On the very rare occasion that my husband and I are able to enjoy an evening without our small sons, we have just one rule: We won't go to a restaurant that serves chicken nuggets.
So when we recently escaped for a night out and the dinner menu included beets, kale, brussel sprouts, turnips and cauliflower – and wine! – we knew we were in the right place.
Located just off Interstate 380 between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, Cedar Ridge Vineyards is as picturesque as it is unique. The only winery and distillery in Iowa, it’s home to a sprawling, rolling vineyard and a modern winery, distillery and tasting room nestled within it.
While Aunt Lolly watched the kids back home in Des Moines, James and I bellied up to the bar, sampling some of Cedar Ridges’ award-winning wines – including many made from grapes grown on-site – and spirits crafted in small batches to ensure a high-quality, premium libation. Complimentary tastings are available during business hours, and we didn’t hesitate to purchase a few bottles of our favorites.
Cedar Ridge hosts special events throughout the year, like murder mystery dinners, hypnotists and holiday food and wine pairings. Tickets are required for these. But many nights, including the night we visited, are casual and comfortable, featuring a live band and small plate meals: No reservations required.
We ordered the bruschetta – topped with red and golden beets – to share. As part of an ongoing strategy I, the (mostly) vegetarian, selected the prosciutto pizza (hold the prosciutto) with mushrooms, kale, an arugula mix and parmesan. James, the consummate carnivore, ordered scallops served with roasted brussels sprouts over a creamy mix of mashed turnips and cauliflower. I had a few bites of his dish, minus the scallops. He wouldn’t consider sampling my meat-free pizza. See how that strategy works? What’s his is mine. What’s mine is mine. Brilliant!
We enjoyed a laid back hour or so at Cedar Ridge before the cordial staff corked our half-drunk bottle of the Reserve Red, and we hit the road for home.
Iowa is full of great activities for families, from amusement parks to zoos to splash pads and go karts. But occasionally, weary parents need a break from juice boxes and fruit snacks. Take heart, mom and dad: An evening at Cedar Ridge offers the nugget-free respite you’ve been dreaming of.