Let's Talk over Drinks
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.”
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.”