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Posted by Robert Whitley on September 6, 2017 at 12:08 PM

From Wine to Whiskey

Murphy Quint remembers — not so fondly — digging post holes for the trellis system at the family vineyard in Swisher, Iowa. He was 14 years old at the time and pitching in as his mother and father, Jeff and Laurie Quint, were about to launch Cedar Ridge, a small family winery.

"Our original business plan was to make wine, he said. "It was a family affair. I planted vines. My mom planted vines. Digging post holes, that was the hardest." The vines were typical of the Midwest: Marquette, Marechal Foch, Edelweiss, etc.

The winery was not only a success; for Iowa, it was a bit unique. It had a still to make grappa and grape brandy. To this day, it is the only combo winery and distillery in the state.

But the landscape has changed dramatically. Founded in 2005, the winery has gradually morphed into full-blown whiskey production, and the distillery was recently named 2017 distillery of the year by the American Distilling Institute.

Using three pot stills imported from Europe, Cedar Ridge produces 60,000 cases annually of reserve Iowa bourbon, malted rye whiskey, wheat whiskey and a solera-style single malt that utilizes used wine, rum and port barrels in the aging process.

"Whiskey was not on our radar in the beginning," Murphy remembers, "but I pushed hard for us to have a whiskey focus. It just made sense in Iowa, where we are surrounded by all this grain, especially corn."

Cedar Ridge has a tasting room that is strategically situated halfway between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Previously, it could only serve Cedar Ridge wines, but the law was recently changed to allow the distillery side to strut its stuff.

"Locals thought of us as a winery because it was illegal to serve cocktails in the tasting room," Murphy explained. "But outside of Iowa consumers think of us as a distillery."

The major thrust of Cedar Ridge whiskey seems to be Iowa bourbon. While the state of Kentucky might claim bourbon has to be produced within its borders, the legal definition of bourbon is simply that it must be made from at least 51 percent corn and aged in new American oak barrels.

Whisky production started in 2010, but Murphy says, "After we got going, we had this realization that bourbon is made from corn, and everyone in Iowa grows corn."

I recently nosed and sipped the spectrum of Cedar Ridge whiskies, and I must confess to a fondness for the single malts. That said, the Iowa bourbon and malted rye are beautiful sipping whiskies. The wheat whiskey was a bit one-dimensional and seemed to my palate to be best suited for mixing in cocktails.

Cedar Ridge spirits are distributed throughout the United States, though no one region of the country has access to the entire lineup. For more information about this unique wine-to-whiskey project, visit the distillery website at CRWINE.com.

J. Wilkes, Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County, California) Pinot Blanc 2014 ($18)
A domestic Pinot Blanc is a somewhat rare find these days, and that's a shame when it can be realized in such a way as this bottling.  Winemaker Wes Hagen delights with this quite dry, properly Alsatian styled offering that features full throttle apple and stony mineral aromas up front, joined by touches of stone fruit and lime.  These all come through clearly as flavors, and they ride crisp acidity through a long finish.  As in Alsace, this will age into a different kind of elegance as the acid softens and more honeyed character comes forward.  This guy knows what he's doing.
93 Rich Cook

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
The Most Beautiful Wine Region That You've Never Heard Of…And They Make Good Wine, Too
Michael Apstein

Our exceptional bus driver and guide, Matt Wentzell, assured us that he could make it up the steep twisty and bumpy dirt road. I remained unconvinced as the road became more twisted and bumpy. Halfway up, we stopped, carefully disembarked and stepped onto a plateau overlooking the narrow, mountain-lined valley. John Weber, who with his wife, Virginia, moved here a dozen years ago to start Orofino Winery, recounted his first impression upon seeing this view. Driving from Eastern Canada, they took a wrong turn and came over the pass into the valley on this same dirt road instead of the main--and equally beautiful--road. They looked at each other and simultaneously said, 'This is the place.'
The Talented Team Behind Inglenook's Historic Revival
Rebecca Murphy

Francis Ford Coppola and I can date our adventures in American wine to 1975. That is the year that he and his wife, Eleanor, purchased 1560 acres of the historic Inglenook property including 1400 acres of vineyards and the Neibaum house in Rutherford in the Napa Valley. That same year I became the sommelier at Arthur's, a Dallas restaurant with an all-American wine list. That list included wines from Inglenook, one of the oldest and, at one time, one of the most prestigious wineries in the Napa Valley. As I set about learning all I could about the wines that had become my responsibility, Coppola set about restoring his portion of the historic Inglenook.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Salade Lyonnaise

The city of Lyon, one of France's great gastronomic capitals, is credited with 'inventing' this delicious salad, but many other French regions have adopted it as their own--and we have too! It's such a versatile dish, perfect for brunch or lunch, and it also can serve as the tasty centerpiece of a light dinner. Serve it with some great bread, and maybe a chunk of wonderful cheese on the side. In Lyon, frisée and or dandelion leaves are the traditional greens used in the hometown salad, but a whole range of other greens can be equally good. The key to a great Lyonnaise salad is to use greens that have a slight bitter edge, a crisp, sturdy texture, and a dark green color. The American palate has apparently not developed much of a taste for the assertive bitterness of dandelion leaves, but other desirable options include frisée, escarole, curly endive, and even green leaf lettuce. Choose one or a couple of these, but whichever ones you do use make sure they are carefully washed and thoroughly dried (there are few things less appetizing than a gritty and water-logged salad).
On My Table
Revisiting Lake County, California
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

When I was offered the opportunity to sample a selection of wines from California's Lake County recently, I jumped at the chance because, frankly, I hadn't given much thought to that area in many years. The four wines I tasted impressed me. They shared many characteristics that I prize, such as vibrant acidity, freshness of fruit flavors and long finishes -- and yet they also showed lovely ripeness, which often does not go hand-in-hand with those characteristics. This Petite Sirah was my favorite of the lot. Tasting the 2013 Petite Sirah and then factoring in that the wine aged for two-plus years in new oak (French and American), you can appreciate what fruit concentration the grapes had: The wine's fruit easily sustains the oak influence. And yet this is not a monster Petite Sirah; it is a very well balanced wine with freshness and finesse.