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Pedernales Cellars

Let's Talk over Drinks


David Kuhlken
November 18, 2022 | David Kuhlken

Our Favorite Celebrity Wine & Thanksgiving Dinner Pairings

Have you ever played the game of, “which celebrity, alive or dead, would you invite to Thanksgiving Dinner?” The Kuhlken family likes to play it every year, but with a twist. We play, “Which celebrity would you invite to Thanksgiving Dinner, and what wine would they drink?” I’ll share a few of our favorite celebrity Thanksgiving food and wine pairings so you can drink and eat like a star.

Freddie Mercury and the Queen of Wines

Our first invited Thanksgiving dinner guest is none other than Freddie Mercury the flamboyant lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. There are many reasons why Mr. Mercury is at the top of our guest list, and one significant reason is that he learned many of his most iconic dance moves from me. Seriously. That hip shimmy in the “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” video? He totally got that from me. Another reason why Freddie always has a seat at our Thanksgiving table is his love for Viognier, aka the “Queen of Wines.”

“I first learned about Viognier from the extraordinary British wine writer, Jancis Robinson, who called Viognier ‘the hedonist's white grape variety,’” said Freddie Mercury. “Now that is something I can get behind. I can’t get enough of the rich honeysuckle, ripe peaches, and musk of the Pedernales Cellars 2021 Viognier Reserve. When I celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S., it is always on the table. When I am in the UK, I drink it straight from the bottle.”

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Still Over the Moon 

There is no greater or more enduring love than that shared by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. While we have said that we named our Over the Moon Rosé for my parents, Larry and Jeanie Kuhlken who met at NASA during the Apollo 11 mission, the real story is that we named it for lovebirds, Pitt and Jolie who first sanctified their love under a full Harvest Moon on Thanksgiving night while sipping rosé wine served to them by Jennifer Aniston. 

“We consider rosé wine to be a symbol of deep and abiding love, and it has an ever-present place on our dining table,” says Angelina Jolie. “Yes, of course, we own a Château in Côte d'Azur France where we produce a lovely Côtes-de-Provence rosé*. For special occasions, like Thanksgiving dinner, we choose an extraordinary wine, 2021 Over the Moon Rosé. Its delicate stone fruit flavors pair incredibly well with anything from fresh herb stuffing, to Waldorf salad, to sweet potato casserole.”

* No Russian oligarchs were harmed in making this farcical statement.

Stephen Hawking Geeks Out on the Signature Series 

Astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, always begs for an invitation to our Thanksgiving dinners. See, that NASA connection comes in handy after all. Julie, who has a Ph.D. in Philosophy, loves to get into esoteric debates with Mr. Hawking that go completely over most of our heads, but they seem to enjoy it. What really seals the deal for a seat at the table is his fascination with every detail that goes into making our Signature Series wines. Stephen loves reading the back label to know the pH, the TA, the soils, and anything he can get his mind around.

“I love wine made with black grapes as much as I love black holes,” says Stephen Hawking. “The 2018 Kuhlken Vineyards Touriga Nacional has exceptional gravity and is a big bang on the palate. Its floral and mineral aromatics along with the fresh berry and red cherry flavors make it a singular selection to pair with roast duck for Thanksgiving.”

George Clooney Prefers Valhalla

George Clooney and his brilliant wife Amal have deep connections with the Kuhlken family and Pedernales Cellars. Rumor has it that the eighteenth-century palatial villa on Lake Como in Italy with 25 rooms was designed as an exact replica of the Pedernales Cellars tasting room in Stonewall, Texas. Whether that’s true or not, we are absolutely certain that our good friend George has a brilliant wine palate. While he definitely loves to drink local and avidly stocks his massive wine cellar with loads of wine made in the Lombardy region of north-central Italy, he sometimes ventures to other wine regions. For example, he openly eschews Nebbiolo wine from northern Italy, in favor of a red blend made in the U.S. with Italian grape varieties to pair with his Thanksgiving. George let us in on his secret.

“The way I ensure we have a remarkable Thanksgiving Dinner is to choose a wine that will go with a wide variety of flavors. Italian-style red wine is the right pick. For me, the supremely best choice is Pedernales Cellars 2018 Valhalla. You can’t go wrong with a backbone of Dolcetto for its brambly berries, a healthy dose of Sangiovese for unabashedly tart cherry, and a dollop of Teroldego bringing silky pomegranate flavors that absolutely sing with a turkey. This is the wine any warrior wants on his way to Valhalla, well, or for Thanksgiving.”

When you can, drink wine with celebrities. When you can’t, drink wine like a celebrity. We wish you a Thanksgiving holiday full of gratitude and a table full of star-studded Pedernales Cellars wine

Time Posted: Nov 18, 2022 at 2:05 PM Permalink to Our Favorite Celebrity Wine & Thanksgiving Dinner Pairings Permalink
Julie Kuhlken
October 11, 2022 | Julie Kuhlken

Meet Ashley Gunckel, Event Coordinator

You have probably seen Ashley Gunckel around the winery. Her broad smile and happy-to-help demeanor have been a fixture at Pedernales Cellars for more than five years. She is an integral part of our team, and she is a living embodiment of our culture of making it easy for people to enjoy wine.

Ashley has helped the winery in several roles. She was first a tasting room associate, was promoted to team lead, and was recently promoted to Event Coordinator. This job is an absolutely great fit for her energy and talents.

How It Started

Ashley hasn’t always worked in the wine world. Before joining our team at Pedernales Cellars, she worked as a vet tech, groomed animals, and assisted with customer service at her mom’s veterinary clinic in Colorado.

Wanderlust and a yearning for a change of scenery led her to Texas. Soon after settling in Hye, Texas, she found out about a job opening at Pedernales Cellars. She was immediately thrilled by the possibility of working at a winery.

“After the interview, I didn’t even make it out of the driveway before they called and offered me the job,” says Ashley. “We just clicked. I love working with people, and my friendly, outgoing personality was a good fit for the team at Pedernales.”

There was a bit of a learning curve for Ashley when she started the job.

