116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — Walking through the door of Cherry Meadow Winery and Distillery, customers are not likely to find a typical winery experience. But owner Heidi Liegl said they aren’t likely to be disappointed, either.
“We make semi-sweet fruit wines,” she said, noting that everything is made right in the Marion location. “We have a retail section where people can come in and look at everything and they can try it.
“Everything’s open on a daily basis, so they can try anything. And we encourage it because we don’t make what anyone else does.”
She added that many “people will come in and say they aren’t really sure what they like. We tell them to try at least one thing. In the last three years I think only two people have walked out with nothing.”
Right now, the best-selling wine is lime, and Liegl said you’ll be hard pressed to find anything like it elsewhere.
“We call it our margarita wine because it’s delicious over ice and doesn’t have the bite of tequila,” she said.
Cherry Meadow offers a wide variety of wines, including more mainstream flavors such as raspberry, cherry and pear, but also likes to experiment with new combinations, such as blueberry lemonade and pineapple habanero.
“Every wine we make, I want you to taste the fruit and then realize it’s wine,” Liegl said. “I want you to be able to specify that it tastes like raspberries or blueberry lemonade.
“So it takes a bit of tasting and adjust and working with the sugar level and how long it ages to get all that right when we develop a new flavor.”
Beekeeping is what inspired the opening of Cherry Meadow, about three years ago.
“Of course, you have a surplus of honey and cherries. Well, what are you going to do with that? So I figured out how to make wine,” she recalled, “and it turns out I was pretty good at it.”
Liegl won a few awards early in her wine making career. She also was in a car wreck that left her with a traumatic brain injury, which in turn makes it hard for her to work in a typical 9-5 work environment.
She figured being her own boss was the next best step.
“I can still be productive, I just have to be productive on my own terms,” she said.
But Liegl ran into roadblocks seeking financing from banks to get her winery off the ground.
“I was turned down by seven banks and was crying about it. But my husband came to me and said, ‘Just start where you are,’ and so we did.”
Owner and operator: Heidi Liegl
Address: 91 62nd St., Suite 104, Marion
Phone: (319) 521-6431
This past year has been challenging for her business as for so many others.
“We have been lucky enough to have had enough customers that come to us that we are holding on by the skin of our teeth,” she said.
With her down time during the pandemic, Liegl started experimenting with making other spirits, and Cherry Meadow now offers White Cow spirits including whiskey, vodka, brandy, and rum.
“The corn for our whiskey is all grown on our family farm in Central City,” she said. “We actually use a special heirloom variety distiller’s corn.
“I’ve been told it’s almost too smooth to be called whiskey, but I’ll take that compliment.”
Liegl obtained a distiller’s license in September and she’s been having fun with this new venture. Her spirits now have fruit flavors including apple pie and cherry pie whiskey.
The farmers market season is a big part of the business. She launched her newest wine flavor, strawberry kiwi, this weekend at Cedar Rapids’ Downtown Farmers Market.
“I like everything about my job, except for labeling the bottles because that’s tedious,” she said. “I like the creativity of it, but I also like the routine.
“When I’m having a bad day, I can come in and it’s routine enough like riding a bicycle. Then on my good days I come up with all my new and crazy ideas.
“And it’s funny because over the winter I’m thinking about what I want to drink when I’m on my back porch and its super hot out. And now that summer is here, I need to start thinking about flavors for fall, like apple spice.”
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