Let's Talk over Drinks
What an amazing experience! I just returned from New Zealand where I spent the spring (well, autumn there) harvesting grapes, and couldn’t wait to share my experience with you. Participating in a harvest in a different region has been my dream for quite a while now, it is an incredible way to gain understandings that make a more well-rounded winemaker. It’s one thing to read about different varieties, winemaking styles, and viticultural practices, but seeing them live in action is another matter entirely.
This spring, I decided to finally dive in and took a position working for New Zealand’s largest winery, Indevin. This winery is a sheer 1,000 times the size of Pedernales Cellars, something that I couldn’t entirely conceptualize until I arrived. It was massive! To paint you a picture, Indevin refers to its tank rooms (some of which were outdoors and a whopping 50 meters tall) as “tank farms.” These areas were so large that they were divided into North, East, South, and West sections. According to my Fit Bit, I walked 8 to 11 miles a day at work – half of which I probably did walking to and from the breakroom! Kidding. Sort of.
For the two months I was there, I worked in the “Red Cellar” where the winery’s Pinot Noir was processed as well as some small batch specialty white wines, like Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay for boutique clients. Because the red program was smaller and other wineries that did co-op worked out of this space, I had pretty regular contact with winemakers from places like New Zealand, Mexico, Spain, and Italy. Indevin was a very diverse place to work, and the diverse atmosphere probably one of my favorite things about being there. I not only learned about winemaking in New Zealand, but I was also able to talk about wine with a myriad of foreign winemakers from, well, everywhere. The Czech Republic, Chile, Argentina, China, Canada, Germany, France…pretty much every major wine region was represented. It was amazing.
Aside from the experience of collaborating with winemakers and cellar staff from different regions, I had a lot of fun playing with all the cool “toys” at a winery of that size has to offer. For example, we used a revolutionary machine called Pulsair for red wine cap management. We poked the Pulsair (which closely resembles a 10-foot metal tube) into the cap of a fermenting red wine and injected compressed air through it. The result looks like a wine volcano but is a relatively gentle way to break up the grape skins. Working with Pinot Noir is quite different from what we do in Texas with any of our grape varietals (at least at Pedernales), so it was interesting to see the processes and learn about why winemakers were implementing them. There are definitely some tricks I hope to try for our own 2019 vintage. While we might not need the same set of equipment as a winery that can process 30,000 tons of grapes, it gave me ideas for ways we might alter some of our practices with the equipment we have.
I know this might sound corny, but one of the biggest lessons for me has been a reminder of how lucky I am to make wine at Pedernales Cellars. While it was eye-opening to see how wine is made in another region of the world, I am grateful for the opportunity to work so closely with growers, fellow staff members, and grapes through every step of the process at a smaller winery in Texas. When I first started working at Pedernales Cellars, I was touched by how many dedicated hands were involved in producing the wine we make. Now, I feel this now more than ever. I love the connections that are formed through making and sharing wine – between farmers, producers, consumers and everyone in between. It’s truly special to be able to share this process and the wine with folks directly, and it’s something you simply don’t get to do on a larger scale. As amazing as it was to be working abroad, I am more excited than ever to be in Texas and can’t wait to get vintage 2019 underway!
Finding the right wine and food pairing can be a magical culinary experience. We are committed to helping you discover delicious dishes to go with our wines through our Vermentino: A Food and Wine Pairing Experience being held on June 23, as well as through this blog. This month, we’re delighted to have a guest blogger Certified Sommelier, and author of Falvo's Flights, Heather Falvo, share her expertise.
By Heather Falvo
It’s summer in Texas, and the best way to spend a hot day is with a bottle of chilled white wine and your favorite food. Pedernales Cellars makes some of my favorite Texas whites, and Falvo’s Flights will pair them with delicious dishes for you to enjoy.
One of my favorite things about the world of wine is pairings, since I love to drink wine and eat! Pairings are important … no one wants to have a great bottle of wine poured with a wonderful dish only to find that the two are a terrible match. A poor pairing can alter the flavors of the wine or the dish so much that you won’t want another sip or bite!