She recalls, “On my first day working on my own in the tasting room as an associate, someone purchased a bottle of wine at the end of their tasting. I was shy and a little bit nervous during the whole tasting. When I pulled the bottle out to serve it to them, it slipped out of my hands and shattered on the floor. I was mortified. Thankfully everyone started laughing, and my manager was very understanding.”

How It's Going

“I don’t think I’ll ever leave the wine industry,” says Ashley. “I’m glad I get to work at a place where I genuinely love every wine we make. The vibe is great. The people are great. There are so many really interesting and smart people here. We love to hang out after work too. That is the best part about work here.”

Ashley’s love for people extends beyond her work family. She loves working with our guests and gets a rush from her role planning events that our members like to attend. One key to her success is that she avidly attends events as well and gleans the best of what she experiences at concerts, hosted dinners, and other winery events to add to her library of ideas for incredible events at Pedernales Cellars.

“I like to bring the best of what I experience to my job,” she says. “I want people to have a great time. I have met people from all over the world and get to hear their stories. It is satisfying to plan and execute events that entertain these fascinating people, and they also walk away learning something. Education is core to everything we do in the tasting room and our events. We want people to continually learn new and interesting things about wine to help deepen their appreciation and love for it. At the same time, we want to make sure people have a lot of fun. For wine club events, we want to express our gratitude for our members and make them feel special.”

Ashley doesn’t go it alone. She has a knack for open communication and teamwork. She gathers input and builds consensus to make sure the team is involved in a great outcome. She values the opinions of tasting room associates who are meeting with customers every day and uses that input to make sure our events are as fun and engaging as possible.

That collaborative approach made it easy for her to make the transition from being a tasting room associate to being a manager of the same people that she used to work alongside.

“We have had a really, really good team of seasoned professionals. Our personal relationships and the supportive environment have made the transition easy and rewarding.”

What Keeps Her Going

The wine business — beyond what is inside the bottle — energizes Ashley. She is fascinated by the growing process in the vineyard, how wine is made, the chemistry behind it, and the art.

“One of the things I learned when I first started that was mind-blowing is that really good wine starts with really good grapes in the vineyard. No matter how good the winemaker is, you must have good fruit. It starts in the vines. I visit the vineyards as often as possible. I’ve helped with planting new vines, helped with harvest, and led tours of the vineyard. I get to cool continuously learn about the vineyard.”  

Ashley has always been interested in chemistry and science, going back to even before her days working at the vet clinic. To pursue that passion in the wine industry, she has assisted as a “cellar rat” to help make the wine. In so doing, she has been able to shadow our winemaker, Joanna Wilczoch, in the lab and learn about all of the aspects that go into the wine.

Ashley’s Favorite Wines

“The wine at Pedernales Cellars is exceptional. I love our rosé. I could literally drink our rosé all day. I am also a huge fan of our Tempranillo Reserve. Those are my two go-to wines. I exclusively drink Texas wine. There are a lot of great wines made in Texas, so when I’m not drinking our wine, it is from one of our neighbors.”

Want to drink like Ashley? You can order her favorite wines online or pick them up at the tasting room. Try our 2021 Over the Moon Rose and the 2019 Texas Tempranillo Reserve.

Join Ashley at Our Next Events

“I love introducing people to Texas wine and letting them experience how great it is. I want everyone to feel welcome at Pedernales Cellars events. Wine events aren’t always prim and proper. They can be super casual and fun. It's all about enjoying excellent wine, delicious food, and just enjoying the scene. You don’t have to be a serious wine expert to have a great time at our events. I can’t wait for people to come to our next few events.

Fall Feast Vintner’s Dinner is our most popular dinner of the year. It is held after hours on the patio hosted by an owner. Our featured chef prepares special dishes and presents each course paired with our wines. It is coming up on Saturday, October 29, starting at 5:00 PM.

The KO Wine Club Pick-Up Party will be held on Sunday, October 30. This is only for members who have joined this allocation club. It is definitely an elevated pairing experience, so dress up.

The Tempranillo Tasting Room Take-Over on Sunday, December 11 is going to be a blast. We will have an all-Tempranillo tasting flight with a vertical of older Tempranillos from the Library, in addition to our current release, the 2019 Reserve Tempranillo.

Our Winter 2022 Wine Club Pick-Up Party will be held on Sunday, December 4. The winter party is typically our most relaxed club event, and I look forward to it every year. It has a chill vibe and people come in a festive holiday mood. It is a great time to stock up for holiday parties.”

Time Posted: Oct 11, 2022 at 11:45 AM Permalink to Meet Ashley Gunckel, Event Coordinator Permalink
Melanie Rossignol Carter
September 21, 2022 | Melanie Rossignol Carter

Top 5 Reasons to Join the Pedernales Cellars Wine Club

I often hear people talking about the importance of “finding their tribe.” There are definitely benefits to belonging to a social group or a community of like-minded people. Many of us get a lot of benefits from that feeling of connectedness that comes with joining a group.

Fostering a community of wine lovers who want to learn more, enjoy excellent small-production wine, and know that they will have a lot of fun in the process is exactly what we aim to do with our Pedernales Cellars Wine Clubs. In addition to the importance of cultivating a community of wine lovers, we also want our wine club members to feel special with exclusive perks.

Here are the Top Five Reasons To join our wine club:

1.   First Access to All of Our Events  

Throughout the year we host not only exclusive wine club events but also fun and educational events that are open to the public. Our wine club members always get first dibs on tickets for all of our events. Each of our wine club pick-up parties features exclusive experiences for our members such as:

  • Educational Seminars with our co-founder, Julie Kuhlken
  • Signature Series Wine Tastings with our winemakers, David Kuhlken and Joanna Wilczoch
  • The first tastes of our newly released wines
  • Delicious food pairings with newly released wines

Our Fall Wine Club Pick-Up Party is happening this Sunday, September 25. Our Winter Wine Club Pick-Up Party will be held on December 4, 2022, on the gorgeous grounds of the winery in Stonewall, Texas.  

