Let's Talk over Drinks
If ever there were a year to count our blessings and celebrate the little victories in life, 2020 is the one. This year’s trials and tribulations serve as a great reminder to recognize our friends and family with a gift to acknowledge how much we genuinely care for each other.
Finding the perfect gift can sometimes be perplexing. Pro tip: Wine works for nearly everyone on your list! May we suggest some Pedernales Cellars wine? Our wines come in numerous varieties and price points, are easy to order and have shipped (eliminating the need to go into a store), and taste crazy delicious. Problem solved!
Here are our gift suggestions for your friends and family:
Impress Them on a Budget — Pedernales Cellars High Plains Tempranillo
Giving an incredible gift doesn’t require you to break the bank. Our Pedernales Cellars High Plains Tempranillo is an excellent wine that’s sure to impress at a modest price. We make it with grapes grown in three prestigious vineyards in the Texas High Plains and lovingly age it for a year in American Oak. It has a deep ruby color with a classic bouquet of leather, cigar, cherry, blackberry, and cedar, with bright cherry flavor and earth notes. It’s a gift-worthy wine with medium tannins, balanced acidity, and a soft mouthfeel with lingering cocoa notes. It pairs really well with Prime Rib for Christmas dinner. Our High Plains Tempranillo would make old St. Nick proud.
Impress Your Boss — 2016 Family Reserve
For the difficult-to-impress people on your gift list, bust out our 2016 Family Reserve. This wine lets our winemakers’ artistry shine through by blending our favorite lots of the best fruit from some of our favorite growers. The Family Reserve has been one of our most beloved wines to make, as it lets us show off the finest aspects of each vintage using intentionally nontraditional blends of grapes. This vintage is led by Tempranillo and Malbec along with Petite Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, Merlot, and Sangiovese, giving the wine complex aromas of cherries, raspberries, black pepper, cocoa, anise, with floral notes. It is a medium-bodied wine with dried strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and black pepper, with hints of dried herbs and cocoa flavors. The recipient of this gift will be excited to enjoy this bottle today, or to age for years to come.
To Win the White Elephant — Glögg and Ginger Snaps
White Elephant gift exchanges are notorious for quirky presents. Adding our Stonewall Glögg, a Swedish-style mulled wine, brings something unique wine to the party that stands out from the gag gifts. This is Christmas in a bottle, complete with comforting baking spices like nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon. We love Glögg paired with Swedish spiced holiday cookies, so it’s a great idea to throw in a package of Ginger Snaps with your gift.
For the True Wine Lover — Pedernales Cellars Wine Club Membership
If you have a real wine lover on your gift list, consider giving them the gift that keeps on giving with a Pedernales Cellars Wine Club Membership. We offer three different club tiers, each providing members with quarterly shipments of our wines meticulously selected by our winemakers. Each club tier comes with additional perks that will continue to remind your gift recipient of how much they mean to you.
For the Bubbly Lover — Kyla Pét-Nat Rosé
A great gift for the sparkling wine fanatics in your life is the Pedernales Cellars Kyla (pronounced, “shoola”) Pétillant Naturel Rosé sparkling wine made with 100% estate-grown Tempranillo. This is an incredibly joyful wine any time of the year, and it adds pizzazz to the holidays. Its vibrant effervescence, cheery cherry and cranberry flavors, and gorgeous pink color make it a star to include under any Christmas tree. Kyla Pét-Nat Rosé is only available in the tasting room, not online. Please call the tasting room at (830) 644-2037 to reserve a bottle or case for curbside pickup.
For the Last-Minute Gift — Dreaming of a Wine Christmas Special
We all get busy during the holidays. To make things easier for you, we have created a one-stop-shop for a 3-Bottle Dreaming of a Wine Christmas Special. With a couple of clicks, send these three food-friendly wines to each of your friends. This special holiday bundle highlights the history of the Kuhlken family, who migrated to Texas in 1853, paving the way for sixth-generation Texans, Julie and David Kuhlken, to plant vines in the Hill Country in 1995. The Dreaming of a Wine Christmas Includes one bottle each:
- 2017 Cuvée 1853
- 2017 Newsom Vineyards North Block
- 2018 Texas Albariño
We wish you and your loved ones a joyous holiday season. We welcome you to explore our wines to come up with your own gift-giving ideas: /Wines. Cheers!
We’ve all heard ad-nauseum that 2020 has been a challenging year. Yes, it has. This year for safety reasons, many of us are avoiding large family or Friendsgiving gatherings. Without a big group, it might not make a whole lot of sense to roast an enormous turkey and make all of the traditional dishes. That certainly doesn’t mean we can’t have a festive meal paired with excellent wines.
Here are a few non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner and wine pairings for your consideration.
