Let's Talk over Drinks
Employee Spotlight: Head Winemaker, Joanna Wilczoch
It feels a little odd to talk about someone who is alive for Women’s History Month, but that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re shining our spotlight on our head winemaker, Joanna Wilczoch, who is definitely making history in our cellar.
Joanna is a first-generation American, whose parents were born in Poland and immigrated to the U.S. in 1982. Before entering the wine industry, she worked in social services for several years. While working a part-time job in wine sales, Joanna fell in love with wine and wanted to get more involved.
She joined the Pedernales Cellars team in 2016 working in the vineyard. At the time she was taking winemaking classes at Texas Tech. That helped her transition into a role as an assistant winemaker where she really found her groove. Joanna’s winemaking skills and excellent palate helped her break through the glass ceiling in 2019 to become the head winemaker, working alongside executive winemaker, David Kuhlken.
That same year, she also interned at a winery in New Zealand to further hone her skills. She jokes that the real reason she chose to work in the Southern Hemisphere is so she could work two harvests in one year. In reality, she learned a lot to help her lead the wine-making team at Pedernales Cellars. Joanna tells us about that experience and what she is looking forward to in this Q&A.
Q: What did you learn while working in New Zealand that has helped you with winemaking at Pedernales Cellars?
A: I spent the spring harvest season in 2019 at the largest winery in New Zealand, Indevin. My goal was to experience how things are done in a different country and pick up skills to be a more well-rounded winemaker. While there, I primarily worked with Pinot Noir, which requires different processes than we use with the grapes at Pedernales Cellars. One of the biggest takeaways was getting comfortable with spontaneous fermentation and cold-soaking grapes. I learned to relax through the weird cycle of fermentation. I recognized that the grapes might get really funky at different points in the fermentation using those techniques, but they are just passing phases and have nothing to fear. I use that knowledge at our winery to accept the various phases of fermentation in service of the greater good of making a better wine at the end of the cycle.
Q: We source the best grapes possible from talented growers in Texas. What grape varietals are new to the program in 2023?
A: This year we have contracted Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Nogalero Estate Vineyard in the Texas High Plains. I’m excited to work with this vineyard to get fantastic Bordeaux varieties. The vineyard is in the process of transitioning to organic growing. It is part of the strategy to combat the over-spray and drift problems of dicamba. We rely on growers who are committed to producing the highest quality fruit possible. Nogalero Estate Vineyard is growing sustainably and organically, and they do a fantastic job of managing the vineyard to keep yields low. For example, they maintain the leaf canopy well to allow the later maturing Cabernet grapes to fully ripen. The result is really high-quality grapes.
Q: What qualities do you look for in partnering with growers and how do you maintain relationships with them?
A: We start our search using the dating site, GrapeConnect.com. We swipe right on growers who are willing to have heart-to-heart conversations about our shared long-term goals during long walks down the vineyard rows. We want growers who aren’t afraid of commitment.
But seriously, we like working with growers who are willing to learn and grow along with us. We’re fortunate to have several long-term contracts with grape growers who are focused on the quality of the crop and not quantity. We value relationships based on shared commitments and strive to be good partners as well.
On the light-hearted side of that partnership, we bring gifts of wine that we make with their grapes. We bottle early trials of the wine to give them a sneak peek at wine made with different versions of fermentation so they have an idea of what their grapes can do. We separate various blocks from their vineyards so they can taste the difference in their growing approaches. These kinds of trials help them perfect their grape-growing craft, and it goes a long way in showing them how committed we are to their success.
Q: What are you excited about for this growing season?
A: I’m really excited about our continued work with Desert Willow Vineyard in Seminole, Texas. They continue to expand their plantings and acreage under vine in an immaculately maintained vineyard. They are in the process of transitioning all crops to be certified organic. Last year was the first year of organic practice on the vineyard, and all new plantings of varietals such as Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet are certified organic. In the 2023 harvest, we’ll get Alicante Bouschet, Grenache, and Syrah from the vineyard. They are planting Carignan and Petite Sirah specifically for us for future vintages.