Of course, our club members were the first invited to attend our Fall Feast Vintner's Dinner which is coming up on Saturday, October 29, 2022.

“I’ve been a member here for years. The wine is phenomenal, and the people are always, always so kind, knowledgeable, and thoughtful. I’ll never give up my membership. Pedernales Cellars is world-class wine and service. The Texas Hill-country view can’t be beaten either!”— Mary Longloy

2.   Access to Library Released Wines

Pedernales Cellars offers a unique wine experience by releasing older vintages of our most-prized wines from our library exclusively to our wine club members. These Library Wines that we have carefully aged in our temperature and humidity-controlled cellar over the years exist in extremely limited quantities typically with only one or two cases still available. Once we notify our members, our Library Wines typically sell out immediately. Library Wine orders can be picked up at the winery or shipped to your home.

“The wines are great, but the staff are why we are still members.” — Cass and Carolyn Moore

3.   Complimentary Wine Tastings

What is better than a glass of amazing wine? A free glass of amazing wine. Our wine club members receive a complimentary tasting or glass of wine with each visit to our tasting room. Enjoy!

“Always good wine, informative friendly staff and I love the laid-back vibe of the vineyard.”— Eva Vega

4.   Savings on Wine, Merchandise & Events

Not only do our members get our best pricing of at least 20% off on every purchase of wine and merchandise, but we also offer discounts on our fantastic events like our Retrospective Viognier Tasting. We are hosting a retrospective tasting of our 100% Texas Viogniers with vintages ranging from 2015-2021 paired with cheeses. Join us on Sunday, October 2, 2022, from 11 am-1 pm for a guided retrospective tasting led by co-owner Dr. Julie Kulhlken.

“Always a pleasure visiting. The staff is very personal, makes you feel right at home.” — Heather Simons

5.   Access to Member-Exclusive Wines

This Autumn, our wine club members are getting first access and exclusive wine club wines including:

  • 2021 Viognier Reserve — We are excited to have this wine back again after not making a 2020 vintage. It is definitely one of our most sought-after wines, and the 2021 vintage is one not to miss. This wine has lots of tropical notes such as candied pineapple and kiwi, as well as golden delicious apple, pear, and hints of brioche. Wine Club Members get first access.
  • 2019 Tempranillo Reserve — Our Tempranillo Reserve is always one of our most popular wines and annually gathers high praise at wine competitions. The 2019 vintage is one of the last blends to have our estate fruit in it before replanting the Kuhlken Estate Vineyards. It has lovely notes of chocolate-covered cherries, leather, black currants, cedar, black pepper and bramble, clove, and cigar. Wine Club Members get first access.
  • 2018 Block Zero — This is the fourth and last vintage of this wine made with grapes grown in the front portion of Kuhlken Estate Vineyards planted by the Kuhlkens in 1995. It shares some similarities with Pinot Noir with notes of cherry cola, cherry kirsch, and new leather. It is fruit on the palate with menthol, cola, and green peppercorn with bright acidity. Available exclusively to wine club members.
  • 2019 Carignan — This is the second time that we have released a varietal Carignan. However, first time was as a Nouveau-style wine within the Signature Series. This release is a larger bottling with cherries, strawberries, tomato leaf, hibiscus, and dried herbs are present on the nose. This wine is light-bodied, soft and juicy on the palate. Available exclusively to wine club members.
  • Signature Series 2018 Farmhouse Petite Sirah — This single vineyard wine showcases what Petit Sirah can be on its own. The bouquet of this wine is rich with notes of ripe blackberries, blueberries, violets, white pepper, and bramble. On the palate rich dark fruit dominates with a velvety mouthfeel and luscious tannins. Available exclusively to wine club members.

Ready to Join?

We offer three different levels of club membership to suit your needs.

  • Our Hilltop Club lets you stay on top of all of the wine club-exclusive wines at Pedernales Cellars with quarterly shipments of 3 bottles chosen by our winemaker.
  • The Vista Club gives you a broader vista on Pedernales Cellars wines, with quarterly shipments of 6 bottles chosen by our winemaker.
  • Join the Panorama Club if you want to drink in the full panorama of what we do at Pedernales Cellars, with quarterly shipments of a customized case of 12 bottles selected by you. In addition, our Panorama Club members receive 25% savings on wines.

Each quarter your wines will be available for pickup at our club events or they can be delivered straight to your doorstep.

We are looking forward to welcoming you to our tribe

Time Posted: Sep 21, 2022 at 12:00 PM Permalink to Top 5 Reasons to Join the Pedernales Cellars Wine Club Permalink
Evan McKibben
September 19, 2022 | Evan McKibben

The Impact of the Drought on the 2022 Harvest

One thing defines this year’s grape growing season: drought. Sure, year-in and year-out we have weather challenges with viticulture in Texas, but this year the lack of rain was the most significant factor impacting our vineyards.

Let me put this in perspective. In a normal year, we get about 32 inches of rain on our Kuhlken Estate Vineyard just north of Fredericksburg, Texas. This year by the end of July, we only had 3.5 inches of rain. The rains never came. The driest year I’ve ever farmed.

The drought and extensive heat were really hard on the vineyards in the Texas Hill Country. The lack of rain began impacting the vines during the winter, causing a delay in bud break this Spring. Budbreak came about two to three weeks later than usual, which is the latest I’ve seen in 17 years of farming.

Kuhlken Estate Vineyard is in a phase of rebuilding. We have replanted significant portions of the property over the past two years with almost 6,000 new vines in 2021 and close to 7,000 more this year. The drought made it hard on the young vines. We had to irrigate with well water almost non-stop to keep them alive. We were in survival mode. The one-year-old vines had better root structures and were more drought tolerant, but the newly planted vines needed a lot of water. We were watering in 12-hour stretches across 14 zones for 11 weeks straight.

