The Making of Homemade Cherry Wine:  Step-By-Step Instructions


We're making wine! We make wine fun! Follow the adventures of upside-down plastic boy (We don't really know why he's is in most of our pictures, but he must be doing most of the work) as he makes cherry wine with us. Please play along at home (with or without your very own upside-down plastic boy).

Also, don't forget to check out our Blackberry Wine and Strawberry Wine pages.

On Monday, June 28th (2004), the kids and I set out to go cherry picking at the Fischer family farm. We didn't get quite enough cherries from their one tree, so I bought more cherries for our wine before the cherry wine making commenced.

This glass of orange juice has active yeast cultures added to it.  We let it sit at room temperature to begin the fermentation process.

Yeast Starter - We picked up a packet of wine yeast that was recommended to us by the guy in our local brew shop. We added it to a glass of pure orange juice (not from concentrate) and left it on our counter to breed.

This photograph shows two of the boxes of cherries we pitted.  There was also a half a grocery sack of local cherries from the Fischer family's tree, and two baggies of Hood River cherries in the mix.

Cherries, cherries and more cherries!

We started with a half a grocery bag of cherries that we picked from the Fischer family cherry tree, 32 pounds of sweet Washington cherries from Costco and two baggies full of Hood River cherries from a local produce stand. We didn't have cherry stoners handy, so we spent several hours of our Monday night pitting them by hand, and removing the stems.

After nearly three hours of pitting cherries by hand the night before, we had approximately five total gallons of cherry pulp in our buckets.

Here are our eight gallon buckets of cherry pulp. Each bucket contains about two and a half gallons of pitted cherries.

Here are some of the additives we plan to put in our wine over the course of the wine making process.

This photo shows our hydrometer, potassium meta-bisulfite, diammonium phosphate (a yeast nutrient), pectic enzyme and campden tablets (#20)... and upside-down plastic boy.

I picked up a 25 pound bag of pure cane sugar to use during our wine making.

I purchased a twenty-five pound bag of cane sugar to use in our wine making endeavor.

Here we are boiling water on the stove, and adding sugar to be dissolved.  We are looking for a very high saturation level.

On Tuesday evening, we boiled pots of water on the stove, and dissolved about ten pounds of sugar for each of the buckets. There is a very high saturation level in the water we added to the buckets (probably close to a one-to-one ratio of sugar to water).

Here are the cherries in our buckets before we begin adding the sugar water.  We have approximately two and a half gallons of pitted cherries in each bucket.

Here are the cherries in the buckets before we began adding the sugar water.

Here we have begun adding the sugar water.  We boiled two pots (shown above) of water and sugar for each bucket.

Each bucket now has one pot of the sugar water added to it.

Here we are using a device called "The Thief" to measure the potential alcohol level in each bucket with our hydrometer.  The Thief takes out a lot of the guesswork.

After we added two pots of dissolved sugar water to each bucket (bringing the contents level to about six gallons in each bucket), we checked the potential alcohol level in each bucket.

Here is the Thief with the hydrometer floating inside.  We are looking at a potential alcohol level of about 12 percent with our primary fermentation.

To do this, we placed the hydrometer in a device called "The Thief". The hydrometer floats inside The Thief after it is dipped into the bucket, and provides an easy way to establish the potential alcohol content of the wine. Each bucket contained about 12.5 percent for our primary fermentation.

Another picture using The Thief and the hydrometer.  The contents of the buckets now hit about the six gallon mark in each bucket.

Here's a picture of The Thief in action.

Here are the buckets with the pulp and the sugar water added.  We'll add the diammonium phosphate, crushed campden tablets next.

Above is a picture of our buckets as they looked after we had added the dissolved sugar water.

Here Michael crushes campden tablets and dissolves them in water, to add to our cherry buckets.

Here Michael crushes the campden tablets (1 per gallon of cherry mixture) in a small bowl of water to dissolve them. He put about six tablets in each bucket (12 total). Campden tablets will help to kill any bacteria or native yeasts on the cherries.

I added a half a bag of this diammonium phosphate to each bucket.

This is the diammonium phosphate, which is a yeast nutrient. I poured half the bag of this into each bucket.

The next morning, we added our yeast mixture, which had been fermenting away in our orange juice on the counter.

The next morning (Wednesday), after the sulfites had dissipated, we added the yeast that we had been culturing for a couple of days in our orange juice on the counter.

We also added the pectic enzyme and stirred it in.

We also added our pectic enzyme, which breaks down the pectin in the fruit and makes the wine clearer (less chunky). We then resealed the buckets using our air-lock stoppers.

Every morning we stir our mixture.

On Sunday (July 4th), we stirred our mixtures and took a hydrometer reading. We discovered that our primary fermentation had been very successful.

A few days after beginning the fermentation process, we checked the mixture with our Thief and hydrometer.  We'd already achieved nine percent alcohol through the primary fermentation process.

The reading was about 2 percent potential alcohol, which meant that we had about ten percent alcohol in the buckets (12.5 - 2 = 10.5) already. It's time for the first racking!

Using the Thief to check the other bucket too.  It was about the same.

We tested both buckets. They were about the same.

Stirring, stirring...

Stirring is sort of a constant theme in these first few days. We won't have time for our first racking until tomorrow, July 5th. For now, the lids and airlocks go back on after the stirring.

Here I am steeping ten bags of Earl Grey tea in a pot containing about six cups of boiling water.

Monday - July 5th:

While we were getting ready for the first racking, I began boiling water on the stove to steep bags of Earl Grey tea. I started with six cups of water and ten tea bags per pot. I steeped the tea bags for twenty minutes.

The black tea will help to add tannins to the wine.  Since we pitted our cherries before fermentation, we won't have the bitter taste that ground cherry stones can leave, but should have a nice bite by using the Earl Grey tea instead.

Once the tea had steeped for twenty minutes, I pulled out the bags and squeezed them into the pot. Black tea provides tannins, which give wine it's pleasant bite. To prevent our wine from being bitter, we removed the cherry stones (pits). However, because we did so, we will need a tannin additive to keep our wine from tasting too bland.

I let the teabags steep for 20 minutes, then pulled the bags and brought the pots back to a boil.  I then added five cups of sugar to each pot and stirred until it all dissolved.

I added another cup of water and brought the tea mixture back to a boil. I then added five cups of sugar and stirred it until it was dissolved. Then I allowed it to cool. Michael later cut the mixture with water until it was about thirteen percent potential alcohol (He had to add a bit more than a ratio of one-to-one to get that).

Michael then cut the mixture to about half strength using water to dillute it.  He cheked it with the Thief and hydrometer, and was happy when he had it reading about 13 percent potential alcohol.

Here we have removed the cherry pulp and are racking the wine.

Meanwhile, we strained out all of the pulp from our primary fermentation buckets. We used a strainer and cheesecloth to do this. Then the wine was ready for it's very first racking! The above photograph is just that taking place. Racking is just siphoning the wine from one container to another to remove pulp and sediment.

Here is one of the carboys, filled with the wine after it was racked for the first time.

Here's our first carboy, filled with our racked wine. We will repeat the racking process about once a month until it's done.

Here is the second carboy.  The tannins from the tea have not yet been added.

Carboy Number Two, before the tannins mixture has been added.

Both carboys - Notice how one is a bit darker?  That one contains the cherries from the Fischer family tree.  See what a difference a few cherries can make?

Both carboys of wine together. Notice how one is darker than the other? One contains more of the Fischer family cherries than the other, and those cherries have produced a darker color in that wine.