Pedernales Cellars 2018 Texas High Plains Viognier Reserve and Chinese Carryout
Of course, Viognier is a perfect pairing with traditional Thanksgiving turkey, but if you are skipping the big bird this year, you might try Chinese carryout. After all, many Chinese restaurants are open for the holiday. Our 2018 Viognier Reserve has the toasted oak notes from partial French Oak fermentation, complementing the caramel and brown sugar notes that naturally occur in that wine. The fragrant stone fruit and honeysuckle-like perfumes mingled with gorgeous vanilla, roasted pineapple, and lemongrass flavors, plus a balanced acidity make it a scrumptious pairing with Chinese food.
Chinese cooking often has sweetness balanced by mild bitterness and saltiness in dishes like chicken with gingery or citrusy syrups. The richness of flavors and velvety texture of Viognier is highly complementary to these flavors and contributes an exotic note to this non-traditional pairing.
Pedernales Cellars 2017 Texas GSM Melange and BBQ
If you want turkey for Thanksgiving without roasting your own, while not buy a pound or three from your favorite barbecue restaurant. Bold food calls for bold wine. Our 2017 GSM Melange, made with Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (oh, and we also include Carignan, Cinsault, and Petit Sirah), has the bright red fruit flavors, zippy acidity, and medium body that make it a delightful pairing with a wide range of BBQ favorites, including smoked turkey and brisket.
The 2017 GSM is medium to medium-plus in body with bright acidity and balanced tannins. This complex blend has both big berried fruity notes of juicy strawberry, red cherries, and blueberries along with floral, leather, cocoa, and smoky notes that absolutely go well with the smoky flavors and hint of sweetness of BBQ.
Pedernales Cellars 2017 Texas Tempranillo Reserve and Tex-Mex
Tex-Mex is a culinary staple in Texas, and many restaurateurs remain open on the holiday for carryout orders. Our 2017 Tempranillo Reserve, a full-flavored Rioja-esque wine, is an excellent pairing with the strong flavors of Tex-Mex cuisine. This Tempranillo has beautiful aromas of blackberry, black cherry, vanilla, and leather, and it is loaded with the jammy dark fruit flavors of black raspberry and cherry, along with cigar, cocoa, and vanilla. A small amount of Carignan grapes and aging in French Oak adds to the complexity of the wine.
A cold beer may seem like it is better suited to enjoy with Tex-Mex than wine. However, our Tempranillo Reserve is a very food-friendly wine. When pairing wine with this cuisine, focus the pairing on the most dominant flavor or sauce in the dish. If smoky, earthy chipotle, achiote, or pasilla chiles or grilled meats are dominating the flavors, then Tempranillo is the right match. The fruity flavors and soft tannins tame the spiciness a bit. Also, to make a better pairing, go easy on the hot sauce.
Pumpkin Pie and Glögg
You have to have pumpkin pie to complete Thanksgiving dinner. In the spirit of easiness during the pandemic, pick up a pre-made pie. Sweet foods pair best with sweet wines of equal or greater sweetness. Plus, who can resist ending a meal with a delicious dessert wine? Our Stonewall Glögg, a Swedish mulled wine, has flavors of baking spices like nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon, all of which are found in a pumpkin pie. This is a perfect way to complete your carryout Thanksgiving feast.
Have fun exploring ways to have a festive, non-traditional Thanksgiving feast. We hope these pairing ideas have inspired you. By all means, load up your shopping cart with our wines: /Wines.
Love them or hate them, you have to admit that Pumpkin Spice Lattes are the quintessential fall beverage. Its wild popularity is no doubt earned from the cozy, warm, traditional spice flavors that are uniquely tied to autumn.
Like the ubiquitous Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Pedernales Cellars Stonewall Glögg is incredibly appropriate for the season. The similarities don’t stop there. Our Glogg is also bursting with fun seasonal holiday flavors of baking spice like nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon. And it is also only available for a limited time.
While Glögg is traditionally served at Christmas, it has also become a tradition for us to release Glögg at the end of Texas Wine Month, leaving plenty of time to purchase it before the holiday rush. Let’s face it, there is no reason to wait for Christmas to crack a bottle or two. This year, we are releasing our Glögg online and at the Pedernales Cellars tasting room on October 31.
What the Heck is Glögg Wine?
Glögg is the Swedish version of mulled wine. The Romans got the ball rolling for mulled wine by warming their wines in the winter to ward off sickness. Then, Europeans began adding spices to support their immune systems during cold and flu season. In the late 1800’s, a Cognac-Glögg was introduced and became associated with the holidays. Clearly, Glögg had a huge head-start on pumpkin spice lattes.
I lived in Sweden for several years and developed an affinity for Swedish-style mulled wine over mulled wine from other countries like Glühwein from Germany. Glühwein is primarily spiced with cinnamon, but traditional Swedish-style Glögg is more complex with cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg in the mix.
We’ve been making Glögg at Pedernales Cellars since 2009, and we are proud to be one of the first to make a traditional style mulled wine from Texas. We made our Glögg with a base wine blend of Tempranillo, Malbec, and Merlot this year. We make it in a Port wine style, and like other fine Ports, our base wine for the Glögg doesn’t go through a complete fermentation. We stop the fermentation when the ideal sugar level is reached by adding a dose of brandy. This addition of spirits stops the fermentation by putting the wine yeasts to sleep, so they stop converting sugar to alcohol. The result is a sweeter wine with a slightly higher alcohol content.
