Let's Talk over Drinks
Spring Break at Home Brings the World to You
Let us bring a little taste of Europe--and Texas--to you during this spring break. While many of us would normally travel to faraway destinations, this year many of us are opting to stay home in Texas for spring break.
Don’t get us wrong--we love Texas! Yet how do we experience the best of both worlds? One way we are making the most of sticking close to home this year is through our Spring Break at Home wine bundle, inspired by and made with grape varietals popular in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France. Why not maximize this lawn chair travel by setting the mood, and letting the wine whisk you away?
Try streaming a movie set in one of these countries or play some traditional music. Then cook or order a regional meal to go with these delectable wine selections. Paella, pasta, or beef bourguignon, together with our Pedernales Cellars wines in this bundle will transport you to another place, at least mentally. This carefully curated bundle includes our 2018 Texas Albariño, 2017 Cuvee 1853, and 2017 Newsom Vineyard North Block vintages.
Taste of Spain: 2018 Texas Albariño
Our 2018 Texas Albariño is a varietal wine based on a grape grown in Rías Baixas in North West Spain. It is bright, crisp, and distinctly different from the other white wines in our program. While the majority of this wine is made from Texas High Plains fruit, a small portion of the fruit was harvested from our Kuhlken Estate Vineyard as well as Enchanted Rock Vineyards in the Hill Country. This wine was entirely fermented in stainless steel, although a small portion of the Hill Country fruit was macerated with the skins on to add color and structure to the wine.
Our 2018 Texas Albariño has notes of lemon, vanilla, and a hint of saltiness reminiscent of the saltiness found in traditional Albariño grapes grown near the ocean in Galicia and northern Portugal. This is an aromatic white known for its versatility, and pairs exceptionally well with seafood, pork, and green vegetables. Stream your favorite Almodóvar movie or play some Plácido Domingo or Enrique Iglesias music to round out your evening in Spain.
Taste of Italy: 2017 Cuvee 1853
Our 2017 Cuvee 1853 commemorates the first of our ancestors arriving in Texas six generations ago. Spring break is family time, and gathering together to celebrate with wine is a wonderful way to share the experience. This vintage is an Italian-style blend of Dolcetto, Merlot, and Teroldego. Rich with fruit aromas and a medium body, this is a food-friendly wine that pairs well with everything from pasta to cheeses to grilled meats.
Expect to taste notes of strawberry and raspberry, balanced out by savory hints of dried sage and leather. Get sentimental about Italy with your favorite evocative Italian movie, perhaps the charming Cinema Paradiso. Or go full-on cheesy romantic mode with Under the Tuscan Sun for a night that leaves you longing for Italy. Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy is especially hot right now, and will satisfy your craving for an Italian experience from the comfort of your home. You can’t go wrong pairing your favorite Italian dinner with this medium body wine full of soft tannins and bright fruit.
Taste of France: 2017 Newsom Vineyard North Block
The 2017 Newsom Vineyard North Block comes from one of our favorite growers who has been producing high-quality fruit in the Texas High Plains for over 30 years. Newsom Vineyard is arguably the best in the state to grow Bordeaux varieties, and so we have crafted this tasty blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot from them. A Bordeaux blend makes the most of diversity in its varietal make-up, and that’s what we crafted with our 2017 Newsom Vineyard North Block.
Find your joie de vivre in your own backyard with our Newsom Vineyard North Block wine, coupled with Edith Piaf’s Ma Vie en Rose, or fall in love all over again with Amélie and her quirky meddling. Set the table with a feast from your local French restaurant, or stream and cook along with Julia Child in The French Chef. Anything for that French feeling.
Cheers to Spring Break!
Order our internationally inspired Spring Break at Home Texas wine trio now, and dream of your next trip abroad. We can ship it to you, or you can pick it up at our winery to enjoy the view.
Our Favorite Wine & Food Pairing Recommendations for Valentine’s Day
This year many of us will be celebrating Valentine’s Day at home rather than flocking to restaurants for our romantic meals. That means we won’t have a helpful server or sommelier to recommend the best wines to pair with our meals.
Never fear! The Pedernales Cellars team put together some sure-fire wine pairings that will please the palate of your sweetie.
2017 Texas GSM Melange + Cheese and Charcuterie Board for Two
Tasting room manager, Cathy Martell, has a fantastic recommendation to start off your romantic evening. “What could be more playful than feeding each other savory bites of cured meats, aromatic cheeses, fruit, and nuts? A gorgeously arranged Charcuterie board is a wonderful first course that goes really well with our 2017 Texas GSM Melange. The lovely fattiness of the cheeses and cured meats pair well with the bold, juicy, fruit flavors and is an excellent counterbalance to the tannins in the wine. Yum!”
2019 Over the Moon Rosé + Salmon Provençal
President and winemaker, David Kuhlken, chose a distinctly southern French pairing with a romantic backstory for our second course. “We named our Over the Moon Rosé in honor of our parent’s love story. They met while working for NASA on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 and have been ‘over the moon’ in love ever since. Rosé wines, in general, make extremely good pairings for a wide variety of cuisines and is a particularly terrific accompaniment to roast salmon. The light body and lively acidity of the wine lifts the oiliness of the fish, while the fresh strawberry and watermelon flavors enhance the earthiness of the Herbes de Provence. A simple yet elegant course for your love.”
