Cherry Red Wine Sauce

Do you remember the Mark Peel cherry ice cream sauce that I told you made me cry at the Silver Spoons event?  That sauce was so incredible that I found myself daydreaming about it a week later.  A dish that sticks in your mind like that must be recreated.  Now, I’m no Mark Peel, but I figured I should be able to jimmy up a home-style version that would appease my craving.  Oh people, I wish I could send each of you a little jar of this divine sauce so you believe me when I say that it may be the best thing I’ve ever made.

cherry red wine ice cream sundae

At the event, I actually had the nerve (ahem, cajones) to ask Mark what was in his cherry sauce.  Wine.  Vanilla.  Star anise.  Cherries.  Working from that rough outline, I came up with a respectable tribute to his other-worldly original.  A good red wine reduction sauce paired with juicy, fresh Bing cherries, freshly scraped vanilla beans and spooned over vanilla ice cream.  Say hello to your new Grown Up Ice Cream Sundae.


Rule Number One: Start with a good red wine.  You don’t want to reduce the flavor of cheap “cooking” wine and spoon that over ice cream.  No, sir.  We don’t drink a lot of wine in my house, but I like to have some good wine around to cook with.  If you are like me, I suggest buying a four-pack of the small (8 oz) wine bottles (the kind they serve on airplanes) at the liquor store.  This allows you to use relatively good wine when cooking and not feel bad about opening a whole bottle that will go to waste.

vanilla bean and star anise

Remember last summer when I told you to buy a cherry pitter and that you could thank me later?  Go ahead, thank me now.  You’re going to need a cherry pitter to make this magic happen.  I suppose you could use frozen cherries in a pinch, but the fresh ones send this sauce over the top.

boiling cherry sauce

You would imagine that in order to create a dish so praise-worthy, that it would take hours of slaving and stewing and preparing, right?  This decadent sauce takes a half hour (or less) to make.  I kid you not.  Make this for your next summer get together and your friends will be raving.  They will be demanding the recipe.  They will insist that you have been secretly attending culinary school.  They will offer to pay you to cook for them.  Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.

cherry sauce


Cherry Red Wine Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10-15 minutes


2 cups red wine
1 cup sugar
1 pound Bing cherries, pitted and halved
1 star anise
1 vanilla bean


- In a medium saucepan, heat the wine and sugar over medium heat, stir with a spatula until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add cherries and star anise. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape the inside out with a knife. Add the scraped insides and the empty bean to the pot. Bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the cherries from the liquid and place in a bowl. Set aside.
- Bring the remaining liquid to a boil. Let boil until reduced by half, approximately 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the star anise and vanilla bean. Pour the reduced liquid over the cherries. Spoon over bowls of ice cream, yogurt, pound cake or just serve it with a big spoon!

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18 Responses to “Cherry Red Wine Sauce”

  1. 1
    Jane Ko — July 6, 2010 3:59 am

    Red wine sauce? Wow.
    I’ve never seen anise used in sweet desserts, interesting!

  2. 2
    Anonymous — July 6, 2010 7:48 am

    Can I make this sauce in advance. If yes, how do I store it? How far in advance can I make it?

    Sound fantastic! I would like to make it on a Thursday in preparation for my weekend company!

    Thank you…..

    • kate replied: — July 6th, 2010 8:15 am

      Anonymous — Yes, you can absolutely make the sauce in advance! I stored my batch in the fridge in an airtight container for at least 4 days and it was just fine. I would suggest warming it slightly on the stove before serving. It doesn’t need to be hot necessarily, but when the sauce is warm the cherries just melt in your mouth. Hope you like it! Let us know what you think!

  3. 3
    CaSaundra — July 7, 2010 8:44 am

    This does sound divine!

  4. 4
    Marisa — July 8, 2010 10:13 am

    A decidedly grownup sauce – would go down a treat at dinner parties.

  5. 5
    bex — July 8, 2010 12:57 pm

    i think this post is going to make me cry! i’ve been lurking here once in a while but you are quickly becoming the most addictive blog.