Luckily, there are a few easy guidelines to help you pair your bottle with your meal. Today we’ll focus specifically on pairings with white wines for summer.
Wine Pairings Basics:
Match the body of your dish with the body of the wine. Pair delicate white wines with foods of mild flavors and textures and full-bodied whites with richer dishes. A delicate French Sauvignon Blanc with Sole Meuniere (sole in a lemon butter sauce) is a good match for the body of the wine and fish while complementing the citrus notes in the sauce. Conversely, an oaked, full bodied Napa Chardonnay will better pair with roasted chicken or garlic shrimp with a heavy cream sauce.
Pair wines of the world with foods that are grown and produced in the same region. “What grows together goes together,” is a good rule of thumb. If you were in the Loire Valley, you’d enjoy your Sancerre with a goat cheese produced in the region. Visiting Rias Baixas in Spain? A glass of Albariño with a platter of mixed seafood and shellfish from the neighboring Atlantic Ocean would complete your afternoon.
Acidity in wine can be a nice match to the saltiness in food. Caviar and Champagne have long been heralded as a classic pairing. The salty roe and the soaring acidity of the Champagne are beautiful together. If you don’t want to spend big bucks on bubbles and caviar, try a value priced Champagne with some gourmet salty popcorn.
Sweet wines can also pair perfectly with salty foods. A sweet Sauternes wine with a salty Bleu Cheese is an extreme example, but a more subtle demonstration would be a sweet Riesling paired with an Asian ginger chicken with soy sauce.
Now, what are we going to pair our Pedernales wines with? I decided to go with rule #2 and try a dish representative of the area from each grape’s ancestral home. But these grapes are from Texas, and we all know that Texans love tacos! So, I paired each of these lovely Pedernales wines with a both a dish from where the grape originated and a classic Austin taco.
Pedernales Texas High Plains Vermentino 2017
Vermentino is a grape of Mediterranean origin with the most well-known wines hailing from the Island of Sardinia and the Italian coastal area of Liguria. Vermentino is light in body with flavors of citrus, minerality and a slightly bitter almond finish. Pedernales Vermentino displays notes of flint, stone, yellow flowers, ripe green apples and citrus. It has a bit of a richer mouthfeel than some of the Italian Vermentinos, perhaps because a small percentage of this wine was aged in barrel.
Taco pairing: The shredded chicken taco on a corn tortilla topped with onion and cilantro from Lazarus Brewing is a perfect pair. Squeeze a little lime over it and you’re golden. The hint of citrus from the lime is a perfect complement to the acid and citrus flavors in the wine. Pro tip: avoid spicy salsa with this paring since the spice amps up the acid in the wine a bit too much.
Pairing of Place: Liguria is known for pesto Genovese, a sauce made from basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan. The creamy, silky sauce on linguine was divine with the acidity of the Vermentino and the rich mouthfeel of this particular wine.
Pedernales Texas Albariño 2016
Albariño is a grape native to Rias Baixas, in the northeast corner of Spain, on the Atlantic coast. It is light to medium in body and is known for its citrus flavors, stone fruit and a touch of saltiness, thought to be due to its proximity to the sea. It is relatively high in acidity and pairs beautifully with seafood. Pedernales delivers a beautiful wine with notes of nectarine, Meyer lemon and a bit of well-integrated oak notes.
Taco Pairing: Veracruz All Natural has award-winning tacos at locations all over Austin. I chose their fish taco, made with meaty white fish topped with chunks of mango, avocado, tomato and slaw served with a side of chipotle mayo. This taco was a perfect weight match for the wine, and the mango brought out the fruit notes.
Pairing of Place: A simple ceviche, made with white fish, lime juice, olive oil, salt and sliced Serrano peppers tasted absolutely delicious with this wine. The heat of the peppers was not too hot for the wine to handle, and the whole experience transported me back to a lovely seaside café in Spain where I enjoyed a mid-afternoon seafood snack with white wine.
