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Pedernales Cellars


Our Team

Pedernales Cellars is a family owned and operated winery.  The sixth generation Texas family feels a deep connection to the landscape and values of the area.  The team that makes up the staff of Pedernales Cellars collectively has decades of experience of the wine industry in Texas. If you wish to join our team, please contact us at   

David Kuhlken

David Kuhlken is co-founder, President, and Winemaker of Pedernales Cellars. He is a sixth generation Texan and graduate of Rice University and the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas.  He studied oenology and viticulture at the University of California at Davis. His involvement in the Texas wine industry goes back to the early 1990s, when he and his family first planted the vineyard carrying his family name, Kuhlken Vineyards. Follow Dave on Instagram at @winemakerdave. 

Julie Kuhlken, PhD, WSET III

Julie Kuhlken is co-founder and CEO of Pedernales Cellars. A graduate of Stanford University, Julie received a doctorate in Philosophy and has taught at universities in Europe and North America. She holds the WSET III certification, which she received with distinction, and has served in various leadership positions in the Texas wine industry and local community.  She is a regularly published author, passionate about wine, art, and philanthropy – those loves have come together in Pedernales Cellars’ partnership with the Hill Country Film Festival. Follow Dr. Julie on Instagram @drjuliekuhlken and her wine reviews @winesbydrjulie. Check out her recent interview about what its like to own Pedernales Cellars.

Heather Kuhlken

Heather Kuhlken, co-founder, helped oversee the interior design of the tasting room, and plays a key role in developing our sustainability programs. As a freelance photographer, she produced the photography found in our tasting room. Her background is in teaching and ecology, and currently runs Families in Nature.

Joanna Wilczoch

Joanna Wilczoch serves as the Winemaker at Pedernales Cellars. Her passion for wine developed through years of travel, cooking, and also while working wine sales part-time during her nonprofit career. In 2016, after completing her first Sommelier Certification, Joanna decided to make the move to wine full-time and joined the vineyard team at Kuhlken Vineyards. While going through the Texas Tech Enology and Viticulture Program she advanced through different positions at the winery finally taking over the Winemaking program as of 2019. In addition to working here in Texas, Joanna also has worked harvest in New Zealand. She is active in the Sommelier community and holds a WSET III certification. With her experience and training, Joanna brings to the table both a science-minded and international perspective on Winemaking. Her goal is to create balanced wines that highlight the grape variety without overshadowing their sense of place and time.

Cathy Martell

Cathy Martell, Direct to Consumer Manager, is a graduate of The University of Wisconsin - La Crosse (but got to Texas as soon as she could). After graduating, she worked as Camp Director at Y.O. Ranch Adventures in Mountain Home, Texas.  She further built her leadership and hospitality skills over the following eight years as General Manager of the Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge, where she oversaw an upscale resort, two restaurants (one casual, one fine dining), as well as day visitors to this beautiful island off the coast of mainland Alaska. She joined the Pedernales team in January 2021, bringing with her a wealth of mangerial and logistical experience.

Evan McKibben

Evan McKibben has extensive experience in the Texas wine industry, having worked in the vineyard and cellar since 2003.  He got his start in his family's winery, and has since moved on to manage vineyards for several prominent wineries in the Texas Hill Country.  He joined the Pedernales Cellars team in the fall of 2020, and is currently overseeing the extensive replanting of Kuhlken Vineyards that will take place through 2022.

Melanie Carter

A Texas native, Melanie Carter moved to Fredericksburg 11 years ago and we are fortunate that she has spent the last 9 with us growing in her career. She has a versatile background in guest service and hospitality; ranging from business development to running her own peach stand. Mel joined the Pedernales Team in 2013 as a part-time associate and through the years has moved to Assistant Tasting Room Manager and now our Wine Club Coordinator. Mel has an extreme eye for detail and true passion for Texas Hospitality.

Ashley Gunckel

Ashley Gunckel moved to Texas from Colorado in 2016 and immediately joined the Pedernales Team. She started as a Tasting Room Associate and quickly moved up to Team Lead and now Events Coordinator. During her time with us, Ashley has put in time learning various aspects of the business including working in the vineyard, production and filling in for wine club. She has a true enthusiasm for creating memorable experiences for guests.

Deidre Smit

Deidre Smit, Assistant Tasting Room and Marketing Manager comes to us with extensive experience in the wine industry of her home country of South Africa. Deidre or “Dre” as the team lovingly refers to her, has worked with premier South African wineries over the past 10 years. She graduated from the University of the Free State in South Africa, where she received her Integrated Marketing Communications degree and obtained her wine certification from the Cape Wine Academy. Deidre brings a vibrant energy and cultured take to the Texas wine industry with a specialized focus on world-class hospitality and wine.