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Tag Archives: winemaking

The Sweeter the Better

The thing is making wine isn’t that hard (in small quantities) but, you do have to do research to learn (as opposed to learning by word of mouth). You want to be safe so read all you can about anything new. This is my blackberry wine in the photo. Living in South Florida blackberries don’t grow here much. I have found one that will a bit but, it gets too hot here. So obtaining blackberries will come from grocery stores.

This wine went through lots of changes. It went from tasting like something very bitter and frankly, gross (for about a year) to a delicious sweet blackberry wine! I wasn’t a wine drinker when I took up this hobby so, at times I’d question what was meant by back-sweetening your wine until I got the knack. Think of a Sprite soda (effervescent, fresh than an increasing sweet flavor right before you swallow. That’s what it’s like trying to sweeten your wine. It’s something only the wine maker can obtain the right balance (if they’re doing it at all).

Back to my blackberry wine. I think I’ll enter it into a contest. It could win. Nice after taste…nice aroma and beautiful color. It took lots of berries (pounds and pounds–thank God I have a Sam’s card but when I open my winery I’ll be able to get the best tasting fruit. Honestly, fruit in the store looks prettier than it tastes because they pick the fruit under-ripe. In wine making you want overly sweet fruit (just before it would “go bad).” Anyway, for now, enjoy the advice and the photo.BLACKBERRY WINE

COPYRIGHT © 2017 blog author Cheryl D. Sorrells–All rights reserved. No parts of this blog may be reproduced, modified or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, Cheryl D. Sorrells. Inquiries should be addressed to Cheryl D. Sorrells @





Fine Wine Takes a Little Time

On the Road to Introspection

When I was a kid I recognized one thing about myself–I am impatient. Now, I don’t know how I recognized the need for self-reflection at an early age, but, I decided that my impatience wasn’t a virtue I wanted to maintain. So, I sought out hobbies to improve my impatience. I took up the hobbies of reading, sewing, crocheting, and applique. I was an avid reader and discovered that none of these improved my impatience. I’d stay up all night sewing and the next morning I’d wear the outfit. With reading, I’d withdraw to my room reading at least 6 lengthy books within a week. In sixth grade the librarian refused to allow me to check out 6 classic novels. I’d read the previous set of 6 and returned them before the due date. So, she challenged me about whether I’d actually read all the books I’d previously returned. My favorite teacher, Mr. Beekman, asked her what was the problem. She said, “I don’t believe she read the last 6 books she checked out so, I’m not going to allow her to check out 6 more.” He smiled. Then he looked right at her and said firmly,”If Cheryl said she’s read those books–she’s read them. This is one of my best students.” And with that her verbal quiz of me began. Each book she picked up from the return book deposit from Treasure Island to Little Women,  I answered all her questions. Finally, in resignation, she allowed me to go beyond her 2 book rule and get 6 books, instead.


The Connecting to the Art of Winemaking

I guess, that’s the way it is for me also, with winemaking because with this skill have to learn patience. You must learn how to relax and just let the wine do its thing. Keep it in a dark, cool place. I keep my air conditioning on, at all times, in the home and store my wines in the coolest part of my house. Blackberry, cherry, blueberry, Merlot, all take at minimum 15-18 months to mature after final fermentation. The best thing is to simply forget about them until you’re ready to sweeten them. There’s an old saying: “there can be no wine before its time.” You can’t rush winemaking. Furthermore, it’s always changing. Eventually, it mellows out and its strong tannins become less sharp in flavor. They just drop out of the wine. Becoming a more patient person has taken a lifetime–and in winemaking I’ve met, (to date) my most difficult challenge.

My sweet blackberry wine and delicious sweet potato fries with a sour cream dipping sauce.

COPYRIGHT © 2017 blog author Cheryl D. Sorrells–All rights reserved. No parts of this blog may be reproduced, modified or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, Cheryl D. Sorrells. Inquiries should be addressed to Cheryl D. Sorrells @



To The Crabs in the Pot

Brick by Brick

The journey in pursuing any business venture is a quiet one. I think about my granddaddy J.D. who, in the forties and fifties until his death in the late 60’s helped shape my view on the process. Granddaddy, a man with little to no education through grit and a hard edge on not borrowing “a damn thing–ever.” I remember once my grandmother had bought an item from Sears. She’d gotten it on credit. Granddaddy had her to call the finance department to come by the house and return the item…the lady on the phone kept saying, “that’s not our policy.” But, he wasn’t hearing any of that….the next thing I recall was the truck coming by the house to pick up the item. Debt didn’t make sense to him. It’s like what Sweetie Pie says on her show…”if it don’t make money it don’t make sense!” My grandfather saved up the bricks to lay for the apartment buildings…load by load…brick by brick…until he had enough to build..step by step…first the foundation…then the frame… until the entire thing was done….but, always–cash and carry only.