Despite the late bud break, we had an early harvest in the Hill Country and in the High Plains. The intense heat spurred the grapes to ripen quickly pushing up the sugar levels. We are three to four weeks ahead of our typical harvest dates. In 2019 we harvested in mid-October, but this year we were done by the end of August. We usually have a lull between completing the harvest in the Hill Country and starting our work in the High Plains. Not this year. We were bringing in grapes from both AVAs at the same time, which required more planning and logistics to bring in the grapes and process them in the cellar. It was a fast-paced harvest.

Small Lots in the Hill Country and High Plains

We did not harvest grapes from the Kuhlken Estate Vineyards this year with the acreage all replanted in the past two years. Our Petite Sirah started producing second-year fruit, but we cut it to allow the vines to continue to mature for future vintages. We expect to get more than a ton of grapes from that block next year, and 3 to 5 tons an acre in a couple more years.

We manage Loyal Valley Vineyards near Fredericksburg, and we picked a beautiful crop there this year. The Mourvèdre looks excellent with larger, high-quality clusters. I can’t wait to taste this vintage when it is ready in a few years. The Cabernet vines produced a pretty light crop with small, tight clusters. I’m confident it will make stellar wine.

Our team worked closely with our grower partners in the High Plains. David Kuhlken, as always, was our field general in the vineyards directing our work. I made decisions on the ground about when to pick grapes in each block that we manage in the High Plains. Fortunately, we had excellent crops from the blocks managed by our long-term growers at the Bingham Family Vineyards and Reddy Vineyards. The Viognier, Graciano, and Tempranillo all look fantastic. We got excellent Roussanne and Tempranillo from Lahey and other vineyards. We also picked a beautiful lot of Mourvèdre and gorgeous Grenache for rosé from Desert Willow Vineyards near Seminole, Texas and look forward to these wines.

And Then the Rains Came

We were very lucky that we were able to pick all of our fruit before the rains came in late August and early September. There has been seven inches of rain since we harvested. It looks like Spring at Kuhlken Estate Vineyards now with all of the rain. We have wildflowers now. It is a blessing to have this rain, as we still have two months of growing season for our baby vines. This will give the vines a nice long rest before they need to begin producing next year. We will guard against winter damage by watering and applying Zinc.

Small But Excellent 2022 Vintage

While we had high-quality fruit from our vineyards, the crop yield tonnage was down across the board for all vineyards that we work with. We had smaller clusters, and smaller berries on the vines, resulting in lower weight of the crop per acre. Where we typically have harvested four 4 tons per acre, we picked two tons this year. A huge benefit from smaller berries is that we get more skin with each lot, which leads to greater structure, color and more phenolics in the wine. The wine will be awesome in this vintage, but we will just make less of it.

Even though the overall quality of the grapes is excellent, we have some challenges. Much of the fruit came in with high pH, and low acidity. High pH is difficult because if the juice isn’t handled with care, it allows for bacteria to get into the wine. With the compressed harvest schedule and fruit coming in from both regions at the same time, it was a tricky year for winemakers, and our winemaking team was certainly up for the challenge. 

While we wait for the 2022 vintage to be ready, we get to enjoy the wines made from the beautiful harvests of 2018 through 2021. Open a bottle with your friends and family and raise a toast to another successful harvest. 

Time Posted: Sep 19, 2022 at 11:45 AM Permalink to The Impact of the Drought on the 2022 Harvest Permalink
Julie Kuhlken
May 27, 2022 | Julie Kuhlken

Plan a Perfect Weekend in the Texas Hill Country

We love the Texas Hill Country. There’s a reason we built our winery where we did—views for days! Driving through the Texas Hill Country, one can feel their shoulders relaxing, their jaws unclenching, and the stress just melting away.

Summer is a busy travel season, and we know many of you will be visiting our neck of the woods soon. We welcome you to swing by! Whether visiting the Texas Hill Country for the first or fiftieth time, we want to give you a few ideas to make the most of your visit.

Our Pedernales Cellars winery and tasting room in Stonewall, Texas is a perfect place to start or end your Hill Country adventure. Our property is nestled in the heart of the Texas wine country, on 145 acres of oak-shaded land, with unparalleled views of the beautiful Pedernales River Valley. Enjoy a tasting experience of select wines guided by our knowledgeable staff, and then take in the scenery on our spacious patio or expansive lawn with wine by the glass, or by the bottle. We feature live music by local artists each Saturday. We welcome leashed pets on the patio or the lawn while you enjoy our wine.  We are open seven days a week and encourage reservations to enjoy a tasting at the tasting room bar.

Places to Stay

Rose Hill Retreat: This charming bed and breakfast just happens to be our next-door neighbor. It’s very convenient to check into your suite or cottage at Rose Hill and then meander over our way for a wine tasting. Or you can pick up a bottle to enjoy later in your room.

Stonewall Motor Lodge: This funky retro motel down the road from us was built in 1964, and the recent remodel and update harkens back to that era stylistically while providing all the modern amenities for its guests. Rent a room or a private cabin or dock your RV in one of their RV slots.

Blue Skies Retro Resort: If you love the idea of staying in a retro trailer, this is where you want to be. Lodging at the resort is at one of several updated retro trailers, and they have a pool on the property. Winding down at the pool with a bottle of Pedernales Cellars wine is a perfect end to a summer day in the Texas Hill Country.

Local Attractions

Driving tour of the LBJ Ranch at LBJ Ranch National Park: Right now the Texas White House is closed for touring, but you can still drive through the ranch and see the house and LBJ’s boyhood home from the outside. It’s a fun way to spend an hour or two.

Stonewall and Fredericksburg peaches: You can expect to see German culture and wineries year-round in the area, but summer is special because our famous peaches are in season! Enjoy a tour of a peach orchard and buy a bag of peaches.

You can pick your own peaches at Jehnske Orchards in Fredericksburg. Vogel Orchards, Gold Orchards, and Burg’s Corner are great places to visit in Stonewall. Any of these places are fun to visit and are great places to buy peaches. Look out at these spots and around the Fredericksburg town square for the ever-popular peach soft serve ice cream—it’s a refreshing way to cool down on a hot summer day.

