When I was 26, I left my beloved ocean, my job as a marine biologist, and sunshine-all-the-time for a new life in the grey, but evergreen city of Seattle. I left it all behind in the name of an education in nutrition and dietetics, and ultimately in life and in becoming. And to start it all off, I set out on a month-long road trip from Florida to Washington as an opportunity to see a country I hadn’t yet seen, no main highways littered with rampant and gaudy modernity, just the slow and unkempt country roads through a rundown, fading, and in a lot of ways, forgotten country of the olden days. It’s my preferred travel experience, one that goes straight for the meat of it all.
On the way, I learned that Bourbon Street is not a place to visit early in the morning on your way out of town, Las Vegas is another planet entirely, no photograph of the Grand Canyon will ever do it justice, and there is more art and life and beauty than you could ever imagine for a place called Death Valley. But one of my most memorable stops was, by far, California’s wine country.
Prior to that, I really knew nothing about wine. There was red and white, and it was never a good idea to play beer pong with wine. That was it. Over the course of two days, I think I visited three or four vineyards. I had never heard of viniculture or viticulture, or that you could actually go to school solely for growing grapes and making wine. This information made me briefly, but very seriously reconsider my new, but not entirely immovable path in nutrition. There’s still part of me that wishes I had explored that more, but you’re never too old and it’s never too late. I’m a firm believer in that.
In those few short days in California’s wine country, I gained a new love. I fell in love with the ancient history and art of wine, the intrigue and optional proficiency involved in enjoying a glass of it. To be able to train your palate to taste the subtleties of flavor, flavors of earth and grape and devotion, is something that inspires me to no end.
Over the years, I’ve heard of people making flower and fruit wines. In Florida, where I grew up, blueberry wine was always common and I’ve always seemed to have a friend, at least one in every stage of life thus far, who had a grandparent that’s always made their own wines, whether they be raspberry, key lime, or orange blossom wines.
It only took me another 10 years to get the courage to try to make my own. And now that I’ve started the process, all my previous excuses seem laughable. I was, and still am, intimidated by the art. But if you’ve never even thought of making wine with flowers, I hope the information here will open up a whole new world to you. And if it’s always something you’ve wanted to try, I hope the following shows how incredibly simple and rewarding the process can be.
dandelion wine basics
Below I’ve included my favorite resources on making dandelion wine. I’ve gathered them all here so that you won’t have to search for them. I’ll tell you right of the bat that the hardest parts are having to collect a whole gallon of flowers and then having the patience needed to wait a several months to a year to taste your wine. Literally picking flowers and then going about your life, in whatever capacity of normal you enjoy, until it’s time to drink… those, if you think about it, aren’t really hard at all. But be prepared to wait as long as a year to enjoy your wine.
The basic steps of making dandelion (or any flower) wine are as follows:
- Collect flowers (from areas NOT sprayed with chemicals)
- Make a tea with the flowers
- Add yeast
dandelion wine – my favorite how-to videos
Dandelion Wine – Everything You Need to Know is by far one of the best visual resources on making dandelion wine. It’s equal parts instructional and educational, and the thing that I enjoy most about it is that the creator’s overarching intent is to make dandelion wine-making easy, readily accessible, and incredibly affordable for absolutely anyone. There’s no fancy and unnecessary expensive equipment, many items you might already have in your home, and anybody with a let’s-not-complicate-things approach is my preferred kind of teacher. In fact, you’ll hear the narrator of this video declare that the spirit of dandelion wine is to go out in your yard, harvest these beautiful golden little flowers that most people regard as weeds, and make some wine! Just like that.
In this video, you’ll find:
- dandelion flower picking techniques
- equipment needed
- easy-to-understand explanations of the hows, whats, and whys of making flower wine
- low(er)-cost DIY alternatives
This video shows another great way of harvesting dandelion flowers. It’s a technique that takes a minute to get a feel for, but I prefer this to taking the dandelion flower heads home and then having to spend the time trying to separate the yellow petals from the green parts later.
equipment you’ll need
I’ve listed and provided links to all the equipment you’ll need to make dandelion wine, some necessary items, some optional, and all of them affordable. For less than $30 per gallon and a bit of your time, you can make your own flower wines.
Things you need:
- 1-gallon glass jar with airlock for fermentation stage
- fine-mesh cheesecloth -or- nut milk bag -or- clean old t-shirt
- champagne yeast
- mason jars -or- bottles for the aging process
These things are optional, but helpful (and fun!):
I think you’ll also find these things not only helpful, but inspiring:
- Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz is a great resource for all things fermentation. There are detailed recipes and guides on making flower wines, ginger beer, and much more.
- Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury isn’t a how-to, but instead, is an incredibly beautiful coming-of-age tale of a young boy who grows up making dandelion wine with his grandfather. It’s a poetic metaphor for capturing all the joys of summer in bottle and is sure to inspire your sense of nostalgia for the beauty and sweetness in the simple life. Perhaps it’ll make you also want to capture the joys of summer in bottle full of dandelion wine.
Happy wine-making, y’all! Would love to hear of your own adventures in wine-making, as it’s all new to me too! I’ll be sure to share my adventures as they progress.