Pedernales Cellars Texas High Plains Reserve Viognier 2017
Viognier is possibly one of my favorite white grapes. The best-known wines hail from the Northern Rhone Valley in southern France. The grape is delightfully floral with scents of honeysuckle and flavors of peach and citrus. It is medium to full bodied with lower acidity. Pedernales produces a gorgeous example that I have long been in love with. It has a full, creamy body, with mango, orange, peach, and flowers on the nose and palate.
Taco Pairing: I chose the Al Pastor (marinated pork with pineapple served with onion and cilantro) taco from Pueblo Viejo. This meaty taco was a perfect weight match for the wine since it stood up to the body of the wine, and the flirty pineapple notes complemented the fruit of the wine.
Pairing of place: If I found myself in southern France, I’d order a Niçoise salad for lunch. Greens, haricot verts, baby potatoes, Niçoise olives, boiled egg, marinated Spanish tuna and a shallot vinaigrette make for a healthy, hearty meal. The full-bodied Viognier was a lovely pair for the tuna, egg and potato in this dish. Given the lower acidity, the wine was not overpowered by the vinaigrette.
Cheers and happy pairings!
No good wine is complete without a good story. In our case, our newest rosé wine was inspired by a tale of love.
Pedernales Cellars is a family-owned winery, and we are extremely proud of that fact! Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken, founders of Kuhlken Vineyards and the matriarch and patriarch of our family, have been married for a grand total of 50 years. They met while working for NASA on the Apollo 11 mission and have been together ever since. As they are a stellar (see what we did there?) example of love and loyalty, we decided to dedicate our latest wine release to them: the “Over the Moon” rosé. We wanted this wine to symbolize both their commitment to each other and the foundation of their inspirational relationship.
There’s even more to be “over the moon” about; the stunning flavors of this Rhone-style blend include mouth-watering strawberry, vibrant cherry, and chalky minerality. Made with 100% Texas-grown grapes, it makes an incredible addition to every summer dish, from grilled vegetables to lighter meats and charcuterie. This beautiful rosé is a winery exclusive, and you can now pick up a bottle at either of our tasting rooms!
Join Our Rosé Food and Wine Pairing Experience
To celebrate the release of this wine in the middle of rosé wine season, we are hosting our Rosé Food and Wine Pairing Experience on Sunday, May 19th, 2019 at 2:00 PM. Join us to taste through a flight of several rosés from our library collection paired perfectly with small bites prepared by Chef Leo Aguirre of Fischer and Wieser. For tickets, please visit: /product/Rose--A-Food-and-Wine-Pairing-Experience.
As the scorching Texas summer approaches, we are relishing in the last of the cool springtime breezes, sipping glasses of crisp rosé while snuggling on a rocking chair. Our picturesque Stonewall lawn is still bedecked with the Mother Nature's seasonal jewels: splashes of pink primroses and Indian paintbrushes, brown-eyed Susans and Mexican hats.
Yes, the Hill Country is celebrating its rebirth, and we are honoring this time with a few April events that will allow you enjoy the weather!
At Pedernales Cellars, we know the value of family and are pleased to announce that we are hosting an annual Children’s Easter Egg Hunt, this Sunday (April 21) at 1:30 PM. We will have three simultaneous, yet separate hunts for the following age groups: 2-4 years, 5-7 years, and 8-10 years. What’s more, we will be hiding one “special” egg for each age ranges’ hunt, and the child who finds it will receive a gift basket! Bring your little one to our scenic Stonewall location, and check in at our front podium before 1:30 PM to participate. This event will occur rain or shine, but we are hoping for sun so that you can snap a few Instagram-worthy photos of your child on our flower-covered front lawn.
The following weekend, we are calling all patrons of the arts to come visit us at the Hill Country Film Festival, April 26th-28th at Fritztown Cinema in Fredericksburg, Texas. Buy a badge and get access to exclusive screenings of local as well as international independent films. We are proud to say that we are an annual sponsor of this event and donate towards two of their awards. We will even be hosting a small farewell event at our Stonewall venue; badge holders can join us for a glass of wine, light snacks, a tour of the vineyard, and a panel discussion before heading home.
