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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.

Musto Carmelitano, Aglianico del Vulture (Basilicata, Italy) “Pian del Moro” 2012 ($30, Tenth Harvest)
I have become a fan of the rustic, hearty red wines from this fairly obscure appellation in the arch of the foot in the Italian boot.  Grown in the rocky, lava rich soils of the extinct Vulture volcano, they have an intensity that Aglianicos from Campania often lack.  At the same time, though, they are earthier and hence less graceful.  This is an excellent example.  Taut and tannic, it offers well-integrated dark fruit and leathery flavors.  I suspect that the tannins will never really soften, so it is not a wine for folks who prefer their reds to be soft and supple.  But for wine lovers who want real guts in what they drink, this is delicious stuff.
92 Paul Lukacs

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Report from South Africa: Volume One
Michael Franz

I returned from South Africa a week ago, where I spent more than seven days tasting very intensively across virtually every imaginable wine category…including fortified wines. It was my sixth trip to taste there, and the second in the past two years. I can report that the country has finally joined the ranks of the world's truly elite winemaking countries, achieving widespread excellence across multiple grape varieties and product categories. South Africa is now producing many wines of multiple types that aren't just free of flaws, but that are stunningly good by global standards but still quite distinctive in style and reflective of their place of origin. Some writers and many consumers won't get this message because they can't believe that a country's industry could get so much better so quickly, but there's nothing we can do about that. Except buy the wines that they foolishly pass over.
What Makes A Good Wine List? A Few Master Sommeliers Weight In
Jessica Dupuy

When it comes to writing a wine list for a restaurant, the challenges are wide and varied. In countries such as France, Italy, or Spain, you're pretty much assured that the wine list will be driven by the region in which you are in. But what happens when you're elsewhere? 'One thing that's different is that the whole globe comes to the UK and the US with wine, which means we're constantly trying to achieve balanced diversity with wine lists,' said Master Sommelier Joe Spellman of Justin Vineyards and Winery at a recent panel discussion at TEXSOM, an annual educational wine conference in Dallas, Texas. The panel discussion included a handful of sommeliers from across the country who gave their input on putting together a wine list.
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
Impressive Sauvignon Blanc from Northern Italy
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Historically, Alto Adige produced more red wines than white, but now white wines account for 60 percent of the region's production. Not surprisingly considering the wine's popularity, Pinot Grigio is the leading white grape, followed by Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc -- producing, incidentally, probably the world's finest Pinot Blanc wines. Only then does Sauvignon Blanc enter the picture, with only 970 acres of production, just seven percent of the region's total. But the Terlano zone, where this wine originates, is considered one of the favored districts in the entire region for growing Sauvignon Blanc. I am extremely impressed by this particular wine, even without considering its highly affordable price. It is rich but fresh, it is complex in flavor, and it's very well made.