Get Anything you Want but Pay Cash

He always liked the best and bought the best—he wasn’t cheap. One day a huge piano and an organ was delivered to the house. Grandma: “J.D. what we need with these? I don’t know how to play them and you don’t either!” The only person who played the piano was my mother, who was married and living in Tennessee. But, granddaddy wanted it and so, we had one…paid for with cash. I looked at the booklets included in the sale….”learn how to play…” and I’d play “Home On the Range…” and other little ditties…”learn how to play” was like paint by the numbers! My prowess as a piano player never got too much beyond “Home on the Range.” What did I learn from that which now applies to me as an adult? Well, a lot. You can have anything you want if you work hard for it but, not on credit…oh, and you’ll have plenty of people who will doubt your abilities, envy and criticize you….including family.

To the Crabs in the Pot

Granddaddy always said, “Negroes are like crabs in a pot.”..”ever watched crabs in a pot, Cheryl?” he once asked me. I looked down at the tin tub full of crabs. Each one crawling up on the backs of the other-fighting for survival into a tangled mess going nowhere. Each time one got loose…another one would stretch out his claws and pull the “escapee” back down in the pot….until they all met their lot of boiling hot water filled with spicy crab boil and cayenne pepper. The point? It was one of their own who kept them from making it out of the the tin tub before their fated end. And that was the biggest lesson. When you’re trying to achieve some goal which is outside of the main stream it may be one of your own who will prevent you from your goals –(another effect of the “slave mentality”) I learned about later in college. It was the slave master who used to pit the slaves to serve his ends–he’d especially pit them against each other…which some blacks would do out of the need to survive. Anything just for an extra piece of “fat back” in their pot of beans… or to get a rug on their dirt floor. The “Uncle Tom” which has its origin in slavery is unique to the African American culture.

There were once some Asians who lived around the corner from us…I mean there must have been 10 people living in that small 3 bedroom house…all pooling their assets and living together until each obtained their goals to own something…Now, I may be criticized for this but, it’s true…(and all black folks who are honest with you know it)….and yes, I’m generalizing but, we don’t support each other…it doesn’t come natural to us because of slavery we were raised on division to prevent upheaval on the plantation and to maintain oppression….Instead, we criticize and talk about each other….analogous to those crabs in the pot….waiting on our fated end….together… with a resounding, overwhelming sigh of, “chile, I told you all that wasn’t gonna amount to nothing.”

Learned Behavior

I generalize, but, we (black folks)  carry some serious vestiges from slavery….need a doctor? “Get a white man”…need a mechanic? A dentist? A lawyer? A bank? A cake? better go find the white man. The bottom line? We don’t support our own. It’s sad–but, true. Outside of a few family (only a few) and an even smaller amount of friends….my support has come from outside my own race. And as I begin this venture in the wine business combined with my baking….I think the same thing. But, then, I think about granddaddy still putting aside the pile of bricks…or the marble tile…every day….he and grandma worked their butts off to have anything they wanted despite the critics. He focused on his vision and his dreams and the hell with what someone else on the sidelines thought. He planned until the day he couldn’t speak anymore. He was planning on his death bed…telling Grandma how to maintain what he’d worked all his life for….He was a visionary. His visions and words are lessons for me today.

On the wall he had envelopes which were labeled, ” utilities, food, etc.,” He’d put the money into those envelopes…setting it aside on a weekly basis., saving up but, securing the necessities were important too. He relied on no one but himself. Eventually, he’d have enough to get apartments built, a pool hall and he was one of the first blacks in segregated Daytona Beach to have a business built on “the beach side” in New Smyrna Beach because that was  the only place (during Jim Crow) where blacks could go if they wanted to go to the beach. “And you want to know what happened to that dream?” Grandma said, the night he finished the entire business he sighed, and said, “now that it’s finished…tomorrow I’ll can go secure the insurance.” But, later that night he was burned out. He always believed it was by a black competitor…the entire thing burned to the ground….yeah, those crabs in the pot…