Whether you're in the mood for family time or an artistic adventure, we will be there, glass of wine at the ready and a big Texas smile on our faces!
There is nothing better than the Texas hill Country in Spring. Vibrant bluebonnets and Indian primroses splash the roadsides with their cheerful hues. Bluebirds chirp cheerful sonnets to one another, gathering nest supplies and relishing in the balmy weather. Electric green tendrils of grapevines unfurl from their wintery casks in search of sunlight. It’s a glorious season in Texas that coaxes everyone outdoors into the warm air. Picnics, glasses of crisp rose, and frisbee games await. These occasions are always more special when they are shared with family.
As a mother myself, I relish family time. To carve out time in my busy schedule to connect with my girls, I have fashioned the perfect family-friendly Hill Country Day Trips that we all enjoy. Here are a few suggestions for your family day get-aways.
Kick off your trip with a proper lunch at the Hye Market next (it’s in, you guessed it, Hye, TX). A charmingly rustic building, the market serves deli sandwiches, fresh salads, naan bread pizzas, and more! They even have a tasting bar where you can sample several local wines and beers.
We love educational opportunities during family outings. One of our favorite places to visit is the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Stonewall, which is an excellent way to combine both hiking and learning. The LBJ Ranch just west of Johnson City is home to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s boyhood home. View exhibits about President Johnson’s life, take pictures of the park’s majestic longhorns, or talk a walk to Johnson Settlement on a trail that is less than a mile round-trip. What’s better than sneaking in a little history lesson while having quality family time?
If you love the beauty of wildflowers, take in the sea of brilliant poppies, bluebonnets and other flowers at Wildseed Farm in Fredericksburg. Or, drive the scenic Willow City Loop between the towns of Fredericksburg and Llano, off Highway 16. The gorgeous bucolic setting is loaded with bluebonnets blanketing the rolling hills.
And finally, after a day in the sun, it’s time for wine! Pack up the family and visit our estate vineyard in Stonewall. Schedule a winery tour for the whole group and marvel at our cavernous barrel room. Later, let the younger family members play tag, throw a football, or take a catnap on our expansive property while you sit back and take in the sweeping Hill Country views with a glass of award-winning wine. You can even bring snacks or indulge in a cheese board, basking in the sunlight.
We are proud residents of the Texas Hill Country and would love you to experience a piece of heaven with your family.
As you take a winter tour of Texas wine country and press your nose up against your car window, you’re greeted with acres of barren vines, leafless and unmoving. The silence of winter seems to still have her icy grip on the plants, and they appear to be almost lifeless. However, the magic of bud break is about to begin, and we are hard at work preparing the vines for the growing season ahead.
Our new vineyard foreman, Sherah Mills, has been tirelessly pruning our vineyards for the last few weeks. We are lucky to have her; she is a recent graduate of Texas Tech with a degree in horticulture and has experience working in her family's vineyard in Stonewall. She understands that winter pruning is very important to ensure that this year’s crop of grapes is both high quality and concentrated.
All of our pruning is done by hand, giving us the chance to lovingly choose the training regimen for each individual plant. We finalize our pruning protocol in the winter months based on the last year’s growing season, with adjustments made for how the vineyard is looking this season.
Admittedly, we are a nerdy bunch and like to experiment with variations on certain rows to see how the vines will react and adapt. Because of our studies in our test rows, we have found that some of our more vigorous grapes, such as Touriga Nacional, like to be left with more buds per spur so they have somewhere to push their energy. We are always happy to work with the vines’ needs in order to ensure a great crop!
Unfortunately, temperatures have recently plunged and we Texas grape growers are watching the weather with apprehension. And for good reason: a constant string of warmer days preceding this cold snap, which coaxed out a few buds in some of the white grapes. A freeze could completely destroy them. Luckily, a plant will push out a second wave of “insurance” buds, but the yields will be significantly reduced, nonetheless. We have our fingers crossed and will be assessing the damages, if any, in the near future. Say a prayer for us, PC lovers!