Q: Which wines are you excited about releasing this year?
A: We’re releasing our 2021 red wines and our 2022 white wines this year. Working with wines from both growing seasons at the same time is an excellent illustration of the differences in vintages. The 2021 growing year was cooler and a bit challenging with the fruit. The cooler conditions resulted in lighter-bodied, less tannic, and fruitier wines than we produced in 2020. It’s really fun to compare the two different vintages side by side and see how the weather had an impact on the finished wine. The 2022 growing season was hotter and dryer, resulting in more concentrated fruit. We had good yields and the heat and drought reduced disease pressure. The 2022 vintage is outstanding, with balanced wines showing excellent fruit intensity and supple tannin.
Some of the wines that I’m looking forward to releasing are the 2022 Teroldego, which will be a much larger release of a single varietal than we typically make, and the Canted County Reserva Tempranillo 2020 which will be released in the fall. This wine is already phenomenal. I recommend buying a few extra bottles of it and holding on to some of them to compare it to the 2020 Gran Reserva Tempranillo that we will release in three years. We just bottled the Gran Reserva this month and it will require three years of bottle aging. It’s the same wine, but with an additional year in the barrel, and more time in the bottle. It tastes awesome. I’m excited about tasting these two wines side-by-side and think it will be really fun for everyone to see what a difference a year in the barrel can make!
Pedernales Cellars Incorporates Sustainable Practices
Sustainability is more than just a buzzword at Pedernales Cellars. Our team members, including our winemaker and co-owner David Kuhlken, winemaker Joanna Wilczoch, Vineyard Manager Evan McKibben, and I have long discussed the best ways to make our wines and run our winery in the most sustainable way. We appreciate that valuing resources means implementing measures to protect them, both now in in the long run.
Winemaking is labor-intensive. To be a sustainable business, we must take care of our team. Winemaking is agriculture. Being good stewards of the land is essential to our long-term viability. Winemaking requires the use of natural resources. We are leveraging a variety of tools to minimize our impact on the environment.
Here we share our most recent sustainability statement, to provide some insights on what we are already doing and what we are committed to doing in our business practices to continue moving toward more sustainability.
Pedernales Cellars Sustainability Statement
We are focused on growing and operating our business prioritizing the economic, community, and environmental principles of sustainability across all departments and activities.
Employment and Community
- Fair wages
- Professional development and education support
- Family support such as paid maternity and paternity leave
- Health insurance for full-time staff
- Leadership in trade associations
- Donations and support to organizations in local and winegrowing community
- Minimization and elimination of synthetic herbicides and pesticides in operation
- Natural grass cover for soil preservation
- Supply organic waste material to local farms for reuse
- Organic compost program for the estate vineyard
- 100% recycling for on-site recyclable materials
- Reduce non-recyclable waste material, including minimizing consumer packaging waste
- Use 100% Texas fruit supporting local growers
Energy and Water
- 26 tons of Geothermal cooling for production operation
- Rainwater collection to support operational water usage
- Underground barrel cellar for natural temperature and humidity control
- 25% On-site Energy Production
- 50% On-site Rainwater/Grey-water Sourcing
- Eliminate all synthetic herbicides and foliar pesticides
We are constantly evaluating our winemaking and business practices in order to maintain and improve our standards of sustainability wherever possible. We take care to learn how our business practices will have the most positive impact to avoid the depletion of natural resources and build up our community and land.
We love to discuss sustainability! Ask about it next time you visit our winery. You may book a tasting online or stop by during business hours to buy a bottle to enjoy on the lawn. Becoming a Wine Club Member is another wonderful way to show your support and enjoy great wines!
Valentine’s Gift Guide: Expressing Love Languages with Wine
Giving gifts for Valentine’s Day has become a traditional way to celebrate our love. People have different ways of expressing and receiving love. We get that. To make things easier for you, here are some Valentine’s gift ideas that fit with the five “love languages.”
