Wild Wines by Dawn Marie

If you’ve ever dreamed of making your own wine, you probably thought you needed a vineyard. Or, at least, some grapes. According to Dawn Marie, neither are necessary.

In her book Wild Wines she gives a complete guide to making wines from fruits, flowers, roots and leaves. Imagine a quaint afternoon on the porch sipping your own Mandrone Bark vintage.

Dawn Marie takes you through all the steps of winemaking, as well as how to locate and gather ingredients in the wild. The Organic Wine Journal spoke with her to learn more.

How did you get started making Wild Wines?

I always had an interest in outdoors and nature, and what you could prepare from what you could find. When I bought my first house I planted three grapevines and started making jams and jellies. I like to make products out of my own yard.

At a used book sale, I found this really old book on winemaking from England. I wanted to make wines as long as I can remember. They had a section on fruit wines, and when I found fruit outdoors I would think about their individual acidity and sweetness. After tasting I could see this one needed more acid or this one needs more of this. Over decades I’ve been perfecting each one.

My daughter always wants me to make dryer wines. My palate is more sweet. People have to go with their own taste buds.

How did you make the leap from fruits to leaves and plants?

When I lived in Chicago, we had a forest reserve with a 14-mile bike trail. I would go walking and when I saw a plant I had never seen before, I’d snip off a small sample or take a picture. Then I would try to identify it from an edible-plants book. Learn what parts are edible, and then wonder what else can I do with it? Can I dry it and make tea? Can I ferment it and make wine?

What’s your favorite recipe in the book?

Blackberry wine. For some reason it always takes on a second fermentation. I can’t pinpoint why. But it always becomes sparkling and fizzy. My second favorite is oak leaf. Very peculiar and oak trees grow everywhere around the country.

What’s the most unique?

Chickweed. It’s similar to lettuce, with smaller leaves. Very common in America. It makes a good-tasting wine with no lettuce overtones. I like it so much as a vegetable, though I seldom have enough bulk to make it into a wine. That’s how I’m always thinking. I like raspberry wine, but I like the jam better. So what do I have, and how do I want to make it?

Any wines that didn’t turn out well?

Blue Camas. My town was covered in them so I gave it a try. It has a sticky, gluey quality. It tasted good, but it was like sap. There was no good way to thin it out and keep the taste.

The worst-tasting one was Mountain Ash. Early colonists didn’t have much food and they used to eat them. It was in so many books I tried it. Very bitter berry. I can’t understand why people would eat it.

What’s the easiest wine for people to start making?

Blackberry. Easy to make, easy to collect in bulk, and it’s delicious. Any of the tea wines are good to start with too.

Do you ever buy wines from the store?

No I don’t. I love my wine and I make enough that even with giving them away as gifts, and my kids drinking more, I always have some around. I enjoy it in very small quantities and I can always make more.

Purchase Wild Wines: Creating Organic Wines from Nature\’s Garden at Amazon.com.


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