On a lighter note, I am heading to New Zealand this week to work the wine-grape harvest there and am looking forward to applying what I have learned about their vineyard and winemaking techniques to our operation. Stay tuned for updates!
See Bud Break in Action
If you want to see the vineyard progress first hand, we have just the thing for you. Sign up for our Kuhlken Vineyard Bud Break Tour. First planted in 1995, this vineyard has contributed fruit to some of our favorite wines throughout the years and we would love to share its history with you. This tour includes transportation to and from the vineyard from Pedernales Cellars, a picnic lunch, and a tour of our winery. Sign up on the Pedernales Cellars website.
Ah, the month of love. The seemingly endless hunt for that unforgettably romantic gesture or trinket continues...What will you choose this year to amaze your Valentine? We invite you to look past the teddy bears and choose something that’s bound to bring you and your partner closer….wine.
We have just the right thing for lovers who want to stay in for the evening, and for those who want to venture out.
There are fewer things that are more intimate than sharing an exquisite bottle our with your loved one. A new release, this award-winning red is the answer to any question. Pick up a bottle for that special night, confident that magic is in store the moment the cork is pulled.
There’s always shared suspense when trying something new: What adventure awaits us? What flavors dare to seduce us?
Deep red, like a perfect Valentine rose, the rich Tempranillo begs you to take that first sip. Its velvety texture hits your lips. The wine is juicy, with a voluptuous body and tantalizing flavors of ripe Bing cherry, spicy clove, and sweet cinnamon. You look at your partner, eyes widening with surprise. It’s better than anything you could have ever hoped for. The flavors linger long after your sip, a delicious reminder that there’s more to come.
We invite you to take a sensory journey with your partner with a bottle of 2016 Pedernales Cellars Tempranillo Reserve this Valentine’s Day by pairing it with a delicious dinner for two. Tempranillo is incredibly delicious with all types of food because of its savory qualities, and, it pairs really well with grilled-meats.
Try it with a New York strip following this simple recipe:
- Remove the steaks from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.
- Heat the grill to high heat in the range of 550 to 700 degrees.
- Brush both sides of the steak with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Grill for 3 minutes with the lid closed, and then turn it a half-turn on the same side to get those pretty criss-cross grill marks.
- Flip the steaks to cook the other side for 3 to 4 more minutes until it reaches 125 degrees for a rare to medium-rare.
- Let the steaks rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
If you prefer to go out for a glass of wine, we have two fun events for you and your Valentine.
Join us to celebrate Valentine's Day on Thursday Feb 14, 2019 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM at our tasting room located at 34 Main St., in Fredericksburg, TX. Purchase a delicious glass of wine, and we will have three complimentary chocolate samples to pair with it.
To celebrate Valentine's weekend, join us for a complimentary live jazz session featuring Bruce Salmon with Coleman Berg on Saturday, Feb 16, 2019 from 1:00 to 5:00 PM at the winery in Stonewall, TX. Bring a picnic and blanket to enjoy wine and music with your Valentine.
The frenzy of holiday shopping...You’re dreading it. Endless lines, disgruntled shoppers, and sheer mayhem. Even looking at the crowded parking lots depletes your energy, yet you are determined to find the perfect gifts for your list of loved ones.
Well, we have a solution for you, one that is unique and hassle-free: give that special someone the gift of a Pedernales Cellars Wine Club Membership. Read on to find out why this is the perfect present!
Reasons to Gift a Membership:
- It’s a gift that keeps on giving. A continuous subscription service will make someone think of you every time they receive a package. Plus, who wouldn’t want great Texas wine every quarter?
- It’s flexible: With three levels to choose from and the option to gift a mixed package or red wines only, you’ll be able to really customize your purchase to fit the needs of your recipient.
- It comes with incredible perks: There are advantages of joining every level, from discounts every time you come by to complimentary tastings and members-only events. And we bet that your recipient will gladly share his or her benefits!