Pedernales Falls State Park: This is a glorious spot, especially for anyone who loves hiking, mountain biking, and swimming in a true natural setting. The Pedernales River is in the middle of the park and reached by a hike along a steep and rocky trail about a quarter of a mile in. There are also fun spots for geocaching if you are into that. Always check the website for trail closures and other safety info.

Shopping in Fredericksburg: Hit up Main Street or the Warehouse District for boutique stores to find Texas treasures to take home with you. Invest in some comfy cowboy boots or grab some Texas-made gourmet items like BBQ sauce, chocolate, and olive oil. You can also find plenty of kitschy items that make fun gifts for those back home or make a nice memento of your trip there.

Places to Eat

Hye Market Bistro & Deli: This local favorite up the road in Hye is a super popular spot, open for lunch only. They source as much local and in-season food as possible, so expect the menu to change. They are encouraging online ordering during the busy season.

Bryan’s on 290: Open for dinner only, Bryan’s on 290 is for when you want to get dressed up and enjoy an elegant night out. Bryan’s is in Johnson City, which is also nearby on “Wine Road” 290. Chef Bryan Gillenwater has made a name for himself with his live-fire specialties. They also host wine-paired dinners from time to time.

Ottos’ Grill: With Fredericksburg’s German history and the abundance of local farms in the Texas Hill Country area, this farm-to-table German restaurant makes a lot of sense. They are open for dinner and Sunday brunch. The menu changes but is sure to offer the best local ingredients and German recipes.

Cabernet Grill: Another high-end option in Fredericksburg is this classy restaurant boasting the largest selection of Texas wines, so be sure to ask for pairing recommendations. Chef Ross Burtwell brings style and flair to his Hill Country fare. Make sure to save room for dessert here, as they are sublime.

Martini’s Seafood House: This Fredericksburg spot is for when you have a craving for delicious seafood. The Spicy Lobster Roll is recommended. They also have a selection of raw oysters, crab cakes, and a seafood tower for sharing.

Pedernales Cellars: Of course, we think you should fit a wine course in every day! We have a lovely cheese and charcuterie board to snack on with your wine. It will tide you over until dinnertime.

We do hope to see you at our winery soon. There’s nothing quite as serene as watching the sunset in the big Texas sky over the Texas Hill Country! We often find ourselves catching our breath when we watch it from our property.




Time Posted: May 27, 2022 at 12:00 AM Permalink to Plan a Perfect Weekend in the Texas Hill Country Permalink
Evan McKibben
April 26, 2022 | Evan McKibben

Spring Means Rebirth and Hard Work in the Vineyards

During the winter, when the vines are dormant, we spend time pruning the vines to ensure the vines have the right balance between the number of shoots and the number of buds, which eventually produce grape clusters. Thankfully we escaped serious winter freezes this year, so there was no damage to the vines as there was last year with “Snowmageddon.”

Pedernales Cellars Bud Break

Now that Spring is in full swing, the vines in Kuhlken Vineyards have sprung back to life. We started to see bud break on some vines, like our grenache, in mid-March. By early April, many of our vines were pushing leaves and shoots with the fresh, vibrant green colors invigorating the landscape.  

Pedernales Cellars Kuhlken Vineyards

We are currently revitalizing the whole vineyard at the Kuhlken Ranch. Last year we planted almost 6,000 new vines. This season we are training those baby vines into trunks with two-buds. We just started planting close to 7,000 more vines, which will help us to be close to filling our 12-acre site. Let me tell you, planting 7,000 vines requires quite a lot of drilling and digging soil. This year we are planting several of our preferred varietals including Graciano, Tinta Amarela, Tempranillo, Alicante Bouschet, and Teroldego.

Pedernales Cellars Kuhlken Vineyards

At the Mercy of Mother Nature

Our growing season this year will be impacted by the extreme drought at Kuhlken Ranch. Until this week, our last rain was on November 24, 2021. Thankfully we had a good downpour this week, but it hasn’t erased the drought. I’ve been irrigating a lot to give those baby vines a drink. Irrigation is necessary because of the early development stage our vines are in. Young vines do not have the root structure of a mature plant and the roots can dry out very quickly. We’ve had to reprioritize a lot of our work this Spring to fix our drip tubing to make sure each vine is getting the water it needs.

The drought has also affected our bud break this year. I have never seen such a late occurrence as this year with our buds breaking about 3 weeks later than in a typical year. The later bud break could also move our harvest schedule from August to well into September. The summer weather will dictate our harvest dates.

Pedernales Cellars Kuhlken Vineyards

Loyal Valley Vineyards

We are very excited to add Loyal Valley Vineyards near Fredericksburg, Texas to our farming schedule and vineyard management. We kicked off our pruning season at Loyal Valley in February and have been managing the early stages of growth now in Spring. Loyal Valley Vineyards has 1.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.5 acres of Mourvèdre, and 2 small blocks of Tempranillo and Tannat. The vineyard is close to 12 years old and has some nice mature vines. We are expecting to harvest six to nine tons of high-quality fruit from Loyal Valley Vineyards this year.

After we finish planting we will focus on vine training at Kuhlken Vineyards and canopy management at Loyal Valley. I’m really looking forward to getting our new vines trained and bringing in some exceptional fruit from Loyal Valley.


Time Posted: Apr 26, 2022 at 3:00 PM Permalink to Spring Means Rebirth and Hard Work in the Vineyards Permalink
Joanna Wilczoch
March 28, 2022 | Joanna Wilczoch

Introducing Singular Excellence with Single Vineyard Tempranillo

We love blending to create finished wines. That is where our winemaking team really shows off their talent. Pedernales Cellars typically release seven to ten red blends each vintage, such as our Rhône-style GSM Mélange and our Family Reserve. Even many of our varietal wines involve blending. In our Texas High Plains Tempranillo, we blend in grapes such as Mourvèdre and Syrah, and in our Texas Tempranillo Reserve, Touriga Nacional, and Graciano.

