Let's Talk over Drinks
This year, Pedernales Cellars marks the 25th year since the planting of Kuhlken Vineyards, our family vineyard. My how time flies! When our parents first planted the Kuhlken Vineyard in 1995 they had no way of envisioning where we’d be today, but they certainly did give us roots that we take pride in even to this day – and into the next generation.
The key to our growth over the years has come with our understanding that no matter how much we learn about the Texas terroir we’ll always be learning more. The land is our greatest teacher and it’s our connection to it that makes Pedernales Cellars special.
In celebration of our landmark anniversary, we are pleased to share with you 25 fun facts you may or may not know about our history – starting with the planting of Kuhlken Vineyards.
- Kuhlken Vineyards was originally planted by Larry and Jeanine as an early retirement project. They were returning to the land after a professional life in the IT sector and were interested in growing grapes to sell to other Hill Country wineries.
- When getting started Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken received advice from their friends, the Johnsons, who grew grapes in Red Mountain AVA of Washington state.
- The vine on display over our reserve wine bar in the tasting room is nineteen-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon. It was 19 at the time it was cut down. That vine was part of the original Kuhlken Vineyard planting in 1995.
- The planting of Kuhlken Vineyards was a family affair. Julie came back from California where she was living at the time to help plant and water the new vines. David came up from Houston to help install the vineyard’s irrigation system with their dad.
- Part of Kuhlken Vineyards is located in Bell Mountain AVA, the oldest American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Texas. It was formed in 1986 by Bob Oberhelman of Bell Mountain Winery. The vineyard is also located in the Llano Uplift a geological phenomenon that brought old, infertile soil to the surface around 300 million years ago, including the degraded sandstone in Kuhlken Vineyards.
- Kuhlken Vineyards is broken into Blocks based on when they were planted.
- The original planting in 1995 was of four varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In the beginning, Larry and Jeanine sold their grapes to other wineries. These were the varieties that their customers wanted in the 1990s.
- The front vineyard was planted in 1995 and is known as Block Zero.
- The vineyard is located on North Highway 16 which is an excellent place for a vineyard, but not for a tasting room. So, the Kuhlken family selected a winery/tasting room site on the well-traveled 290 corridor. Even as the wine region grows, to this day, there are no tasting rooms on North Highway 16.
- Of the original plantings, the red varietals did OK, but the whites did not thrive and were eventually replaced with Mourvèdre. As Block Zero Mourvèdre thrived, the varietal gained favor among Texas winegrowers.
- Block Zero now includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, and Mourvèdre. These varietals adapt well to the hot summers in Texas. The Merlot vines are pictured to the left in early growth stages, March of 2020.
- A new section of Kuhlken Vineyard was planted in 2007. That is known as Block One which includes Mourvèdre and Tempranillo.
- Block Two was also planted in 2007 and includes the Portuguese variety, Touriga Nacional. This is a high-quality grape with origins in Portugal.
- In good vintage years, Pedernales Cellars will bottle wines sourced from individual blocks, such as the 2018 Block Zero. Club members gain exclusive access to these wines when they are released, or when we offer library tastings.
- The only significant planting Pedernales Cellars has of a white wine variety is Albariño. Albariño is a light-bodied white grape that is widely planted in Spain and Portugal.
- Kuhlken Vineyards was developed into a commercial vineyard and winery by Larry and Jeanine’s children, Julie and David. The winery remains a family business to this day.
- Glögg wine is a holiday tradition at Pedernales Cellars inspired by family connections in Sweden and the German heritage of Gillespie County where the winery is located.
- Joanna Wilczoch became our co-winemaker after her Southern hemisphere harvest in spring 2019 in New Zealand. Previously, she had worked as Dave’s assistant. Joanna is a super-taster with an excellent palate which compliments Dave’s understanding of what varietals work well in Texas.
- The founders of Kuhlken Vineyards, Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken, met working on the Apollo 11 mission over 50 years ago. Our popular “Over the Moon Rosé” wine is meant to honor their story.
- In 2020, Pedernales Cellars created a label exclusively for retail markets called Six Generations. This wine label is meant to honor the strong family connection to our land spanning six generations while expanding consumers’ access to quality, Texas-grown wines.
- Pedernales Cellars is fortunate in the site for the winery because there is a hill that rises quickly behind the tasting room. This formation allowed the family to build a barrel room directly into the hill which uses natural cooling to reduce the winery’s carbon footprint.