Spend “Quality Time” with 2021 Sparkling Vermentino
If your Valentine’s love language is quality time, they feel the most adored when you want to spend time with them. Our newly released Sparkling Vermentino is a fantastic choice to enjoy while hanging out with your partner. Bubbly conversations will flow while you sip this wine. While away the hours savoring the aromas of brioche, lemons, white flowers, and pineapple. Our Sparkling Vermentino is dry with flavors of peach and pear, with a hint of crushed rock minerality in the finish. Pair it with fresh oysters to lengthen your quality time together.
Perform “Acts of Services” with 2021 Over the Moon Rosé
If your partner’s love language is acts of service, they love it when you go out of your way to make their life easier. It's things like bringing them a lovely glass of rosé that will bring them happiness. Our Over the Moon Rosé is always a good choice for Valentine’s Day because it is inspired by my parents’ love story. Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken met while working for NASA on the Apollo 11 mission and have been together ever since. You can be over the moon in love with this softer style of rosé with delicate aromas and flavors of peach, apricot, pear and rose petals. The palate matches the nose of this medium-bodied wine, with a creamy texture and long finish.
Give the “Gift” of 2017 Malbec
This seems like a pretty straightforward love language to cover in a Valentine’s Day gift guide. People whose love language is receiving gifts like to be given something that is both physical and meaningful. Our 2017 Malbec fits the bill beautifully. It’s juicy and soft with lovely black cherry, blackberry cobbler, and kirsch notes with hints of cocoa, graphite, and coffee. Consider gifting three bottles so you can enjoy one for Valentine’s Day dinner, one next weekend, and one for the cellar.
Indulge in “Physical Touch” with 2013 Kuhlken-Österberg
Cozy cuddling, holding hands, nuzzling, and kissing are ways people who express their love language with physical touch love language feel loved and appreciated. Physical touch can be incredibly nurturing. Snuggle time calls for a special wine. Cuddle up with the second vintage of our allocated KO wine made with estate-grown fruit. The 2013 KO is a gorgeous wine with aromas of ripe strawberry, raspberry jam, black cherries and hints of spice, along with mouth-filling red fruit flavors complemented by black pepper and a long finish. Only 83 cases of this wine were made and we have a very limited number of bottles left.
Express “Words of Affirmation” with Texas Ruby
People whose love language is words of affirmation value verbal acknowledgments of affection, including frequent "I love you's." This Valentine’s Day, share plenty of compliments, and words of appreciation such as, “I love you so much when you pour me a glass of Pedernales Cellars Texas Ruby.” Or, “Your kisses are as sweet as a sip of Texas Ruby.” You can’t go wrong with pairing a glass of our Texas Ruby and your sweetie for dessert.
Enjoy Valentine's Day with Us!
Join us on Sunday, February 12th to taste each of these five Love Language wines at our Valentine's Pairing. We are excited to celebrate love and friendship by combining our passion for exceptional wine with the beautiful Pedernales views. We are hosting an elevated pairing experience with 100% Texas wines and decadent pairings. Afterward we invite you to purchase wine by the bottle and join us out on the lawn to enjoy the view!
- 2021 Sparkling Vermentino
- 2021 Over The Moon Rosé paired with White Chocolate Strawberry
- 2017 Malbec paired with Aged White Cheddar
- 2013 Kuhlken-Österberg paired with Candied Bacon with Smoked Gouda
- Texas Ruby Port paired with Dark Chocolate Mousse
Limited seating will be available. Book your reservations online.
We’re glad to be a part of your Valentine’s Day celebration.
Pedernales Cellars Last Minute Gift Recommendations
If you are like me, you have put off a significant portion of your holiday shopping until this week. You might call me a procrastinator. I mean, I didn’t even get a birthmark until I was 10.
Here are four great last-minute gift recommendations for the people on your holiday list.