We have something new up our sleeves for the current vintage. We are bottling five single-vineyard Tempranillos that showcase the expressiveness of the fruit from specific locations. The crazy growing conditions and scarcity of fruit from some of our vineyards in 2020 had a silver lining. The reality that we had very little quantities of some of the grapes that we normally blend, such as Graciano, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, led us to pursue new sources of grapes to make wines with 100 percent Tempranillo. We had the opportunity to secure incredibly high-quality Tempranillo from various growers around the state that were new to us, such as Tab Daniel, Canted County, and Pepper Jack. We’re incredibly excited to share the results with you.

This year we will bottle five vineyard-designated Tempranillos, in addition to our Texas Tempranillo and the Reserve Tempranillo.   

2020 Daniel Vineyard Tempranillo

We were fortunate to connect with Tab Daniel, a vineyard owner whose young site lies within the Lubbock city limits. While it is located in the Texas High Plains, it bears little resemblance to the large vineyards in the area as it is surrounded by a suburban community rather than cotton fields. The well-managed five acres of meticulously maintained vines produced intense Tempranillo fruit. We cold soaked the grapes for an extended period, which helps bring out a darker, more robust color and boosts the flavor and tannin. The result is a wine with floral notes, dark fruit, and big juicy fruit flavors, as well as firm tannin structure. It was aged in neutral American oak barrels. We just bottled this wine, and it will be released in 2023.

2021 Daniel Vineyard Joven Tempranillo

During a recent trip to the Rioja wine region of Spain, I was inspired by tasting incredible Joven, or “young” wine at a Michelin Star restaurant that was incredibly refreshing with my meal. The fruity wine was much like Beaujolais meets Tempranillo. Our new Daniel Vineyard Joven Tempranillo started off with a very similar profile to a Joven Rioja and emulates that exquisite wine that I enjoyed in Spain, so we decided to release it as a young wine with minimal aging in neutral American oak barrels. It is bounding with fruit flavors and has great structure, even without a lot of oak tannin. Tempranillo bottle-ages well, so it will be fun to see how this wine, spending a short time in the barrel, will age in the bottle. 

2020 Lahey Vineyards Tempranillo

We have long sourced fruit from Lahey Vineyards in Brownfield, Texas to blend into our Texas High Plains Tempranillo as well as use as a single vineyard Graciano for our Signature Series. It is the largest vineyard in Texas and is an important partner for Pedernales Cellars. However, this is the first time we have released it as a single vineyard Tempranillo. We chose to blend in a smidge of Alicante Bouschet, Cinsault, and Graciano all from Lahey Vineyards. We’re really happy we did. The nose on this wine is incredible, followed by rich black fruit flavors and plenty of tannin, making it optimal for aging. The wine was aged in second and third use American oak barrels, giving it a touch of oak influence.

2020 Canted County Vineyards Tempranillo Reserva

My trip to Spain also influenced how we are making this beautiful Tempranillo with grapes grown in the Canted County Vineyards located in Lomesa, Texas. We are following the Spanish rules for a Reserva Tempranillo, which requires the wine to be aged for a minimum of three years with at least one year in casks. We harvested two different clones of Tempranillo at high brix (grape sugar content), leading to a bold wine. It has a big, jammy nose with rich flavors of black cherry, concentrated red cherry, cocoa, and vanilla, with a complex finish and a bit of smoke. It was aged in a combination of new and second-use American oak barrels.

2020 Canted County Vineyards Tempranillo Gran Reserva

In our continued homage to the Spanish traditions of Tempranillo aging, we are creating a Gran Reserva with Canted County fruit which requires the wine have spent at least two years in oak casks and three years in the bottle. The tannin in this wine is firm and expressive. At bottling, we chose to hold back some of this wine to re-barrel it and further age it in French oak barrels, where it will rest until Fall 2022. We will then bottle it in Winter 2023 and will release it in Fall of 2025. The fruit flavors are so big on this wine that we expect the flavor to still be fresh, but with mellower tannins. It will be super fun to taste this side-by-side with the Reserva, so don’t forget to cellar a couple bottles of it to open when we release the Gran Reserva.

Taste the Terroir

It has been exciting to create these wines that express a sense of place from each of these distinctly different vineyard sites. Marrying the Spanish traditions of aging Tempranillo with vineyard-specific Texas terroir is bringing new styles to our Tempranillo family. We just started bottling these wines in March 2022 and we can’t wait for you to taste them as we begin releasing them later this year and into 2025.  

Time Posted: Mar 28, 2022 at 11:30 AM Permalink to Introducing Singular Excellence with Single Vineyard Tempranillo Permalink
Joanna Wilczoch
January 20, 2022 | Joanna Wilczoch

Why in the Heck do We Age Wine in a Barrel?

What’s the big deal with barrel-aging wine? Winemakers age wine in barrels for numerous reasons. Some reasons are practical, while others border on mystical. Here are some thoughts on the barrel aging process and how it’s important in making our Pedernales Cellars wines.

Pedernales Cellars Barrel Program

Our barrel program at Pedernales Cellars is ever-evolving, based on our experience and the varietals we are working with any given season. Sure, you could throw any old wine into any old barrel and call it a day, but we have been keenly focused on making the best oak selections for each variety and vineyard. The types of barrels we keep in our rotation for barrel aging make a difference in the way the wine tastes. And that’s why it matters at the end of the day.

Practical vs. Mystical Reasons  

The practical reason for barrel aging is that barrels are generally a safe place to store large amounts of wine over time. As long as the barrels are clean, we feel confident that the wine isn’t going to be overly exposed to oxygen or spoilage organisms. As a result, we don’t need to pay a lot of ongoing attention to the barreled wine. We check our barrels once every eight weeks or so. Tanks, on the other hand, need to be monitored a little more regularly to ensure they are tightly sealed or that the headspace is gassed. We check our tanks weekly, at a minimum.

The mystical reasons for barrel aging involve a lot of confusing chemistry and language that even I can’t understand half the time. But the gist is that a number of chemical reactions occur during the aging process. Proteins, tannins, acids, and other compounds react amongst themselves, each other, and with oxygen to alter the structure of the wine. OK, maybe we can call it science rather than mysticism.

