Winemaking Kits and Home Winemaking Equipment
Even though a number of pro winemakers make fruit wines for commercial sale, the history of fruit wine is one that’s been written in the root cellars, woodsheds, barns, garages and otherwise-located “man caves” of everyday Americans dating back to, well, the colonies.
You can continue that tradition by setting aside a little time, a little money and a sliver of your house, apartment or tree fort for some buckets, tubing, some yeast and a little fun with it all.
Use our Winemaking Kits search to get started!
Our database of e-tailers ship equipment and supplies to all fifty states. Many of them are online extensions of regionally famous wine- and beer-making supply retailers that offer would-be winemakers everything under the sun and are ready to answer your questions and ship out whatever you need today.
Winemaking Kits: Two Kinds
To dip your toe into the water with the most basic of experiences, try the winemaking kit. There are two kinds of kits: one more basic than the other.
The quickest and dirtiest of winemaking kits include all the supplies and temporary equipment you need to make a few gallons of your own fruit wine — one “flavor” only — and then you clean up the mess, wait a few weeks for the wine to ferment and see how you like your foray into the art.
These kinds of wine kits are like disposable cameras, or the first day of Winemaking 101.
A second, more advanced style of winemaking kit offers the beginning winemaker all the actual, permanent equipment you need to make batch after batch of whatever kind of wine you want, whether from plums growing in your backyard, raspberries you picked from the woods or using dried fruit or herbs purchased separately.
Advanced Amateur Winemaking
Later on, when you’re ready to get fancier, use the search function to find a la carte supplies, equipment and reference material to increase your production capacity, become more creative with your techniques, or to adventure even further; for example, into the realm of distilling fruit-based spirits and liquors.
You Can Do it
“Don’t be intimidated.” Nongrape wine is supposed to be made at home. Homemade cherry wine was good enough back in the ’40s for Frank Sinatra to sing about and dandelion wine was good enough back in the ’20s for Ray Bradbury to reminisce about in his classic novel — and you will probably enjoy what you make on your own, especially with a little practice.
It’s fun. And pretty quickly you’ll be making wine that’s good enough share with friends and family.
The Big Picture of American Fruit Wine
I found an incredible book at the bookstore the other day: The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. The 700-page reference tome was written to offer up a definition for everyone including those overseas, just what “American food” or “American cuisine” really is.
In the preface, the editor describes American food as “a smorgasbord foodscape filled with creative entrepreneurs, overworked consumers, well-intentioned reformers, and competing culinary elites. It is composed of numerous ingredients, diverse flavors, unique dishes, ever-changing modes of preparation, expanding methods of distribution, and usual and unusual ways Americans eat.”
While recognizing that fruit wine started as an ancient practice (“Egyptian pomegranate wines and Mesopotamian date wines are among the earliest documented examples.”), contributing editor Tonya Hopkins writes that it’s also an American tradition stemming back to our earliest days:
“Many European colonists and pioneers who settled what is today the United States had come from northern regions where grapes were not primary crops, so they were accustomed to making fermented concoctions from apples, wild berries, and grains.”
She writes that in the days before canned goods were available on the shelves of supermarkets, homemade fruit wine was an integral part of American cookery, “like canning and preserving foodstuffs to last beyond a harvest.”
During Prohibition (1919-1933), homemade fruit wine became even more common thanks to a loophole of sorts in the federal law that allowed families to make up to two hundred gallons per year of fruit juice for personal use. Sometimes, of course, some accidental fermentation was just bound to happen, right? Whoops!
According to the Companion, fruit wines were sold in general stores in small towns throughout the country both before and after Prohibition, and especially in rural areas and in the South. These wines were made on many American farms and fruit orchards, “further underlining the strong association of fruit wines with country living.”
Today, the making of fruit and other non-grape wines has become, according to the book, “an American hobby supported by numerous societies and websites linking enthusiasts to information and technological advancements that foster quality winemaking.
“Nevertheless,” the book concludes, “most fruit wine in the United States (these days) is produced and sold at wineries, generally using locally grown fruit.”
We would add these additional “big picture” details to the book’s excellent snapshot of fruit wine:
• There are about 7,000 working wineries, mostly small, family-owned operations in rural areas spread across the country, and in just about each of the 50 states, but only about 700 of these wineries make fruit wine, honey wine, hard cider or other specialty non-grape wines. That means only 10% of American wineries make it.