One Thing leads to Another

When I was first beginning my home baking business one day while buying something in “Michael’s” a man asked me about some clay I was looking to buy. He and I got into a discussion. He said to me, “and you’re doing this business without any money?” I took it to mean, “no bank loan?” He just looked at me with astonishment. But, to me, it was like, “anything is possible.” I already know that banks generally, don’t invest in black businesses–merely, because of race. But, I already know about what’s possible notwithstanding any possible rejections from the banks because I’d had the opportunity to know this living, breathing dream maker…this legendary business guru who taught me how to make it happen without all that. My grandfather was a black man who could add columns of numbers in his head with barely a middle school education…he came from the orange and migrant worker area around Waverly, Florida…whose grandmother was 100 percent Native American and whose grandfather was an African slave. His mother was a cook and a baker for white folks… He came from a people who heard “I can’t” on a daily basis…. but, he lived to be “well-off” so much so that one Jewish lawyer in town…when he needed extra cash…borrowed large sums of money from my grandfather–a black man. Yes, that’s the stock I hail from….anyway, that man in Michael”s said to me….”how you’re doing this without any money except your paycheck as a teacher….that’s a story…that’s a book…that’s a motivational speech….do you know how many people would read that story or listen to that lecture? Lots,” he said. And as I walked to the checkout counter, I said to myself, “maybe so, maybe so.”

The One Who Got Away…

So, to the crabs in the pot here’s one more thing I have to say…..Every now and then…. despite all the “nay-sayers,” the pulling and clawing, the “what do you think you’re doing?” and the “you’re not leaving us!” Inevitably, one of them always got away…..brick by brick… that one crab, who said, quietly to herself, “no matter what you say or think…I’m getting out of this damn pot!”…that one crab…is me. cropped-peach-wine1

The first wine I ever made was Peach Wine–it’s still my favorite! Delish!

COPYRIGHT © 2017 blog author Cheryl D. Sorrells–All rights reserved. No parts of this blog may be reproduced, modified or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, Cheryl D. Sorrells. Inquiries should be addressed to Cheryl D. Sorrells @

My Journey into “Reds”(Sorta)

How I got Here:

Okay, so I’m sure you’re saying, “what’s this?” Yes, I’ve opened another blog site to introduce myself (many FBF’s already know) I’m making my own wines now. I just love making things and well, so many of you are curious as to this new journey of winemaking. Actually I’ve been making wines since 2015 after blundering around in the cake making business and feeling a little frustrated over trying to do so in Fort Lauderdale. This is a strange place for trying to start a business. It’s such a “big business” city. Big businesses that are so cookie cut that they have squeezed out unique businesses. And everyone is so used to just going to Publix to pick up some flavorless crap. I’m so over it all. Anyway, fast forward to two years later I’m publicizing my journey into blending my two loves of baking and making wine. There are no local wineries in Fort Lauderdale. What we have here is again, big businesses like Total Wines which has a wine bar or tasting bar but that isn’t a winery.  Florida’s problem is that it’s not a place conducive for making traditional wines. Our weather just won’t allow it except for muscadine grapes which aren’t your traditional grapes for winemaking but, rather would create a country style wine. So, I’m calling this blog: “Black Girl, Grapes and Butter Bakes in the City!” Come along with me by following me…I’m going to combine these two loves of mine….one glass of wine and well, one slice of cake at a time!


For the past 2 years I’ve been experimenting with white wines. My first wine was a peach wine, then I made a pineapple and ginger wine and a strawberry hibiscus wine. I submitted the pineapple and the strawberry wines to an International winemaker’s contest and won 2nd place for my Pineapple Ginger wine last year (2016)! I was so excited because I am so green to this entire process. Now, I’m venturing into the red wines. I’ve decided to start with the country style wines and blend with a red grape. Below is my blackberry, blueberry merlot wine. I will enter it next year when the Merlot has a bit longer to age. It is delicious but the Merlot portion (about 1/3 of the 1 gallon batch) needs a bit more time (about a total of 15 – 18 months) to age to maturity.

How I got started:

I do my research. Read. Buy books and read, read, read… ready though…This is a costly hobby! But, I’m on this journey to make award-winning wines….then to open a winery with my delicious butter bakes. There are 9 African-Americans in America who own wineries….I plan on being #10. I don’t know how…I’m just another broke teacher…but, everything in order….I have to master the red wine category with actual wine must. That’s my next goal….no easy feat….I’m on this journey….follow my blog….I hope you’re inspired to do what you’re passionate about. blackberry blueberry merlot wine


I’m working on a luscious chocolate cake with a hibiscus cream cheese filling and a rich, dark chocolate frosting to pair with this red wine. *


It’s a rich chocolate cake with a coconut chocolate fudge cream cheese buttercream frosting with a strawberry/raspberry filling! It’s OMG delicious! After posting this I made this luscious chocolate cake.It’s melt in your mouth fantastic!


COPYRIGHT © 2017 blog author Cheryl D. Sorrells–All rights reserved. No parts of this blog may be reproduced, modified or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, Cheryl D. Sorrells. Inquiries should be addressed to Cheryl D. Sorrells @