    • kate replied: — July 8th, 2010 8:52 pm

      Bex — So glad to have lured you out of the dark lurking corners! Thanks for your first comment! Now, dry your eyes and make this sauce. Immediately. :-)

  6. 6
    EG — July 14, 2010 1:24 am

    Hi, another lurker. (Found you through foodgawker) Just wanted to let you know I made a triple batch of this sauce today, and waterbath canned it in 8 oz Ball jars. A 15 minute processing time was suggested for cherries, and it seems to have worked beautifully. I’m really excited to have some of this around in the middle of winter, too. I got 8 jars out of it, and an additional two just full of the syrup, which I think will be nice in cocktails. This stuff is really delicious, and thank you so much for sharing it with us!


  7. 7
    joana — July 17, 2010 6:18 pm

    i’m in love with your blog, it’s amazing

  8. 8
    Maris — July 26, 2010 3:32 pm

    This looks so vibrant and delicious! Cherries and red wine sound like a brilliant combination.

  9. 9
    Jody — July 27, 2010 1:34 am

    I’m preparing to try this out at the end of the week, but I have a couple of questions.

    First of all, I can’t find “Star Anise” anywhere in town. I have found “Anise Seed” (which I know is different) and “Pure Anise Extract” which is a clear liquid that smells of licorice. Are either of these substitutable for the Star Anise, or should I make a trip out of town to a bigger city that might have an Asian grocery store? If either are substitutable (I already have the extract in my kitchen), how much should I use in the recipe?

    Secondly, (another substitution), tracking down vanilla beans is also proving to be a problem. Is vanilla extract an acceptable substitute (will I notice a marked reduction in taste quality), or again, should I take the trouble to search it out somewhere? Also again, what would be the substitution amount for pure vanilla extract?

    Thanks for any help!

    • kate replied: — July 27th, 2010 9:34 pm

      Jody — Great questions! Living in the Big Apple I tend to take for granted relatively easy access to some hard-to-find ingredients. I haven’t made the recipe with extracts so I can’t promise that the result will be as full in flavor, but depending on how difficult it will be for you to locate the real thing it may be worth giving the extracts a go. As for the amounts, I would suggest using about 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and just a few drops of the anise extract. You will probably want to taste the sauce frequently and adjust the amounts as needed. As long as you start with a good, fruity wine and juicy cherries you should end up with an incredible sauce whether you use the extracts or the originals. Please let me know how it works out!

      Also, just for future reference, you can order good quality, hard-to-find spices online from Penzeys and I have heard stories of people purchasing great vanilla beans through suppliers on Ebay. Just a thought!

  10. 10
    Rachel — July 27, 2010 5:57 pm

    found you through slashfood. totally making your zucchini boats for dinner tonight. lol also twitter stalked & followed you there too!

    i have a “lifestyle” blog (its a bit of a mish mash lol) & am always looking for new recipes to try out.
    thank you!

  11. 11
    The Food Hunter — July 30, 2010 1:00 pm

    This is my first time here. I love your blog…I know I’ll be back often.

  12. 12
    Jody — August 9, 2010 7:47 pm

    Hi Kate, I just tried this recipe using the substitutions (anise and vanilla extracts), and it turned out wonderfully! While I can imagine that it might have been even more divine with the star anise and the vanilla beans, there was no complaint about the substitutions from any of my tasters (including myself!). Thanks!

    • kate replied: — August 10th, 2010 2:18 pm

      Jody — Thanks for the update! Glad to hear that the extracts were a success!

  13. 13
    Babs — June 26, 2011 1:18 pm

    Ever try using Stevia instead of sugar? Found your blog (LOVE the pics!) looking for flourless cakes which led me to this amazing sounding sauce! I’m trying to get my family off sugar and flour but not off joy! Intend to try your cake and sauce with home-made ice cream….all with Stevia… Wish me luck!

    • kate replied: — June 26th, 2011 7:28 pm

      Babs — So glad you found my little corner of the Internet! Please let me know how the recipes work with Stevia. Make sure you try the Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Cake!

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