We then infuse the wine with our proprietary blend of Swedish spices that gives the Glögg an incredibly complex aroma bursting with holiday scents you will love. The flavor is absolutely “Christmas in a bottle.”
How to prepare Glögg
We warm our Glögg in a slow cooker set on low. While warming the wine, add sugar (1/4 - 1/2 cup per bottle of wine) depending on your taste. We also add dark raisins and almond slivers for flavor. Ladle the wine into mugs and serve hot with toasted almonds and dark raisins to garnish, and add citrus if desired.
Glögg is excellent on its own as an apéritif or a dessert. It also pairs incredibly well with cinnamon buns or gingerbread.
Cooking with Glögg
While it’s fantastic as a drink with dessert, it is also wonderful to include as an ingredient with dessert. We are fortunate to have Chef Leo Aguirre (eatfbgtx.com) preparing a Mexican Chocolate Cake made with Stonewall Glögg to serve at our Fall Feast on October 31. Chef Leo chose the cake to pair with Glögg for our dessert course for the complimentary flavors of chocolate infused with cinnamon. To enhance the marriage of flavors, he will make a reduction sauce with the Glögg to drizzle onto the cake, garnished with cocoa dust and black cherries marinated in the wine.
Glögg is also a fun ingredient for home chefs to use for any course of your meal. Cheer up a holiday salad with Glögg vinaigrette. Sweeten the main course with a delightful demi-glace to serve on pork loin.
Don’t worry if you open a bottle for cooking and don’t finish it the same night. The slightly higher alcohol content from the brandy helps it stay fresh for up to a week or so.
Glöggfest at Pedernales Cellars
Our Annual Glöggfest is an excellent way for you to try our Glögg and experience its magic. Reserve a tasting for Saturday, December 5, between 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM at our estate tasting room to sample Glögg paired with Swedish spiced holiday cookies. It is a great accompaniment to your holiday festivities, and at $20 per bottle, it is also a great gift.
Like the Pumpkin Spice Latte, our Glögg will be gone before you know it. It typically sells out before holidays, as we only make a small amount. Get it while you can!
“We have a Glögg order with extra spice ready at the bar for Jooolie!”
Each October we celebrate two jewels of Texas agriculture with Texas Pecan and Texas Wine Months. For a unique opportunity to celebrate them together the Texas Pecan Board in collaboration with Texas Fine Wine will host a virtual pecan and wine tasting, led by sommelier and Texas culinary expert Jessica Dupuy and food historian Melissa Guerra on October 21, 2020, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
"Considering the history and culture behind Texas pecans and Texas wine, it’s only fitting that we bring the two together to celebrate their place in Texas cuisine,” said Dupuy. “This tasting will be a great way to look at the different grape varieties that are doing well in Texas and taste how wines from these varieties are complemented by Texas pecans."
We love pecans. We love wine. But are they a good pairing? We think they are fantastic together. Take an opportunity to taste for yourself. The virtual pecan and wine tasting, A Toast to Texas Pecans, will feature Texas pecan recipes and wine pairings to help wine and food enthusiasts get the most out of these authentically Texas products. The interactive session will make participants feel like they are in the room with Dupuy and Guerra as the two experts talk about what wine pairs with pecans and the rich history and ties each has with the state of Texas.
Thank you to all who have signed up to participate. To give you a head start on your preparations for the evening, we’re sharing our wine and pecan pairing and the recipe that will be featured in the virtual tasting.
Pedernales Cellars 2018 Texas Tempranillo and Texas Pecan Jalapeño Cheese Ball
Pedernales Cellars is well known for specializing in Spanish and Rhône-style wines, including our benchmark Tempranillo. Our 2018 Texas Tempranillo has classic Spanish flavors married with distinct Texas terroir. It is a vibrant, lighter-bodied Tempranillo with red cherry, dried herbs, cedar, and vanilla flavors. In Spain, Tempranillo wines are primarily served alongside grilled red meats and ham, but Tempranillo’s versatility makes it a handy pairing for a wide range of foods. Its bright red fruit characteristics make Tempranillo a sensational cheese pairing. Especially when herbaceous jalapeño and the buttery nuttiness of Texas pecans in this easy-to-make cheese ball.
Texas Pecan Jalapeño Cheese Ball
Y I E L D: 12, 2-ounce servings
I N G R E D I E N T S
- 1 pound cream cheese, softened
- 4 green onions, minced
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 ounce can diced jalapeños, drained
- Pinch salt
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup chopped Texas pecans
D I R ECT I O N S
- Place the softened cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Add the minced onions, parsley, garlic, jalapeños and salt. Using an electric hand blender, mix the ingredients until well blended, about 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the shredded cheese and mix for another 30 seconds until the cheeses are well combined.
