One day when I was ten years old I decided I was going to make wine out of mulberries hanging from a large tree in the woods across the street.
I somehow knew to pick only the ripest, purple-est berries. I mashed them up in a margarine container my mom had rinsed out, added a squirt of water from the kitchen faucet, poked holes in the lid with junk drawer scissors so it could “breathe” and put it in the fridge to “age.”
Excited, after what seemed like a week — probably a day-and-a-half — I snapped open the lid to find a colder version of the colorful mush I had put in the fridge. The wine did not, somehow, seem very much like the Riunite advertised on television at the time.
What I lacked in technical know-how as a one-time amateur winemaker, I have since compensated for with serious curiosity and enthusiasm as an amateur wine drinker.
I discovered real fruit wine for the first time as an undergrad at Michigan State during the 1980s when friends brought bottles of cherry wine down from Traverse City, a region in northern Michigan where several wineries had started up and were making wine from the cherries that region is famous for.
Later, I discovered honey wine at Ethiopian restaurants in the 1990s, and hard ciders on tap at bars on the west coast in the 2000s. But all these delicacies were always hard or impossible to find in stores.
When I left Michigan to live in San Francisco for about eight years, I found out that wine shops in California didn’t carry cherry wine. Or blackberry, strawberry, apple, pear, peach or raspberry. Maybe there was a little plum wine on the shelves imported from Japan, but that was about it.
To get ahold of non-grape wines I had to rely on friends back in Michigan to bring bottles of cherry wine with them, carry-on, when they flew in to visit. I drank that wine with deep appreciation and even managed to save a bottle or two as a romantic accompaniment to dinners I put together for the occasional hot date.
But really. How frustrating and sort of ironic: living in America’s most famous wine region — and not being able to find any fun, rustic fruit-based wines —wines that could remind a Midwesterner of the hot summers and cool, colorful autumns that they were missing in foggy San Francisco where the summers never got hot and the leaves never changed color.
Then something big happened.
In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that set the table for states to allow their wineries to ship their products directly to consumers outside their own states.
That year I acquired the domain name for cherrywine.com in the hopes that someday I could use it to help people find and enjoy boutique, small-batch fruit wines for themselves.
Cherrywine.com offers visitors a searchable database that allows fans and curious would-be drinkers to find and buy boutique fruit wines that are legally shippable to them by the best producers across the country.
With help from direct shipping and fruit wine gurus Don Coe and Dominic Rivard, and the faith and input of several fruit wineries, meaderies, cideries and home brewing e-tailers across the country who joined the early “beta” version of the site, cherrywine.com launched to the public September 2011.
Welcome. And enjoy your exploration into the rootsy, romantic, rustic world of non-grape wine, liquor and hard cider.
Fruit Wine Media, LLC is based in Traverse City, Michigan — the tart cherry capital of the world and home to 40-some wineries, most of which make some form of fruit wine, hard cider or mead.
—Todd Spencer, owner and editor, cherrywine.com and Fruit Wine Media, LLC