typical night can see between 200 and 300 enjoying the scenic venue, brick oven pizza, and of course the wines and spirits.
“We continue to learn, grow and perfect our wines every year,” said Brighton. “I hope everyone will give us a try.”
For more information on Cedar Ridge Winery, go to www.crwine.com or phone 319-857-4300.