- Place the chopped pecans in a glass pie dish. Using a rubber spatula, gather up the cheese mixture by scraping the sides of the bowl (Don’t forget any cheese that may have collected on the mixer beaters!) Form the cheese mixture into a ball with your hands. Roll the ball into the chopped pecans, coating the outside of the cheeseball thoroughly and evenly.
- Wrap the cheeseball in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. For best results, make one day in advance of serving. Garnish with fresh springs of parsley, whole pecans and a whole jalapeño as preferred.
We’re looking forward to tasting along with you on October 21. Our 2018 Texas Tempranillo is available in retail stores for your convenience. Happy Texas Wine Month!
By Nicholas Adcock, assistant winemaker, and Mike Conte, Cellar Hand
Harvest is an exhilarating time of year. It reminds me of getting geared up for playoffs when you play sports. You know it is going to be hard, but it's invigorating. David Kuhlken, who has been doing this for forever, still gets excited. It's almost like a mythical type event that happens once a year. Year-after-year, you know it is going to be a lot of work, but it is still exciting. We get pumped up for it.
We’re a small winemaking team at Pedernales Cellars with David, Joanna Wilczoch, the winemaker, Nick as assistant winemaker, Mike as cellar hand, and one intern, also named David. We of course must give the intern a nickname, so we don’t confuse him with David Kuhlken. Instead of calling the intern Big Dave, we call him Grande. Typically, the winemaking decisions are made by Joanna and David, and the work carried out by Nick and Mike. During harvest and crush, it is all hands on deck, and everyone shares roles.
This is my first harvest at Pedernales and seventh overall in the wine industry. It is also Mike’s first harvest at Pedernales and third overall. So, we both have some perspective on how this year is like other harvests, and how it is different.
How is This Year Like Any Harvest?
This year, the general process of harvest ran just like any other year. It goes more or less as you would imagine. Grapes picked in the vineyard and then delivered to the winery. The rhythm of picking early in the morning and processing the grapes at night is similar every year.
We get up early to pick grapes before the heat of the day sets in. It’s exhilarating to see the sunrise over our estate vineyard in the Texas Hill Country. We start harvesting earlier in the season in the Hill Country, and a couple of weeks later in the Texas High Plains. There is a crossover time when we are crushing fruit from the Hill Country midday, and then a second wave of High Plains fruit comes in on refrigerated trucks late in the evening. Some nights we end up sleeping in a hammock at the winery because we are working so late at night and need to get back to work first thing in the morning.
Once they arrive on the crush pad behind the winery, we destem the fruit, hand-sort it to remove leaves and bad grapes, lightly crush it and move it to a bin to let the grapes settle and cold soak. Once the grapes are in a bin, fermentation begins.
During fermentation in the bin, yeast produces carbon dioxide, which causes grape solids to rise creating what we call a “cap.” We monitor each bin to make sure the cap is punched down with a big metal tool about twice a day. This keeps the skin and solids in contact with the juice, which helps get the tannins and colors into the wine. It usually takes about a week for primary fermentation to be completed in the bin. After that, we press the fruit and the juice goes either into a tank or a barrel. This is where malolactic—or secondary—fermentation happens and aging begins.
How is This Year's Harvest Different?
What is different this year? We had smaller crops than usual because an early freeze in October 2019 caused significant damage to the vines at some of the biggest vineyards we work with. Not only did we have far fewer grapes, but we also had to source the grapes from many different vineyards. There are a lot of grape varietals, from more growers, and in smaller lots. Rather than processing 40 tons of grapes from 5 different lots, we crushed fewer tons from as many 37 individual lots. Takes just as much time to clean the equipment between each lot for 3 tons as it does for 40 tons.
The upside of this year’s harvest is that the quality of the grapes is really good. And because we didn’t receive a large volume of white grapes, we were able to do much more hands-on work with whole-cluster grapes. This lets us be much more meticulous in sorting the grapes to ensure only the highest quality fruit gets crushed.
The long hours and intense workload build bonds among the winery team. We all pitch in to do what it takes. The owners are extremely hands-on, which inspires us to work hard too. There’s a happy medium between working hard and having fun. We have a great time together and really enjoy each other’s company. There is an old saying that goes, “It takes a lot of beer to make great wine.” We can confirm that this is true.
One challenging and really satisfying thing we do during harvest time is to cook a lot. Instead of relaxing during our lunch break on a hectic day, we make elaborate meals for each other. It’s a great change of pace and a fun way to enjoy each other’s company. We’ve also done some silly stuff. We are in concept phase of designing a crush pad hot tub with bins and a pump. Because it's so hot in Texas, we actually want it to be a cold tub.
While we found ways to enjoy the long hours at work, our significant others didn’t enjoy it quite as much. It was Mike’s future wife’s first harvest, and it was a rude awakening for her to experience the hours that he’s working. It was my girlfriend’s first harvest too, and it has been a little frustrating for her to see my schedule be so crazy.