• Most of those 700 wineries that make non-grape wine and hard cider do not ship their products out of state, selling them out of their tasting rooms and sometimes additionally through limited retail in their local communities and counties surrounding their winery.
• The wineries that do direct ship to consumers, usually only ship to a handful of states. And there’s no way to predict which states those may be. That’s why Cherrywine.com offers a state-by-state search function that allows you find which wines, ciders, and liquors can ship to the state of your choice.
• None of the wineries who make real, handmade fruit wine have national retail distribution. So, the only fruit wine you’re likely to find in stores near you (unless you live by a fruit winery) is a Japanese-made plum wine, or Boone’s Farm or Manischewitz, which are mass-produced “pretend” fruit wines (see link).
• Boone’s Farm is not actually wine. It’s a malt beverage dressed up like a fruit wine, and nothing against Boone’s Farm (I’ve enjoyed it in the past myself), but it is nothing like a fruit wine made by a small winery with real, whole fruit. And Manischewitz is actually sweetened grape wine with artificial fruit flavors added.
• The top ten states with the most wineries that make fruit wine, honey wine, hard cider and exotic non-grape wines & spirits are:
1. New York
7. North Carolina
• Some trivia: Only one state in the union does not have at least one winery making fruit wine: Nevada. Nevada makes up for this oversight (or perhaps it’s due to the lack of agriculture there), by giving us Las Vegas. So, Nevada can be forgiven. And, the good news for Nevadans is that Cherrywine.com currently lists 88 handmade non-grape wines that are shippable to Nevada. So even if they can’t go wine tasting there, Nevadans can still enjoy the specialty wines, ciders and liquors of producers in lots of other states. And they can make your own fruit wine by ordering supplies and equipment from our Winemaking Kits search.
I hope that adds to the big picture.
And so, the Oxford Press has spoken: fruit wine is as Egyptian as The Nile, as Mesopotamian as the Tigris-Euphrates…and as American as the Mississippi. As American as a wild black raspberry, a juicy strawberry, and a tart cherry. Apple wine is as American as apple pie, country stores, dirt roads and root cellars. And we’re glad to be here to help you get your hands on this array of very special, very delicious, hard-to-find American beverages.
Wine sauces: Something to consider
Wine sauces add a lot to a menu item — and not only flavor but also a poetic flourish to the menu description.
You probably have a wine sauce or two as part of your menu, and why not experiment with your wine sauces by making them with fruit wines or honey wines to add a touch of regional, seasonal, farm-to-table appeal? Or hard ciders?
Use our Restaurateurs’ Only search to find boutique, regional, nongrape wines and hard ciders (at wholesale prices) to incorporate into your wine-sauce dishes.
Most recipes call for fruit and grape wine to be blended in order to make the sauces, and that makes sense since the actual wine-version of those fruits have not been widely available.
But if you could get your hands on inexpensive small-batch rhubarb wine made in your home or a neighboring state, the oven-braised short ribs you make for dinner with spiced rhubarb sauce could be even better incorporating real rhubarb wine instead of using a handy bottle of red from California or Europe.
If you try this, please let us know how it went.
Just in Time for Valentine’s Day: Welcome, Washington’s Chocolate Shop Wine
Hi, How’s your January going? Recovering from the holidays? Getting used to writing 2013 on your checks? Well, believe it or not, Valentine’s Day is already less than a month away, and we have a super exciting new addition to the site just in time for you to get your shipping order in.
An official welcome to Chocolate Shop Wine in Walla Walla, Washington, makers of maybe the perfect Valentine’s wine: chocolate wine. And not just chocolate wine, The Wine Spectator‘s absolute favorite chocolate wine.
The Chocolate Shop ships directly to 33 states, and their premier bottle—a blend of red wine (mostly Merlot) and chocolate is just $15.
“We start with a proprietary red blend of the finest vinifera varietals (mostly Merlot), add a touch of oak and a kiss of sweetness to create the perfect fruit-driven foil for the rich dark chocolate, which unfolds in silken layers across the palate.”
And Owen Dugan of the Wine Spectator writes: “The nose carries the cherry motif, with a little kirsch. The first time you taste it you will smile a little as the surprise of chocolate unfurls.”
So, welcome to Chocolate Shop, the perfect Valentine’s Day addition to the site, and welcome to their celebrated bottle of chocolate wine, a great and fun addition to our list of “exotic” wine flavors to go along with other hard-to-find and fearless exotics.