One of the most important and obvious effects of barrel aging is the “softening” of a wine. Tannins — the naturally occurring compounds that exist in grape skins, seeds, and stems that give wines their characteristic dryness or astringency — polymerize during aging. This means they are forming longer chains and structures that help in smoothing the texture of the wine and making it more pleasant to drink. At least we hope it becomes more pleasing to the palate after being aged in the right barrel for the right amount of time.

The Effects of Barrel Coopering 

Aside from structural changes, different barrels contribute different aromatics and flavor compounds to a wine. American oak is famous for contributing vanilla, coconut, and even dill, while French oak has a more subtle effect and can help boost the fruit profile of wine (generally speaking) while also contributing dark chocolate, and roasted coffee bean flavors. Aside from the origin of the wood, the importance of coopering cannot be understated. Coopering, or the barrel-making process, includes the toasting and seasoning of the barrels where we will age the wine. This process is critical and varies by cooperage or barrel-making company.

A French oak barrel made with wood grown in Allier by one cooper may have a completely different effect on the same wine as an Allier French oak barrel from another cooper. This is why we frequently experiment with different barrels and cooperages as well as types of oak and barrel sizes.

American oak can be sourced from Pennsylvania, Missouri, Minnesota. These American oak barrels can be toasted with fire or convection. They can be toasted lightly, medium, medium-plus, or heavy. The coopers may accomplish these toasts quickly or slow and low. The barrel heads may or may not be toasted. You get the idea. here’s a nearly endless number of combinations. Each barrel is unique.

Experience: The Best Teacher

The factors above are why it is incredibly helpful to have experience working with specific vineyards and varietals over time. It allows us to plan, as much as possible, for what type of barrel might be best matched with what variety. While one vineyard’s Tempranillo might be perfectly ready after 12 months in neutral oak, another block might be better served with 18 months in new French Oak. Winemakers learn through regularly tasting their wines and tracking changes.

Progress can be slow in winemaking. After all, we only have one time a year to experiment on each block, so it’s important to make the most of it and take good notes throughout the process. Ideally, our experience and knowledge of the effects of barrel aging on the specific varieties and blocks we are working with help us perfect the wines.

Your Homework Assignment

Open two different wines side by side and evaluate the flavors. Roll it around in your mouth and see if you can taste subtle differences in the types of flavors that barrel aging can impart. Our 2018 Texas Tempranillo Reserve is aged for 18 months French and American oak. Do you pick up coconut notes? How about chocolate? Compare that to our 2018 Texas Mourvèdre that is aged in stainless steel rather than oak barrels. Do you taste a difference? Not all science is boring. 

Time Posted: Jan 20, 2022 at 10:30 AM Permalink to Why in the Heck do We Age Wine in a Barrel? Permalink
Julie Kuhlken
December 1, 2021 | Julie Kuhlken

Making Truly Fine Wine in Texas

What is Fine Wine?

In a recent article, New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov describes the definition of “fine wine,” which he prefers to refer to as “great wine.” As he puts it, “Greatness has classically been associated with wines that showed complexity and nuance, that were able to age and evolve over many years, that touched the emotions, inspired contemplation, and provoked discussion.” That sounds like the kind of wine that I want to drink.

What is Texas Fine Wine?

Some of the major wine-producing regions of the world have a long head-start on producing wine over Texas. The French, Germans, Italians, and Spaniards have had centuries of experience to achieve greatness in winemaking. The post-prohibition wine industry in Texas got started less than 50 years ago.

It is perfectly understandable that people would have doubts that such a young wine region would be able to produce fine wine. To dispel those misgivings, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) funded marketing for the wine industry in the 2000s featuring programs such as the “Texas Two Sip” where Texas wines were tasted blind along with fine wines from around the world, such as a Texas Sangiovese vs. an Italian Chianti Classico of the same vintage.

One such Texas Two Sip tasting was held in 2009 at the TEXSOM Conference, a premier educational event for sommeliers and wine professionals. This is a tough audience of wine experts. Most had never tasted Texas wine. It was very eye-opening for attendees because, during the blind tasting, many could not always distinguish the Texas wine from its international counterpart.

Unfortunately, the Texas Legislature cut TDA funding for the wine industry in 2011, and with that, all the marketing for our industry came to a halt.

Not deterred by this setback, wine PR professional Denise Clarke organized several wineries to host a hospitality suite to showcase Texas wines at TEXSOM in 2012. We jumped at the opportunity to pour our wines alongside McPherson Cellars, Brennan Vineyards, and Duchman Family Winery to ensure that wine professionals from around the world had an opportunity to taste fine wines from Texas while they were visiting our home state. The suite was hugely popular, and again, wine professionals were excited to try Texas wines!

The tasting at TEXSOM in 2012 was eye-opening because we could immediately see the support that we had from the Somm community. They know how great Texas wine can be and want to see it shine.

After that successful TEXSOM event, we decided that Pedernales Cellars would take the lead in creating a group of like-minded wineries to continue marketing our great wines. We knew we were making fine wine, but there was a lot of work to be done to get people to know it. Without the support of the state to provide marketing funds for a broader Texas wine marketing program, such as those in wine regions in New York, Washington, and Oregon, we needed to self-fund a program. Fortunately, a core group of wineries, all of whom have stellar reputations for their wines, guest service, wine clubs, and special events, were eager to participate.

In 2014 Texas Fine Wine was born.

The original members included Pedernales Cellars, Duchman Family, Brennan Vineyards, and Bending Branch Winery. Spicewood Vineyards joined in 2016. In 2021 Brennan Vineyards left the group to accommodate Pat and Trellise Brennan's retirement plans.  Sadly, Pat Brennan died this Fall, and the Texas Fine Wine wineries honored him with a donation to TWGGA.

Today Texas Fine Wine is still a privately funded marketing initiative representing four of Texas’ most distinguished wineries: Bending Branch Winery, Duchman Family Winery, Pedernales Cellars, and Spicewood Vineyards. Our goal is to show the world that our wineries are producing benchmark wines from Texas grapes. Or to put it in Mr. Asimov’s terms, we are creating wines of greatness with complexity, that evolve with age, are touched by our passion, inspire contemplation, and show a definitive sense of place. I am confident that I am always pouring great wines when I serve wines from these wineries, and this is true vintage after vintage.