Now that harvest is behind us, and the wine is aging in tanks and barrels, it’s easy to look back on it with fond memories. Once we get to taste the 2020 vintage, which we expect to be outstanding, we’ll remember this year’s harvest with even more nostalgia.
We can’t wait for you to taste the fruits of our labor.
No one said being a farmer is easy. That is particularly true for those of us who enter the profession after starting our careers in other “fields.” We have learned a lot about growing grapes and vineyard management in the past 25 years since first planting our Kuhlken Vineyards.
Here are 25 things we have learned:
- People think having a vineyard is a very romantic idea.
- One never thinks one’s own vineyard is romantic in the least.
- A good vineyard manager is worth every penny you pay him/her.
- Never plant vines in the Texas Hill Country without first putting in the irrigation system — Yes, seriously, we had to learn this the hard way.
- Learn your vineyard site microclimate, soils, and topography, and what is likely to grow well there. In our case we learned the hard way rather than before planting our first vines. This meant pulling up Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and planting Mourvèdre and Sangiovese.
- Don’t grow something just because you like the grape. Only grow those grape varietals that are going to thrive in the Texas Hill Country.
- Do not plant in a freeze pocket, meaning leave unplanted the bottom of the slope where cold air will accumulate.
- It takes an army of people to hand-harvest a vineyard, so make lots of friends. Wine helps.
- Pruning in the Texas Hill Country means working outside in 35-degree weather, usually with a chilly wind and often a slow drizzle, for eight hours a day while doing hand crunches … for a week.
- One of the most beautiful places in the world is to be in a Texas Hill Country vineyard during wildflower season.
- A benefit of having a family-owned vineyard is that it creates a common purpose across generations and increases time family members spend together. This is especially valuable for the oldest and youngest generations (says the middle generation).
- Different grape varietals have noticeably different annual life cycles with great variation in the timing of when the vines bud out, to how quickly they develop their canopy, and to the sensitivity of the harvest date. It is essential to spend a lot of time walking the rows and observing the evolution of each varietal throughout the year.
- One develops a whole new appreciation for dirt. There can be vital differences in what’s below one’s feet over the space of just yards.
- Busting through caliche with a breaking bar in order to plant vines is like trying to rip through concrete with a child’s plastic spade.
- Once bud break has occurred in March, it is impossible to sleep any time the forecast shows temperatures dipping below 35 degrees.
- Once bud break has occurred in March, it is impossible to sleep any hail is in the forecast.
- Forget sleep during harvest and crush season. During a typical day, we start picking at 6 am and don’t finish crush until well after midnight.
- Sunrise over the vineyard on harvest day is magical.
- Always try to finish hand harvesting in the Texas Hill Country by 10 am before the heat really gets going.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Black widows like vineyards, so wear gloves when harvesting.
- Raccoons can devour what appear to be diarrhea-inducing amounts of grapes.
- One of the most vibrant displays of Autumn foliage in the Hill Country is in the vineyard.
- Lots of grape varieties thrive in the heat of the Texas Hill Country, including Mourvèdre, Grenache, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Amarela, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, and Albariño …
- … but the king of grapes in the Texas Hill Country, and in Texas in general, is Tempranillo.
After 25 years of learning in the vineyard, we have accomplished a lot. And we are certain that there is a lot more for us to learn.
We are celebrating the five-year anniversary of our Tasting Room Manager, Marissa Contreras, working at Pedernales Cellars. For many of our guests, Marissa is a familiar face at the winery, and we want to take this opportunity for you to get to know her a little better.
Marissa joined Pedernales Cellars in June 2015 as our Special Projects Manager. She excelled in her first project, the launch of our special release, allocated wines, Kuhlken-Osterberg. It was a fantastic way for her to become immersed in our winery culture, working closely with the owners, for such a momentous new wine introduction.
“It was awesome to plan the premier release of the K.O. wines, and the launch event,” remembers Marissa. “I had such a great beginning to my role at Pedernales Cellars. I shadowed team members the first two weeks, attended wine tastings and educational sessions, and met with vendors. It was an incredibly immersive experience and mind-blowing interesting. The wine industry seemed so romantic and such a great fit for me. I was hooked!”
Before joining the winery, Marissa had not worked in the wine industry. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, with a focus on racial and gender stereotypes. Following graduation, she worked with at-risk youth at a nonprofit in East Austin, and then worked as a retail manager at Walgreens for seven years. In that role, she discovered that she had a keen business sense.
During her time at Walgreens, she started attending wine dinners. Through these wine dinners, Marissa became reacquainted with an old friend who worked at Pedernales Cellars and operated a wine shop in San Antonio.