- It supports a local, family-owned business: At Pedernales Cellars, we pride ourselves on being family-owned and operated, and we treat our Club members like an extension of this family. Allow us to spoil your loved one every time they walk through the door.
- It’s convenient: This gift is just a few clicks away. Simply fill out a few fields of info and you’ll be all set!
Obviously, your recipient must be 21+ years of age to receive this gift. Please visit /Wine-Clubs to review the list of memberships and choose one that is right for you! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to email@example.com.
Would you prefer less of a commitment? You can also request a one-time shipment. Hurry, time’s running out! Visit /Wines to place your order.
We are committed to helping you find the perfect gift; please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about our memberships. And now that you’ve saved time shopping, feel free to sit back, relax, and have a glass of our award-winning Texas wine!
The Pedernales Family
Food by itself is fine. Wine by itself is great. Wine and food paired well together is divine. Wine is an essential element of a meal that will elevate the dining experience to new heights, amplifying taste and sensation of every bite. We invite you to experience the magic of that perfect pairing for Thanksgiving Dinner. Here are a few guidelines to help you choose the right bottle for your holiday meal:
Rule #1: Pair wine and food of the same “weight.” Heavier dishes call for a fuller-bodied wine, while delicate dishes beg not to be overwhelmed and prefer a lighter style of wine. We’ve all heard the age-old argument: “white meat with white wine” and “red meat with red wine,” and this rule is actually based on science. For example, fish’s mercury levels will often interact with compounds (like tannin) in red wine and cause the wine to taste metallic. So, it’s better to pair it with a wine without tannin. Cue the white wine. On the other hand, red meat is great with red wine because the meat’s protein plugs the tannin receptors in one’s palate, causing the wine to seem smoother than it actually is. A Thanksgiving turkey happens to be an in-between meat with white meat that is enhanced by both white wines, and lovely with lighter-style red wines, as well as dark meat that loves a lusher bodied red.
Rule #2: Fatty foods pair well with acidic wines. Think of the vibrant acidity in a wine as the “palate cleanser” between bites, allowing your taste buds to reset and not be weighed down by richness. A bright white wine is scrumptious with mashed potatoes dressed with turkey gravy.
Rule # 3: Spicy foods pair well with sweet wines. Chili heat in food will cause dry wines to taste bitter, acidic, and astringent, so it’s better to choose a bottle with some residual sugar in order to avoid this affect. An off-dry wine will be fantastic with spicy brussels sprouts.
Rule #4: Like relationships with your family at Thanksgiving, wine can be paired well when it either compliments or contrasts with the food you are serving. Sometimes a perfect pairing is one that is complimentary: the flavors of the dish are mirrored in the wine, such as a lemon butter sauce paired with a buttery Chardonnay with notes of lemon. In other cases, contrasting flavors go extremely well together, like a semi-sweet Riesling with salty bleu cheese.
Rule #5: Sweet foods pair best with sweet wines of equal or greater sweetness. We know that it’s sometimes difficult to justify pouring a sweet dessert wine when there’s already so much sugar in pastry items, but sugar in food will react with your dry wines in a way to make it seem bitter and unpleasant. Plus, who can resist ending a meal with a delicious dessert wine?
Keeping these rules in mind, we have created a few pairing recommendations for your Thanksgiving dinner:
Thanksgiving Turkey and Pedernales Cellars 2016 Viognier Reserve
Of course, we had to start with the main staple: turkey. Whether you are roasting it or frying it, the richness and juiciness of the turkey will be so delightful with Viognier, as the wine has a lovely viscosity that will mimic the weight of the food. Try it with mashed potatoes, too!
Roast Beef and 2016 Valhalla
This red blend, made with all Italian grape varieties, has a lively acidity and mouth-watering brightness that will slice through the heaviness of roast beef.
Pecan Pie and Pedernales Cellars Texas Dulce
Remember, sweet wines are a must with sweet foods. The nuttiness of the wine combines with honeyed and caramel flavors, mirroring the classic pecan pie flavors. This is truly a comparison of flavor that’s guaranteed to delight!