Great wine is made by great people. The folks involved with Texas Fine Wine are some of my favorite peeps in the Texas wine business. They are dedicated, smart, and funny.

We know we are achieving that goal not only by winning accolades at the most prestigious national and international wine competitions but also by winning the praise of discerning wine consumers like you.

Get Your Texas Fine Wine

Texas Fine Wine is offering a special four-bottle 2021 Holiday Pack of wines that will pair great with your holiday table and is a terrific gift. The pack includes these exceptional wines:

  • Pedernales Cellars 2018 Tempranillo Reserve — Blend of Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional and Graciano with notes of black currant, black cherry, and vanilla
  • Duchman Family Winery 2020 Roussanne, Oswald Vineyard — 100% Roussanne with notes of ripe pear, lime, stone fruit, and minerality
  • Spicewood Vineyards 2018 The Independence — A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with notes of black plum, black cherries, and dark chocolate
  • Bending Branch Winery 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Newsom Vineyards — 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of black cherry cola, baking spices, clove, and vanilla

Orders placed by December 8 will arrive in time for Christmas.

Time Posted: Dec 1, 2021 at 2:15 PM Permalink to Making Truly Fine Wine in Texas Permalink
Joanna Wilczoch
November 19, 2021 | Joanna Wilczoch

The Magic of Blending

Most of us are accustomed to buying wine made in the U.S. by the name of the grape such as Merlot, Tempranillo, and Viognier. However, wine made in other major wine regions, such as Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley of France label their wine by region rather than by grape variety. These wines are made with a blend of several varieties of grapes with complementary characteristics to create wine whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

At Pedernales Cellars we make wine in both ways: with single varietal wines, as well as wines that are a blend of several grapes. Generally, all of our white wines are made with one grape varietal except the Lyla. We make seven to ten red blends each vintage such as our Rhône-style GSM Mélange. There are advantages to making wine in both ways. However, blending wine is where a winemaker can really show off their artistry.

Pedernales Cellars has an extensive program to determine which lots of grapes are blended to make our final wines. We taste through each wine lot countless times and at regular intervals throughout the year while the wine is aging. Each time we taste we take detailed notes of each wine's strengths and weaknesses, aromatics, structure, and aging potential. By the time we are ready to begin blending, these records help guide the process

The 2020 growing season had challenges, and we harvested less fruit or no fruit from many of our long-time vineyard partners. To augment that reduction, we secured fruit from several new vineyards, which has become an exciting opportunity to experiment with blending (or not) wines with different qualities than “usual.”.  We’ve been getting Teroldego from Narra Vineyards for the last couple of years, but also received some Teroldego from Pepper Jack Vineyards in 2020. This vineyard is 40 miles further north of Narra, and while both lots share the same rich black fruit, opaque color, and velvety tannins, the Pepper Jack Teroldego has a distinct minerality to it. We are excited to share both with our guests and look forward to hearing their reactions to these lovely and unique wines.

Sometimes we blend grapes that complement each other to make a complex wine. Other times we make a blend to highlight a specific grape.

Better Together Blends

One of our blends that we make each vintage, the GSM Mélange, is going to be awesome for the 2020 vintage. It is equal parts Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre this year. We’ve had stellar Syrah the past few years, and it is marrying beautifully with the Grenache and Mourvèdre from the High Plains. We also harvested some great Montepulciano from a new-to-us grower, that will be blended into our Valhalla.

Star of the Show Blends

An example of blending to highlight a specific grape is our Reserve Tempranillo. While Tempranillo is the main grape, we add in other grapes to accentuate various qualities. For example, the 2018 Tempranillo Reserve is comprised of 77% Tempranillo, 12% Touriga, and 11% Graciano. Touriga and Graciano help boost the structure and complexity of Tempranillo, without overpowering it.

The first wines to be blended are our “Reserve” wines – this ensures we have all our highest quality lots available to make these wines special The Reserve Tempranillo is started with our highest quality Tempranillo lot, and then we blend in traditional pieces to complement those grapes. We look for qualities for proper body, alcohol levels, and primary tastes that are characteristic of exceptional Tempranillo. We want medium to higher tannins, balanced medium to high acidity with acidity for a complex structure, as well as the rich cherry flavors that are characteristic of Tempranillo.

I’m excited about our 2020 vintage as we had several vineyards produce excellent fruit with intense flavors and structure. We have three additional grape varietals that are excellent blending components that increase the age-worthiness of the wine while making sure it is approachable to drink right away. We’ll blend Tempranillo grapes with Graciano, a traditional blending grape used in Rioja, Spain that adds beautiful aromatics, along with Cinsault for softness, and Alicante Bouschet to give the wine a deep, rich color. This year we chose to co-ferment the Alicante Bouschet with the Cinsault because the two had complementary chemistry that bring out the best in each other.

The actual percentage of each varietal used to make the final wine is selected to ensure that the wine tastes varietally correct with vibrant fruit flavors, proper complexity, and excellent structure with a balance of tannin, acid, and texture. We haven’t finalized the blend for our 2020 Tempranillo Reserve yet but will probably use three different lots of Tempranillo for approximately 75% of the wine with the remainder made up of Graciano, and the Alicante Bouschet / Cinsault blend. Over the course of two weeks, we will conduct at least five and up to ten blending trials with the winemaking team evaluating various ratios to determine the final blend.  We’re confident that it will be an outstanding wine.

While you are waiting for the 2020 wines to be available, you can satisfy your thirst with our 2018 Tempranillo Reserve. It’s a perfect wine to share during the holidays. Because it is food-friendly, and a stand-out wine, we have included it in the Texas Fine Wine 2021 Holiday Pack. Orders placed by December 8 will arrive in time for Christmas.

Time Posted: Nov 19, 2021 at 2:30 PM Permalink to The Magic of Blending Permalink