“The first time I stopped into her wine shop, I picked out my first wine, which happened to be a Texas wine,” says Marissa. “It was a Spicewood Vineyards Tempranillo, and I was really impressed. That experience made me super interested in exploring wine, and my palate expanded. I realized that I had a knack for tasting, which further sparked my curiosity. My passion for wine and my friendship with someone in the industry opened doors for me to have a broad exposure to wine. I knew I was ready for a new adventure at the same time that Pedernales Cellars was hiring for a new position. It was perfect timing, and my retail background with multi-tasking and a focus on customer service was a good fit.”
It was clear that Marissa was capable of handling big assignments. She took on the role of managing our wine club, where her customer relations experience helped her shine. At the time, the winery was growing rapidly, and we counted on her to ensure things ran smoothly. She assumed more responsibility for our direct-to-consumer manager role too, and eventually requested to take on more responsibility for marketing, working directly with me. Her passion and drive to help the winery is impressive.
Guest Education in the Tasting Room
Two years ago, we had an opening for Tasting Room Manager, and she immediately threw her hat into the ring for the role. It made terrific sense for her to be in that position. Not only did Marissa’s customer service background make it a great fit, but she also had a great relationship with the tasting room staff. It was where she needed to be.
“That was the start of a great journey to enhance the focus of our tasting room on wine education,” says Marissa. “Hospitality and customer service are essential, and it is paramount that we make customers feel fantastic when they visit. We’ve built a strong tasting room team that is dedicated to education and customer service.”
Wine can be a bit daunting when people are first getting interested in it. It’s almost like learning a new language. Because of that, the Pedernales Cellars team works hard to be knowledgeable about wine, so we can make it easier to understand for our guests. We have educational sessions for the staff to learn more about a wide variety of topics, such as grape growing and the specifics of grape varietals, regional influence on wines, vintage variation, and how to evaluate wine in blind tastings. Marissa inspires curiosity in the staff. She has pursued additional educational opportunities outside the winery with Guild Somm and TEXSOM, plus she has attained a level 2 certification with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. Marissa is excited to continue her wine studies to achieve WSET level III.
Marissa says, “I take delight in that it is all about teamwork. We are all dedicated to educating each other. It inspires me to push myself to keep learning. Our tasting room team learns a lot from our production team. We spend time in the cellar to understand the winemaking process and the direction that our winemakers, David and Joanna, have for our wines. Understanding how our wines are made really helps us relate our wines better to our customers and wine club members.”
She continues, “I find it inspiring and eye opening to see our production staff putting in such long hours during harvest. The day is not done until the work is done. When the grapes come in during the middle of the night, David and the team are there well past middle of the night even after being in the vineyards before dawn.”
Marissa’s experience at the winery has helped her sharpen her palate and deepen her appreciation for wine. Her favorite wine is the Pedernales Cellars Valhalla 2016. “I still have two bottles in my cellar. It is such a beautiful wine to pair with food. I’m drawn to Italian varietal wines, and think it is perfect served with a red sauce with homemade meatballs. The Valhalla is like a dream. I also love the Kuhlken Vineyard Reserve 2015. It is so unique. I love to have this with a very special meal like lamb chops and roasted vegetables. I love it so much.”
While the romance of wine initially drew Marissa to Pedernales Cellars, it is the unique experiences she has with our guests that inspire her. She is touched by the numerous marriage proposals that happen on our property. The sweeping Hill Country view draws people to propose to their loves on our property, and the delightful experience they have has led many couples to become wine club members. It’s that family-like connection with guests that fires her up.
“I will never take for granted that we are here for our members and our loyal customers,” says Marissa. “What we have to offer can add to the richness of their lives. The wines that they take home can lead to an incredible experience with their families or friends. I love seeing our wines travel the world with our customers. It is special to me that we can be a highlight of people’s vacation or can help them create a special moment at home.”
Crisp, aromatic, expressive of terroir – all those are qualities that Pedernales Cellars looks for in a quality white wine. At Pedernales we take pride in working with grape varietals that are not only expressive of terroir, but also bring other unique qualities to the palate too. With that philosophy in mind, we proudly debut the 2017 Texas High Plains Albariño. Winemaker Joanna Wilczoch answers a few questions about the latest release and what makes it a stand-out in our portfolio.
What are your favorite qualities of Albariño?
I appreciate the lean, racy style of Albariño. What does that mean? We picked the grapes at a lower brix (a measure of the sugar level in the grape), resulting in a nice crisp wine with a lot of finesse, and aromatics of dried lemon and almond pith. It has a hint of salinity that is typical to the salinity we get from Albariño grown in proximity to the ocean in Spain.
What are some of Albariño’s physical traits that make it unique?
The growth patterns of Albariño make it relatively easy to manage in the vineyard. It wants to grow pretty much vertical, and it is not super vigorous so it’s easier for us to manage compared to some of the other grape varieties we grow. Because it’s not particularly vigorous, the leaves also don’t get in the way of sunlight ripening the fruit. The relatively thin canopy also allows for good ventilation, allowing the grapes to dry out well after rain. This helps mitigate the potential for disease and rotting in the clusters. The grape clusters are pretty different from other whites – they tend to resemble little grape grenades. They are small, tight clusters and easy to identify.