Products like black tea honey wine, douglas fir eau de vie, elderflower mead, jaboticaba berry wine, maple dessert wine, sparkling rhubarb wine, and woodruff-flavored Maywines. And adding more all the time!
Mulled hard cider: Black Star Farms’ own recipe
Cherrywine.com features hard ciders from two kinds of producers: dedicated cideries who make nothing but cider, and wineries who make fruit wine but also include hard cider as an offering.
One of the latter is Black Star Farms, a winery and “agricultural destination” in northwestern lower Michigan that makes all kinds of grape wine, fruit wine, brandies, eau de vie and even a hard apple cider.
Black Star also has lodging, the Inn at Black Star Farms, and a café called The Hearth & Vine that’s run by executive chef Jonathan Dayton, whose menu changes according to what ingredients are seasonally available from the estate and local area farms.
Since, to quote a famous Christmas carol, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” here’s Black Star’s very simple recipe for a cold-weather, holiday fave: mulled hard cider:
1 bottle Black Star Farms Hard Apple Cider (any dry-tasting hard cider will work as a replacement, note: this cider comes in wine-sized 750ml bottle.)
6 oz. water
1/2 cup sugar (don’t worry, Black Star’s hard cider is semi-dry and tastes even dryer than its 6% residual sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
Couple sprinkles of ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients into saucepan and give it a good stirring. Now, no more stirring! Heat gently but do not boil. All of the spices will float to the top. Skim them off, serve warmed, happy holidays!
Cranberry wine: for the holidays!
Thanksgiving dinner means family, friends and oven-roasted, hand-basted turkey. And for a lot of American families, Christmas dinner means the same thing.
Even my wife who’s a vegetarian gets seriously excited about these meals. Why? Because of all the traditional fixin’s: mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, green beans, cranberry sauce and relish…. Oh man, I just sort of drooled on the keyboard. —Sorry!
Now, if you think cranberries are the perfect complement to an oven-roasted turkey, then imagine adding a bottle or four of cranberry wine to your holiday dinner setting.
Now, there are a few small, family-owned wineries across the country that make small batches of cranberry wine and we list six of those wineries, who make a total of eight cranberry wines. Any one of them could be at your front door or office in a week.
Orders shipped “Ground” will arrive in time for Christmas if you order by Friday, December 14. But don’t wait. Do it now and cross it off your list.
Here are the boutique cranberry wines to consider, and where they can ship:
1 & 2. Cranberry Bog is a multi-award winning 100% cranberry wine. And Lake Effect Blush is a cranberry-apple blend, both made by Bill Martin the winemaker at Seneca Falls, New York producer Montezuma Winery. Ships to: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
3 & 4. Auntie X is an organic 100% cranberry wine and Twisted Sisters is an organic blend of cranberries and raspberries, both made by Alexia at Shell Lake, Wisconsin’s Clover Meadow Winery. These organic gems ship to: Alaska, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
5. Carl over at Century Farm Winery in Jackson, Tennessee makes a large, seasonal batch of 100% cranberry wine every year, and always sells out! So get your order in. This is a well-balanced wine. Is it sweet or is it tart? No one’s certain. Could be both! Ships to: Alaska, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
6. Earl at Texas Star Winery in remote Richards, Texas makes a 100% cranberry wine that’s slightly tart, full-bodied, and bold in flavor. Ships to: Alaska, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
7. Stephen at world-renowned Portland, Oregon producer Clear Creek Distillery uses
cranberries from the southern coast of Oregon to make an amazing no-sulfites-added cranberry liqueur. It’s sweet, it’s classy, it’s handmade. It’s also almost 20% alcohol so it can’t be shipped, but luckily is available at well-stocked wine retail locations in most states. And you don’t have to wait a week to get it! Perfect for last-minute holiday planners. Call Clear Creek at 503-248-9470 (don’t forget, they’re on west coast time) and ask where the nearest retail location is for you. And if you talk with Stephen tell him we said, “Hi.” Thanks!
Available in: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
8. John at Chico, California’s Honey Run Winery makes a cranberry honey wine, putting an extra elegant spin on the cranberry wine tradition. It’s also certified kosher (OU). Honey Run Winery ships to: Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.
And independent third-party retailers ship Honey Run wines to: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Welcome, Huffington Post “Menuism” Readers
California wine writer Etty Lewensztain gave us our first unsolicited mention in the press, a blog post titled, “Thinking Beyond the Grape: Fruit Wines” published in the Huffington Post!
