If you read my monthly recaps, you may know that I’m enrolled in a wine, beer, and spirits class. The best part about it? We do tastings every class! So far, we’ve tried German, French, American, and Australian white wines and French red wines. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my week! Besides showing up for class, the only other requirement for the course is to go to a winery or distillery and write a report on it. After hearing about this requirement, I told my parents, and my mom instantly knew which winery to go to. After all, she wanted “support my education” to the best of her ability!
So last weekend when I visited home, we took a trip down to Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery in Swisher, IA (about 15 minutes South from Cedar Rapids if you know anything about Iowa geography). You’re probably thinking, “A winery & distillery in IOWA? That doesn’t make any sense!” I know, I had a hard time believing it, too. Sure, there may not be as much wine production in my home state as there may be in Napa Valley, but I think we do well with the resources we have!
Cedar Ridge first began business back in 2001, but due to the nature of wine and bourbon making, they didn’t open their doors until 2005. They’ve been growing steadily ever since!
We arrived at Cedar Ridge at 12:30 and went to the tasting room. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we could each try 6 wines and 3 spirits free of cost. They have a variety of reds, whites, and rosés, dry wines, sweet wines, and everything in between. I prefer a sweeter wine, so we tried the 5 that they offered: Brianna, Edelweiss, Harvest Blush, Apple Mead, and Apple Cranberry. If you’re interested, Edelweiss was my favorite. It was a Moscato-like wine with peach and apricot notes!
I’m not really a hard liquor girl, but I was determined to get the full tasting experience. The tasting room host told us to choose 3 spirits which she served to us from lowest to highest proof. The first one we tried was Lost Pirate Rum, an 80 proof rum. The name is a bit of a joke because a pirate would have to be very lost to have ended up in the middle of Iowa. Next, we tried Pear Brandy at 86 proof. Let it be known that these are all mini shots that we’re taking, no mixers! Plus, they were all aged 5 years, so they are ~very~ alcohol-y. Finally, we tried Reserve Iowa Bourbon Whiskey at 92 proof. Needless to say, my throat burned for a minute afterwards!
After the tasting, it was time to take a tour of the facilities and learn a bit more about the company! Our guide took us through the whole process of making bourbon and wine. Did you know that 51% of most bourbon is corn? Did you also know that Cedar Ridge actually uses 75% corn for a better product? Well now you do!
Something we learned about Cedar Ridge is that they won the “Distillery of the Year In The USA” award for 2017 – represent, Iowa! Another interesting little tidbit about bourbon making itself: Cedar Ridge, along with other distilleries in the state, are trying to reattribute Kentucky’s bourbon reputation to Iowa. The climate we have in Iowa is one with harsh winters and uncomfortably hot summers which allow the bourbon barrels to expand and contract. They expand in the summer and soak some of the alcohol into the wood. However, when it gets cold in the winter, the contracting barrel lets out all the alcohol, giving the bourbon a warmer, woody taste that people love. *The more you know star goes across the screen*
After touring and learning all about bourbon and wine, our guide highly recommended getting one of the wood fired pizzas they make there. We love pizza, so of course we took him up on that recommendation.
There’s no picture of the pizza because we were very hungry hippos who just drank 5 wine samples, 3 spirit samples, and a full glass of hard cider. We needed the food! Trust me, though, it looked and tasted delicious!
I had a great experience at Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery and I highly recommend everyone (over the age of 21!) to visit and support one of their local wineries! And if you ever find yourself in Eastern Iowa, maybe you’ll pay this one a visit!
Have you ever visited a winery or distillery? What were your thoughts on it? I’d love to hear about your experiences!
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