What are some of the terroir characteristics the grapes express in the finished wine?
The Albariño from Pedernales Cellars’ estate Kuhlken Vineyards in the Hill Country are grown in a combination of limestone-rich and sandy loam soils which give the wine a great minerality. The soil in Bingham Vineyards and Newsom Vineyards, where we source much of our Albariño, is red sandy loam. Compared to the Hill Country based fruit, I find the wine made with these high plains grapes to be a little rounder in mouthfeel with added complexity. While it still has some of that characteristic salinity, it doesn’t have as much minerality as the estate block.
How is this vintage different from others?
There are three key differences that make the 2017 vintage unique:
- We selected Albariño grapes from three vineyards for this vintage: Kuhlken Vineyards, Bingham Family Vineyards, and Newsom Vineyards in the High Plains. This is the only year we have used fruit from the Newsom Vineyards in our Albariño.
- In addition, we fully barrel fermented the estate portion of this lot to add a layer of complexity, which is a first for our Albariño.
- The winemaking team also chose to blend in a small portion of Viognier to boost the floral notes. The result is a fairly complex vintage.
What do you look for when harvesting/selecting your Albariño?
When making harvest decisions for Albariño, I am looking to maintain as much natural acidity as I can. So, my preference is to pick the grapes when the brix are still in the low 20’s. I’ve found that the fruit is often ready at this stage of ripening with plenty of plumpness, brown seeds, and soft skin.
What is the primary taste profile and how does it stand out to you?
Texas Albariño, for me, has some qualities of a California Chardonnay plus a little more salinity. I get lemon, but also pear, apple, and sometimes melon flavors.
It can have a fair bit of body and weight to the palate making it different from our Vermentino which tends to be a little more linear. It’s also not as floral as our Viognier. It stands out all on its own.
What was the winemaking process like?
We often press our white wines just hours after harvest in the High Plains to reduce skin contact. After the fruit is pressed, it gets “floated,” which is a method for removing solids from the juice (any small bits of skin, seeds, etc.) which can add unwanted flavors during fermentation. In a day or two we transport the juice to Pedernales Cellars’ winery where we move it into tanks or barrels to ferment.
The majority of the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, with a small portion fermented in oak barrels. The blending is completed after final fermentation. Generally, we don’t allow our Albariño to go through malolactic fermentation in order to maintain freshness and crispness, and to preserve the natural acidity that we seek out during harvest.
The goal with these steps is to create clean, crisp flavors that will allow the character of the fruit to shine through.
What are your food pairing recommendations?
The round body of Albariño lets it pair nicely with pork, fatty white fish, and chicken dishes. It also does well with creamier foods like pasta with a cream-based sauce or creamy soups.
If you are curious about how our grapes are grown, we will soon announce our socially distanced tour of our estate vineyards. Just as important as seeing the grapes in the vineyard, is tasting the final product. We are featuring our Albariño in our Summer Six-Pack for a special price of $89.00, and a discount on single bottles of Albariño as well.
Join our team for a Live Virtual Tasting at 5pm on Thursday, June 18. Our winery team will share further insights about this wine, and some of their favorite summer food pairings.
Bubbly is bliss. Fizz is fun. Sparkling wine is joyful. There is a reason why we say “cheers” when we lift a glass. One sip of a delicious sparkling wine melts our cares away.
We have a bottle of happiness ready for you. We just released our second vintage of Pedernales Cellars Kyla (pronounced, “shoola”) Pétillant Naturel (or Pét-Nat, for short) Rosé sparkling wine just in time for summer. Kyla means “chill” in the native tongue of our Swedish relatives, which is why it’s the perfect name for our Pét-Nat.
Wine lovers have long sought out Prosecco, Cava, and Champagne to get their fizzy fix, and in recent years Pét-Nat has made a resurgence as a bubbly wine of choice. This natural sparkling wine is made in méthode ancestrale — a winemaking method which the monks originated in the south of France in the early 16th century. This method involves bottling the wine before it has fully completing its first fermentation, allowing the carbon dioxide produced from the natural sugars found in the grapes during the completion of primary fermentation to be trapped in the bottle.
Is it Champagne?
This differs from how Champagne is made with méthode champenoise, where the wine is fully fermented, then is dosed with yeast and sugar to start a secondary fermentation in bottle to create the carbonation.
Because Pét-Nat is made with primary fermentation finishing in the bottle, we needed to quickly bottle it during harvest. Our Kyla Rosé Pét-Nat is made with 100% estate-grown Tempranillo, which we hand-harvested on August 2 and pressed immediately. After fermenting to the desired brix level, it was hand-bottled on September 4 and laid down to complete fermentation and to “rest” letting the CO2 be absorbed into the wine as bubbles until its release now in May 2020.
Why is it Hazy?