- The wine club lounge is a 1880s farmhouse that was moved from its original location in Fredericksburg to its current location in Stonewall. The tasting room is comprised of additions to this original structure.
- Pedernales Cellars started a wine club soon after opening in 2008. We have three tiers of Pedernales wine clubs including a Winemaker’s Choice club with both red and white wines and a red wine only club.
- In 2014 we added our Collector’s Club for Kuhlken-Österberg wines that are released only once per year and are offered in only 6 bottle and 12 bottle memberships.
- In addition to our estate vineyard, Kuhlken Vineyards, we have worked with a select set of growers around the state to source the best Texas fruit possible for our 100% Texas grown wines. Most of these relationships are long-standing.
We are grateful.
As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Kuhlken Vineyards we are filled with gratitude for each and every person that has supported us over the years. Because we are committed to sharing and educating our community, we encourage you to follow Pedernales Cellars on our various social media channels. We enjoy sharing behind the scenes photos and videos to tell our story, and to keep consumers informed of what it takes to bottle the taste of Texas terroir from vine to wine.
If you are feeling like you’re in an entertaining rut with your friends, we recommend shaking up the normal routine of cheese, wine, and charcuterie for a blind tasting among friends. Blind tastings are a great way to initiate a thoughtful discussion about the wines you enjoy and trying wines without knowing what they are challenges everyone to take time to appreciate and evaluate each sip with intention.
So, what is a blind tasting?. In a blind tasting, you conceal information (ie: the label and bottle) that may influence the tasters’ opinion on the wine itself. While tasting each wine, everyone writes down notes about color, aromas, flavors, and any other details they notice. With this style of tasting, you may be surprised by what you learn about your own tastes as well as your friends’ preferences too. Here are our top three tips for hosting a successful blind tasting party with your friends.
1. Gather the supplies.
Notebooks or cards for tasting notes and pens are a must. This is how you and your guests can keep track of your thoughts and initial impressions of each wine for later review. Stock plenty of clean and polished glasses, ensure there are enough spittoons around the table and have some snacks available.
Determine how you will mask your bottles - paper bags, foil, gift wrap, anything goes so long as you and your guests will be unable to determine the wine by looking at the bottle. Remove foil capsules and be sure that you mask the bottle shape if it’s a giveaway. Have different corks or bottle stoppers available that won’t give away the identity of each wine. Last but not least, pick the wine list then separate the reds and whites - mask, number, and prep them for service.
If you and your friends are new to wine descriptors you may consider printing out a few resources such as the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) systematic approach to tasting or the Court of Master Sommeliers deductive tasting grid to help guide the process.
2. Determine your food and wine menu.
This is where you can let those charcuterie board building skills shine. You may not think you need food for a wine tasting, but it’s a very good idea to have food when you are going to be drinking a higher ABV beverage like wine. Not all of your guests will be spitting out their tastes of wine, so having food will help to absorb some of the alcohol.
Salty foods have an interesting effect on the palate acting almost like a reset button. Bear in mind that the food you select should not overpower the wines, but rather serve to keep your guests satisfied. Be sure to select a variety of starchy, cheesy, briney, fresh fruit and veggies for color and texture. Finally, add a few salty items that will pair well with an array of wines and satisfy diverse palates.
When selecting the wines for your blind tasting, we recommend having something among them that is common like the varietal or the appellation of origin. Or if you want to take a deep dive into a region or producer, go “vertical” and see if you and your guests list the wines in the blind tasting in order of vintage year from oldest to youngest.
Our wine club manager recommends trying either a white or red wine lineup. Try a Pedernales Cellars white wine varietal blind tasting selection of:
See if your guests can figure out which white varietal is in the glass. Or, if you have guests with advanced tasting skills try something more difficult like this Tempranillo based lineup:
3. Consider your setting.
When tasting wine, your setting can influence your perception quite a bit. It may seem obvious, but when closely evaluating a wine, more light helps guests to examine the color of their wines.
When hosting a blind tasting at home resist the urge to burn your favorite candles, incense, or wear heavy perfumes as all of these have a significant impact on the olfactory experience. “Nosing” a glass of wine is a fantastic way to narrow down the potential varietal, region, or vintage year so be sure not to compromise your guests’ ability to appreciate the aromatic nuances of their wine.
As the host, it is also your job to keep the blind tasting moving in an efficient and somewhat organized fashion. This can become difficult when you’re among friends (especially as you sample many wines) so do not get too uptight about it if your blind tasting party evolves - just be prepared to tactfully refocus everyone if it becomes necessary. If you are really worried about it, consider narrowing the menu to only three wines so there is more room for chatting between each tasting.