Nice…(and thank you, Etty!).
Her bio: Etty Lewensztain is the owner of Plonk Wine Merchants, an online shop focused on small-production, artisanal and altogether great cheap wine. The food- and wine-obsessed Los Angeles native cut her teeth in the wine biz running a marketing campaign to promote Chilean wine in the U.S., and is certified by the esteemed Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the American Sommelier Association. Plonk Wine Merchants specializes in hidden gems from around the globe and every bottle in the store is priced below $30. Follow Plonk Wine Merchants on Twitter @PlonkOnline.
CherryWine.com has a Facebook page! Like us!
Soon, our Facebook account will be a great news feed for all things fruit wine, hard cider, honey wine and fruit liquor.
Use cherrywine.com to find the fruit wines and ciders that you’ve been searching the web for (and that are actually shippable to your state of choice), and “like” us on Facebook to get relevant updates from our client wineries, cideries, meaderies and distilleries in your FB news feed!
Sales; new products; big news items; and great pictures of the products, the production process, and the winemakers, cidermakers, meadmakers and distillers from coast to coast who are making the award-winning boutique products that you can’t find at national retail and that we love to promote on cherrywine.com.
Welcome, Washington’s Finnriver Farm
One of the newest producers to join us is Finnriver Farm, an organic cidery and fruit winery in the Seattle area that makes a fantastic lineup of sparkling hard ciders and fruit dessert wines fortified with their homemade apple brandy.
My brother lives in the Seattle area and he brought an armful of their wines back to Michigan with him on the plane last winter, and it was a joy to have a few glasses of their spirited apple wine to wash down our Christmas dinner with.
Since then, I’ve gotten to know Crystie, the wife of the husband-and-wife team behind the organic winery/cidery and farm, over the phone, and she is as sweet as pie. And like all the family-owned winery folks I’ve met so far through Cherrywine.com, she’s extremely hard working and industrious while going about the day-to-day demands of her labor of love.
Get to know Crystie — and Finnriver Farm — a little better yourself by reading her “Farmwife Diaries” blog.
Finnriver lists nine products in our database, all shipping to a limited but growing number of states: Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, and their home state of Washington. They plan to add more states soon.
If you’re visiting the Seattle area, the Finnriver Farm tasting room makes a great day trip — and it’s the perfect excuse to take a memorable ferry ride across the Puget Sound (either the Bainbridge Island Ferry or the Kingston Ferry will get you there) to the breathtakingly beautiful Olympic Peninsula, just west of Seattle’s bustling downtown.
Directions from Seattle to Finnriver Farm are here. The cidery is in Chimacum, Washington, and tasting room hours from May-September are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday from 12:00-5:00 pm. Tastings are $5 per person and the fee is gladly waived with a bottle purchase. Shared tastings are allowed.
Says Crystie and husband Keith Kisler: “Our Certified Organic family farm and Cidery is located alongside a restored salmon stream on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The process of creating our products begins in the spring blossoms of organic fields and orchards. Bees work their magic, fruit ripens in the sun and come autumn, when the rain-washed air of the mountains turns crisp, we gather our families and farm crew to harvest and press the fruit. We then ferment it slowly through the chill of winter months and use traditional methods to refine and bottle our select batches.
“Finnriver grows a variety of berries and heirloom apple trees, in order to provide organic fruits for our wines and ciders. We also glean wild apples from old-time local homesteads and source fruit from organic family farms in eastern Washington and around the region. We’re committed to sustainable land stewardship through organic production, conservation easements, renewable energy, salmon safe certification, habitat restoration, and community partnerships, celebration and outreach.
“We are very pleased to share the flavors of Finnriver with you and invite you to come visit the farm, taste our ciders and wines, walk the orchard, and connect with us.”
Strawberries are coming: (strawberry wine is already here)
It’s a cold spring here in northern Michigan, but I know that downstate lilacs are coming out weeks ahead of schedule. This is just to say that the season’s first fruit harvest, mouth-watering local strawberries, are usually only as far off as late May, but in some areas due to the warm March, harvests might be a lot closer.
Wineries need time to make strawberry wine, of course. It doesn’t happen overnight. If that’s the “bad” news, the good news is that you actually don’t have to wait because handcrafted strawberry wine made from last year’s berries is at its peak right now.
Getting impatient for those amazing local strawberries? Get yourself some strawberry wine. We feature several bottles from makers of small batch wines made from those very juicy local berries and released to the public just a few months ago.