Pumpkin Pie and Glögg
Glögg is a Swedish mulled wine that we sell only during the holiday season. It has flavors of baking spice like nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon, all of which are found in a pumpkin pie. Indulge in a glass and a slice this holiday season; you won’t regret it!
We hope that you enjoy these pairing suggestions and that you feel emboldened to create your own, both during the holidays and beyond! Check out our full list of wines here: /Wines
In the wine world, complexity is king.
Wines that exude one, two, or even three flavor characteristics are described as “simple," “quaffable," even (more harshly) “uninteresting.” Ouch. These are often mass-produced, bulk wines with little personality and a lower price tag. They don’t inspire contemplation, they don’t make your eyes wide with wonder.
On the other hand, complex wines are bursting with not just intensity, but a myriad of flavors. In a red wine, it is everything from strawberry to tobacco, baking spices to wet slate. Perhaps there are floral notes — red rose and violet — or hints of oak barrel use, like vanilla and toasted coconut. All of these flavors are akin to dozens of individual instruments combining to play a grand symphony on your taste buds, an unforgettable harmony of flavor that’s sure to leave you speechless.
For these reasons, complexity in a wine indicates higher quality. Complexity is why people like you drink wine. It is the “wow” factor. There are a few ways winemakers achieve complexity: diligent grape growing practices, careful fermentation, and blending.
Blending two or more grape varieties to make a finished wine has been a common winery practice for centuries. The most famous examples are Bordeaux wines made from blends of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc and Champagne made from blends of mostly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. There are 13 grape varieties blended into Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône Valley of France. Wines from famous regions like Chianti, Port, and Rioja are blends, too!
At Pedernales Cellars, we consider blending a powerful tool. We select grapes that individually add a different element and harmoniously enhance characteristics of each other in the finished wine. We call that “blending up”, meaning that we make sure that blend is stronger than its individual parts. Getting just the right balance is an absolute art.
Some single varieties are remarkable on their own, while others are even better with a partner. GSM blends, popular in the southern Rhône Valley, are a perfect example. Mimicking this famous style, we created the 2016 GSM Melange, a blend of 5 (yes, 5!) different grape varietals: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (these first 3 are the GSM component), Carignan, and Tannat. Let’s break this blend down:
- Grenache exudes rich red fruits: strawberry, cherry, and ripe raspberry. It can also add some white pepper and an inherent silkiness in a blend.
- Syrah is often inky dark in color, with high acid and tannin and deep, expressive flavors of blackberry and black pepper.
- Mourvèdre can add a gamey quality, like smoked meats, along with darker fruits like blueberry and dark cherry. Like Syrah, it is also deep in color and tannic.
- Carignan lends vibrant cranberry notes, along with some liquorice.
- Tannat is quite structured and tannic and is contributing to the “backbone” of the wine. Without acid and tannin, wines seem “flabby” and disjointed, which is far from an ideal quality in a premium, handcrafted product.
You can imagine that, when we combine these varieties, the results are incredible. We love the intricacies of a blended wine and the freedom to experiment with certain varieties, whether they are French or Italian. While some wineries "throw together" red blends with leftover varieties, we start by meticulously planning our blends' grape percentages before harvest even begins.
We choose to ferment each variety separately, giving us more control and consistency from year-to-year and allowing us to experiment with ratios during the blending process. Because different grape varieties ripen at various points in the season, fermenting them alone allows us to pick them at optimal ripeness, completely independent of other varieties.
In general, we start finalizing the percentages of our blends a few months before we intend to bottle using both taste trials and chemistry analysis. Always determined to ensure that you receive the best possible wines, we often will spend hours sampling various combinations. Surprisingly, an adjustment as little as a percent or two of one grape can make a huge difference in the final product! Post blending, our wines then typically rest in bottle for six months before sale to ensure that their molecules can fully integrate.
While we prize our 100% Tempranillo and Viognier, we also enjoy the intrigue that blending offers our guests. We invite you to taste through our selection when you visit us next. Just between you and me, we are working on a new project that will return the blend to barrel for further aging. You'll have to stay tuned for more information about that!