Remember rule number one of a wine tasting party. Have Fun!
When hosting a blind wine tasting party with friends, always remember the goal is to have fun and enjoy good wine and your company! Take the time to savor the experience, appreciate the wine, and get to know a little more about your friends’ tastes in the process.
In a year like 2019, when the Thanksgiving holiday happens in the last days of November, it may be enticing to change up the standard menu for Christmas dinner. Since the holidays are a time for celebrating it’s the perfect time of year to experiment with more exotic, gamey dishes – and the wines that pair well with them. Believe it or not, that’s the history behind twelve days of Christmas. The holiday season used to be celebrated with twelve nights of dining, drinking, and gathering over decadent spreads of dishes that are so over the top, they’re always reserved for one time of the year. We’re pleased to share a few ideas for the holiday season that pay homage to holiday feasts of the past with a modern twist – and wine pairings inspired by our own chef Josh Koewers.
Holiday Charcuterie and Cheese
You can serve classic crowd pleasers when you incorporate game into the appetizer. If you have a guest or two that are not keen on the intensity of wild meats then there will be a selection of cheese, crackers, confections, and nuts to keep everyone happy – just pay attention to how you separate the elements of your charcuterie platter. When you consider what to feature think about enhancing the ‘usual’ with a special venison sausage or a bison Bresaola for a holiday twist on the classic party fare.
How to Re-Create Pedernales Cellars’ Charcuterie & Cheese Board
Create a spread with chorizo and salami to re-create the charcuterie you know from our tasting room. Or, substitute venison sausage and bison Bresaola for a special twist on the classic.
Serve your cured meats with Brie, Parmesan, smoked gouda, dill havarti, cheddar, almonds, cranberries, apricots, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Pair with a Texas Viognier as it is a nice full-bodied white wine with enough acidity and sweetness to please many different palates - with notes of Vanilla and spice the 2017 Viognier Reserve is an excellent choice.
Bacon Wrapped Quail
Featured at the October 2019 Fall Feast
“I love this recipe because it’s inspired by my own mentor’s favorite dish. She instilled in me a deep appreciation for wild game recipes and quail was one of her go-tos…It helps that after fishing season is over, my buddies love to hunt quail and share the fresh meat with me.” - Chef Josh Koewers
With its bright fruit flavors and medium tannins, the 2017 GSM Melange pairs fabulously with a decadent bacon wrapped quail. The red wine has the intensity needed to match up to the strong flavor of the meat, and the salt and fat of the bacon keep the tiny bird from drying out while cooking locking in natural juices and flavors at the same time.
Herb Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
Featured at the October 2019 Fall Feast
“I like this because it isn’t another chicken recipe, but it is still light and incredibly versatile. I like the different texture, complexity and flavors...” – Chef Josh Koewers
This recipe can be done with a wild boar backstrap or a venison tenderloin (or a good quality pork loin as presented this fall). A recipe this decadent with the creamy middle and savory texture of tender meat is a pairing that goes nicely with the complex flavors found in our estate wine, 2016 Kuhlken Vineyards Reserve.
Though Chef Josh’s quail recipe from our 2019 Fall Feast is what inspired us to compile these recommendations, learning about traditional Christmas holiday dishes and the roots behind the iconic holiday meal was an added bonus. So, in the spirit of the season we hope you’ll try one of these recipes – or at least one of the wines. Merry Christmas!
Many are familiar with the holiday tradition of mulled wine, served warm with spices. Quite simply, a nice mulled wine is like “Christmas in a bottle” and that’s why we love it so much – the smell alone evokes memories of holidays shared with loved ones. After making Glögg a part of our own family traditions for years, we brought home a few samples home from Sweden for David to study as we prepared to release our own under the Pedernales Cellars label. The rest is history.
What is the history behind Glögg wine?
You may not realize it, but the practice of making mulled wine did not begin as a holiday tradition. It actually originated with the Romans who warmed their wines in the winter to ward off sickness. Then Europeans began adding spices to support their immune systems during cold and flu season. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that Cognac-Glögg became associated with Christmas, a tradition that continues to this day.
Why does Pedernales Cellars make a Swedish style Glögg?
In addition to paying homage to our Swedish Osterberg family roots, I also lived in Sweden for several years. I always loved that at Christmas time, wherever you went, you would be greeted with warm Glögg in little glass mugs filled with almonds and raisins. Everything about that custom compliments the spirit of the giving season so nicely. Glögg is also the only wine that pairs with cinnamon buns which are also prevalent in Sweden.
