Watch a video of Jeff talking about his experience building Cedar Ridge at the bottom of this article…
Editor’s note – this is our follow-up story to the first customer spotlight we did on the distillery. You can find part one here.
For Jeff Quint and his team at Cedar Ridge Vineyards, Winery & Distillery, the past few years have been filled with change. The distillery has been steadily gaining national recognition, as they were the recipients of a prestigious industry award and they are continuing to expand their facilities in Swisher, Iowa. To top it off, Quint was influential in lobbying for an Iowa bill that went into effect July 1, allowing distilleries to serve their product on-site.
We thought it was time to catch up with Quint again to learn more about this Corridor hotspot and its vision for the future.
Congratulations on being named the Distillery of the Year by the California-based American Distilling Institute (ADI). Can you tell us more about how that came about?
Thanks! It was a very pleasant surprise! In January 2016, we started a very concerted effort to grow our brand recognition to a national level. The ADI judges likely began seeing our products across the country more frequently which probably led them to consider us in the first place. Many people here in Eastern Iowa don’t realize that we’re becoming a prominent national whiskey brand.
Tell us more about what it’s like growing your brand nationally.
We are midway through a three-year effort to transition from a local winery and distillery to becoming a prominent national whiskey brand. At the moment, the bulk of our investment is going towards growing our brand and making that dream a reality. A lot of it boils down to distribution. The craft distilling industry is about two or three decades behind the craft brewing industry, and the big players in the distilling business have taken note of what’s happening in the craft brewing world to better “control” the development of the craft distilling industry. Many have developed their own products that appeal to whiskey enthusiasts in order to take away market share from the smaller distillers. That can make it hard for craft distillers to get traction. Our approach is to appeal directly to the consumer instead of getting the attention of distributors. It’s a challenging environment.
How has MidWestOne helped support your national growth aspirations?
To develop a presence in the whiskey arena requires significant amount of inventory. Our sales team is currently selling what our production team made three years ago, and our production team is currently making for 2020 to 2022. This year we’ll sell about 23,000 cases and we’ll make about 65,000 cases that will be sold three to five years from now. As a result, a good banking relationship is essential! I’ve been with MidWestOne since the day we started and I’m a huge fan. I was turned down by five banks when I wanted to expand. MidWestOne was the only bank that helped me come up with a workable solution, and they’ve been with me every step of the way since.
What are some of the other changes that have taken place?
We added a new Vineyard Room that caters to corporate events with 20-45 people. That has been very well received by the corporate community. We’re also in the process of adding a new warehouse that will hold another 1,500 barrels plus finished goods.
As a result of the legislative changes we can now also serve cocktails made with our spirits at the distillery. That has really put Iowa on a level playing field with our neighboring states.