2017 Family Reserve + Spaghetti and Meatballs
Co-owner, marketing and hospitality director, Julie Kuhlken, has a playful recommendation for the main course. “For Valentine’s dinner, I recommend a ‘Lady and the Tramp’ style pairing of spaghetti and meatballs with our Italian variety based 2017 Family Reserve. Why not have a little fun by slurping noodles from one big plate of spaghetti with the goal of meeting in the middle? The 2017 Family Reserve is a complex wine with ample cassis, black cherry, and black raspberry flavors, followed by leather, currants, and dried herbs. It is delicious with the big bold flavors of hearty Italian dishes and herbed meatballs in particular.”
2017 Texas High Plains Tempranillo + Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Events manager, Ashley Gunckel, selected a classic dessert paired with one of our most popular wines. “There is nothing more quintessential for Valentine’s Day than chocolate-covered strawberries. Spear one with Cupid’s arrow and feed it to your sweetheart along with a slightly chilled glass of our Texas High Plains Tempranillo. The cherry and blackberry flavors of the wine are excellent with the strawberry and bring out citrus notes in the chocolate. The bittersweetness of the chocolate tones the acidity of the wine down for a nice velvety smooth sensation. It’s a perfect way to cap off a delicious Valentine’s dinner.”
We wish you a delightful evening with delicious pairings.
Meet the new Pedernales Cellars Tasting Room Manager, Cathy Martell
We are excited to introduce our new Tasting Room Manager, Cathy Martell, who just joined the team at Pedernales Cellars.
Cathy’s role at Pedernales Cellars marks a “coming home” of sorts. Originally from Wisconsin, Cathy has called the Texas Hill Country home since 2004. But not full time.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a bachelor's degree in recreation management, which was a launching pad for a career in the hospitality industry, and has an excellent educational background to prepare her to manage our tasting room. Following graduation, she landed a full-time position in Texas at the historic Y.O. Ranch where she ran Y.O. Ranch Adventure Camp.
In 2012 Cathy accepted a seasonal job as the general manager of the Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge, a remote resort in Alaska. She has spent the last nine years wintering in Texas and working the warmer months at the resort in Alaska where she managed two full-service restaurants and led the operations of the entire resort. In this role, she oversaw a major upgrade of the facilities.
A Growing Passion for Wine
In her role at the Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge, Cathy was responsible for selecting the wines to pair with the all-inclusive meals. She relished the opportunity to learn about wine and experimenting with the perfect pairings.
“I really fell in love with wine while working in Alaska,” said Cathy. “I attended the annual wine shows and had the opportunity to meet with several representatives from wineries and learned more about wine. I also worked closely with my previous boss, a sommelier, to do wine training for our staff. That was a fascinating part of the job that spurred a much deeper curiosity about the world of wine.”
That fascination with wine was further fueled by trips to Spain and Italy where she experienced an exquisite wine pairing dinner at a Michelin star restaurant and visits to family-owned wineries. In her travels she had the opportunity to learn about and experience how the climates and soils of various regions impact the flavors of wine.
“I have an Italian heritage, and true to that cultural identity, I love to eat and drink,” says Cathy. “Wine and food bring people together. My first trip to Italy really inspired me to keep pursuing an interest in wine. The more I learned, the more I realized there is always more to learn about wine. I’ve been to Italy four times now and love exploring wine.”
Cathy recently felt the pull of Texas hospitality and made the decision to pursue a new job in the hospitality industry that would keep her in the Lone Star State full time. As chance would have it, we had an opening at Pedernales Cellars that is an excellent fit for her background and expertise.
“Working at a winery in the Hill Country is a really exciting opportunity,” said Cathy. Just driving through the Texas Hill Country to Stonewall for my interview with Pedernales Cellars was amazing. It was a wonderful reminder of how the beautiful scenery drew me to Texas in the first place.”
Cathy has already become an integral part of our team in just the first week on the job. She is a great fit, and genuinely gets a rush from spending time with our guests.
“I love having the opportunity to meet tasting room guests and Pedernales Cellars Wine Club members,” said Cathy. “It is an absolute joy. I’m excited by the focus on wine education here. I’m really looking forward to continuing to learn about wine—particularly experiencing how wine is made—and helping our customers learn more about wine too. The passion of the team is so contagious, and I’m so glad to be in Texas working with a family-owned winery.”
Cathy will help shape how we continue to evolve our guest experience as the pandemic restrictions change. She will be instrumental in planning live music and entertainment that tie in well with our focus on wine education and exceptional guest experiences.
Holiday Gift Giving Made Easy with Wine
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!
A Different Year for Thanksgiving Wine and Food Pairings: Wine Pairings with Carryout
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.
Glögg: The Pumpkin Spice Latte of Wine
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!”
Toasting Texas Pecan Month with Texas Wine
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!
2020 Harvest or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Madness
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.
25 Things We’ve Learned Growing Grapes in the Texas Hill Country for the Past 25 Years
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.
Meet the Pedernales Cellars Tasting Room Manager, Marissa Contreras
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.”