Here's a list of the items that I regularly use for my wine and cider activities.
Lalvin's EC-1118 yeast is an energetic champagne yeast that ferments fast, and produces a very dry, higher-alcohol wine or cider in fairly short order. This yeast works very well for sparkling ciders; once your cider is through primary fermentation, add more sugar to backsweeten and prime for carbonation. Once you've tasted naturally-carbonated cider versus the force-carbonated products that many commercial outfits use, you'll never go back! If you're looking for something different, serve sparkling cider made with this yeast, with pork roast and late-season vegetables.
Lalvin KIV-1116 is my favorite for fruit wines. It's supposed to really shine with white wines; I've only used it with grape wine, but very much like the results: a sweet, slightly-tart wine with flavor that lingers a bit on your tongue after you drink.
Essential Equipment and Bottles
You need bottles to store your wine or cider prior to drinking it. I prefer glass to plastic because glass lasts longer as long as you take care of it, and the pressure of carbonation won't affect it as it will plastic. I have a case or so of these 16-ounce "growler" style bottles that I use for everything. The benefit of the growlers over a standard corked bottle lies in the swing-top: ease of motion - you just close it - and both the stopper and the gasket can be replaced. They're a good investment. With 16 ounces, you'll have enough for 2 or 3 modest glasses of wine at a time.
You'll need a primary fermenter when you make the wine or cider. I have large, food-grade plastic pails that I use for this purpose like the 6.5 gallon primary fermenter pictured at the left, and I also have a 6 gallon glass carboy. Either will do well for you. If you're on a budget, check out my article on making your own DIY Fermentation Bucket with food-grade plastic buckets from a local bakery or restaurant.
You'll also need fermentation locks so outside yeasts won't get into your fermentation and affect the flavor. You can fill them with water to create the barrier; some folks will also use vodka or grain alcohol. If some of it happens to leak into the wine... it'll just raise your ABV (alcohol by volume).
One piece of equipment that is handy but not essential is a hydrometer (make sure you get a test jar along with it!). A hydrometer helps you calculate (well, estimate) the final alcohol content of your wine or cider. A triple-scale hydrometer gives you different measurement bases to work with. Where these come in very handy is when you're wanting either a specific alcohol percentage, or are controlling the sweetness of the wine or cider before the yeast has consumed all the sugar. In any case, if you're on a budget, put this lower on your list for later. You can make perfectly good wine and cider without one.
You can clean your bottles with a brush, but why not have a little fun on the way? This bottle washer will fit on your kitchen faucet or utility sink faucet - you may need an adapter, depending on the make of your faucet - and provide a water jet that's great for cleaning both smaller bottles and your larger vessels such as buckets and carboys.