Pét-Nats have a light and fizzy mouthfeel and generally have larger bubbles than its méthode champenoise counterparts. Sparkling wine that finishes fermentation in bottle produces the same sediment as traditional-method sparklers. Unlike Champagne, we do not disgorge our Pét-Nat and we do not fine or filter it. The result of the remaining lees presence is a slightly hazy wine that is a bit rustic, and lively.
We can’t control the fermentation once the wine is bottled, which leads to some variation between bottles and an element of unpredictability in the pressure in the bottle. Use care when opening as it may bubble over!
To reduce the bubbly volatility and to control the sediment in this hazy wine, chill the bottle upright in an ice bucket for 30 minutes before opening. The cold keeps sediment at the bottom of the bottle, allowing you to pour four relatively clear glasses of wine.
Pét-Nat can be aged for a year or two and is perfect to drink young. The softer bubbles of Pét-Nat make it immediately expressive after opening with generous aroma. Kyla has well defined aromas of tangerine, flint, strawberries, and flowers. The notable minerality of this wine complements a crisp acidity and grapefruit and strawberry flavors.
It is lower in alcohol which means you can enjoy a glass in the evening and go about your business. The lively effervescence, zippy acidity, and lower alcohol makes our Kyla super food friendly. It pairs incredibly well with spicy food like Thai noodles or tacos, as well as grilled vegetables, seasonal fruits, and grilled chicken. It is a perfect picnic wine for the long Memorial Day weekend.
Kyla Pét-Nat Rosé is only available in the tasting room, and not online. Please call the tasting room to reserve a bottle for pickup, or schedule a reservation online for a tasting and to purchase your bottles.
We introduced our first Pedernales Cellars Over the Moon Rosé last year with the 2018 vintage. The wine commemorates the love story about how Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken, founders of Kuhlken Vineyards, met while working for NASA on the Apollo 11 mission. This wine is an homage to their commitment to each other, their inspirational relationship, and the possibilities they introduced for the winery when they planted the vineyard 25 years ago.
You may have noticed that our newly released 2019 vintage of Over the Moon Rosé Wine is lighter in color than our first vintage from 2018. These wines, made from largely the same varietals and vineyards, are a perfect example of how vintage variation and winemaker style can effect a wine.
There are two primary reasons for the difference:
- Vintage variation influenced by differences in weather and growing conditions year over year
- Winemaker stylistic approach
Comparing 2018 and 2019 Growing Seasons
The growing season in 2018 was marked by searing heat and arid conditions. It got blazing hot in late May and the heat kept cooking with numerous record-breaking high temperatures during a late July heat wave. Veraison of the grapes set in quickly bringing on a super-fast ripening period leading to a relatively early harvest. The 2018 harvest brought a smaller yielding crop, but amazingly high-quality grapes with a perfect sugar to acid ratio. We had ripe, rich fruit.
The weather in 2019 was more erratic. We had a deluge of early season rains, followed by a downright un-Texan cool spring and early summer. Those cool temperatures slowed the ripening of the fruit which delayed the start of harvest by a few weeks. Then, right before harvest the weather turned scorching hot and dry which accelerated harvest briefly, only to have cooler temperatures and rain return to prolong harvest again. The result is that we were able to pick our earlier ripening grapes like Tempranillo and heat loving Mourvèdre at optimum conditions. Later ripening fruit either came in at lower brix (a measure of the sugar level in grapes that lets us gauge the potential alcohol content of the finished wine), or we picked it much later than usual.
Our Winemaking Style
The growing conditions and produced grapes in 2018 that are well suited to make a Rhône -style Rosé. Like the wines made in the Southern Rhone Valley of France, this wine had ample body and structure, a rich pink hue, and a bowl full of Spring fruit flavors with just a little heft provided by the 13.8% Alcohol. The 2018 vintage is a blend of 62% Cinsault, 30% Mourvèdre, and 8% Carignan grapes grown in Texas. That dose of Carignan gave the wine a bold strawberry flavor that melds with vibrant cherry flavors, and chalky minerality. It is a fantastic apéritif wine, and a delicious accompaniment to a wide range of cuisine from grilled vegetables to lighter meats and charcuterie.
In 2019 the cooler temperatures mid-summer and then the blast furnace of heat in late summer shut down the sugar production of the grapes. It was a perfect condition to make a light-bodied, lighter in color, mineral driven and elegant Provençal style Rosé. We used a slightly different blend of grapes with 76% Cinsault grapes from Farmhouse Vineyards in the High Plains and 24% Estate-grown Mourvèdre both picked at lower brix giving it a lower 11.8% alcohol. To add a rounder mouthfeel and mellow out the fruit flavors a little bit, we aged the rosé on lees for 5 months, with weekly lees stirring to boost toasty aromatics. This wine is a fresh, crisp, dry style with aromas of strawberry, watermelon candy, and stone with light fruit, and rose petal flavors. It is just as at home on the patio after work as it is in the dining room, pairing exceptionally well with fresh spring dishes.
The 2019 Over the Moon Rosé is available to order online for pickup or shipping. Enjoy!