2019 Vintner’s Reserve for Your Favorite Aunt
She shared nuggets of wisdom, bought you ice cream before dinner, and was the kind of confidant that only a relative can be. Your favorite aunt deserves a special gift. We created our 2019 Vintner's Reserve as a nontraditional red blend that stands out within our lineup. Our winemakers carefully selected the very best lots of Carignan, Tannat, and Mourvèdre grapes from our most trusted growers to make a wine that is both elegant today, and that will develop luxuriously over time.
This aromatic wine will impress your favorite aunt with lots of black fruit, blueberries, plum, bramble, earth and cola on the nose. Vintner’s Reserve is a medium-bodied wine with firm tannins with a hint of spice. It is a perfect bottle to share over laughs and knowing glances and it also pairs well with pork dishes, mushroom risotto, and roasted vegetables.
2017 Gran Reserva for Your Friend the Wine Snob
We all have a friend who knows an awful lot about wine. No ordinary bottle will do for this person, so why not give them a special bottle of 2017 Gran Reserva. Following the wine classification system of Rioja, Spain, we made our first Gran Reserva-style wine. This Tempranillo is from an exceptional that spent two years in new American oak and aged for three more years in the bottle before release. The Tempranillo grapes in this wine were sourced from our Kuhlken Estate vineyard in the Texas Hill Country and Lahey Vineyards in the Texas High Plains. Your gift to your wine snob friend is a rarity and a bit of living history. Sadly, the Tempranillo vines in Kuhlken Vineyards no longer exist, but the estate vineyard has been replanted and will soon be producing new Tempranillo fruit.
Our 2017 Gran Reserva will satisfy the most discerning Rioja lover with its rich notes of dried red currants, aged leather, eucalyptus, and bramble. It is a lighter-bodied wine with fine tannins and lively acidity, which makes it an excellent accompaniment to cheeses, roast pork, and lamb.
2018 Cuvee 1853 for the Historian
Cuvee 1853 commemorates the first year our Kuhlken family ancestors migrated to Texas. Cuvee 1853 is a new blend to Pedernales Cellars. Celebrating family history calls for a beautiful blend that will impress those who appreciate the art of the perfect food and wine pairing. Historians who enjoy the complexities of intertwined timelines will appreciate the complexity of the 2018 Cuvee 1853 made with intertwined grapes.
The 2018 Cuvee 1853 has a solid core of Carignan — which is one of our favorite Rhone red grapes — blended with Syrah (possibly Carignan’s soulmate) and an added smidge of Cabernet Sauvignon for body. This wine unfolds like a memoir of the joys of black cherries and blackberries, bramble, spice, coffee, and a stony minerality. It is medium-bodied with savory leather, cedar notes, and a cocoa finish that lasts for ages. Serve it while wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches.
Texas Ruby for Your Teacher
Teaching is one of the most essential professions in our society. From kindergarten to grad school, the people who dedicate themselves to instilling knowledge in our youth are invaluable. Our Texas Ruby with its richness, age-worthiness, and sweetness is a suitable gift for the person who is responsible for important aspects of your child’s learning.
Our Texas Ruby port-style dessert wine is inspired by the iconic fortified wines of Portugal. The grapes for it are grown in our family Kuhlken Vineyard in the Hill Country. We grow Portuguese grape varietals in Block 2 of the vineyard which makes the base wine. Our family vineyard, in its 27th year of growing, has been the source for many of our past award-winning wines and continues to produce some of the best fruit in the state. This wine is best served with sweet stories of classroom excellence.
The Pedernales Cellars Estate Tasting Room is open through December 23rd at 3:00 pm for last-minute holiday shopping, and we reopen for normal hours on December 26 for all of your New Year’s Eve needs. We’re located in Stonewall, Texas, a short drive from Austin, Fredericksburg, Kerrville, and San Antonio. Treat yourself to a glass of wine while you pick up bottles or cases of wine to fill Santa’s sleigh.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.