Considering family heritage, I tend to prefer the Swedish style mulled wine to the German-style Glühwein. Glühwein is primarily spiced with cinnamon, but traditional Swedish-style Glögg offers much more complexity with cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg in the mix.
How long as Glögg been a tradition at Pedernales Cellars?
We made our first Glögg in 2009, and it was an instant hit! This year marks our tenth year and we are proud to be one of the first to make a traditional style mulled wine from Texas.
Because the nose is complex and features so many of the holiday smells that our guests know and love the wine has developed its own cult following. We begin getting requests for it as early as September.
What does Glögg taste like?
Guests are often surprised by the flavor profile and how much it really is “Christmas in a bottle.” Even wine writers, who are often very skeptical at first, warm to it (no pun intended!) once they taste it.
For our tasting room team, we have something fun to offer our guests that is out of the ordinary and often unexpected. Glögg is an experience that our guests can also take home to share with friends and family over the holidays, and at $20 per bottle, it is also a great gift-giving idea.
The bottles sell out soon after our holiday Glöggfest. This year (2019) we will celebrate Glöggfest on December 14th in our estate tasting room.
Above photo credit: Heather Baird
How to prepare Glögg
Family recipes vary greatly, but all include wine that is slowly warmed with spices, sugar, and sometimes additional spirits like brandy. We usually warm our Glögg in a slow cooker set on high. While warming the wine you'll need to add some sugar (1/4 - 1/2 cup per bottle of wine) depending on your taste. You can also add dark raisins for flavor. Ladle the wine into mugs, and serve hot with toasted almonds and dark raisins to garnish, add citrus if desired.
Pairs well with cinnamon buns or gingerbread.
This week at Pedernales Cellars we have been immersed in conducting blending trials for our most exclusive reserve wine called KO. Why do we call it KO? This wine is named after the families that founded Pedernales Cellars.
It is Pedernales Cellars’ most coveted blend and it is only available to our Collector’s Club wine club members by allocation. That means the winemaking team and I get to really showcase our creativity as well as the nuances of each vintage included in KO which makes for an exciting time in the cellar.
What makes Pedernales Cellars KO wine so special?
We first introduced our KO wine with the 2012 vintage. Our philosophy for KO is to make a well-structured and complex wine with a blend of red grapes including a foundation of at least 50 percent Portuguese varietals sourced from Kuhlken Vineyards. Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão, and Tinta Amarela are incredible grapes to work with giving the wine a consistent core with aromatic notes of leather, coffee, dark, dark fruit, and even tobacco.
Touriga Nacional by itself is less fruit driven, having more earthy and animal qualities. It is an interesting varietal that brings amazing qualities to the wine. So, we use this as our starting point for each vintage and then explore the other grape varietals that will best complement the Portuguese mainstays to craft a well-balanced wine.
What makes this a premier wine worthy of allocation?
The grapes that make KO are selected from scarce lots of fruit. They come from mature vines in our vineyard that are inherently low yielding. We spare no expense in the winemaking process from the grape varieties we choose to the selection of the best French oak barrels for aging.
We begin our winemaking and blending process with a firm concept of what we want in the finished wine. We identify specific lots in the vineyard to put into a higher tier for harvest and cellaring treatment to capture the tannin and deep aromatic fruit of the Portuguese varietals to be the core of KO wine. We develop other lots of excellent grapes to bring out bright red fruit flavors and complimentary soft tannins.
Every aspect of the winemaking process focuses on making the best Portuguese style wine that we can make in Texas and it can only be made in very limited quantities. We hand pick all of the grapes from our Hill Country Estate and some varieties from the High Plains too. We use hand sorting to refine down to the best lots, and selective fermentation of only free-run juice. It’s an incredibly hands-on process, and it is worth it.
What makes this vintage of KO a stand-out wine for Pedernales Cellars?
Variability in the growing conditions from vintage to vintage allow us to bring in our winemaking creativity to determine the final blend. In 2012, KO wine was made with of 76 percent Tinta Amarela and 24 percent Syrah. The 2014 vintage was a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão, Tinta Amarela, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvèdre.
Right now, we are experimenting with about two dozen trial blends in the cellar to determine the final blend for the 2018 vintage. An exciting new component in the mix for this vintage is the Teroldego, which is a red Italian grape variety grown primarily in the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige. Teroldego is growing really well in the Texas High Plains and is an incredibly big fruit with nice tannin and brings fantastic qualities to our blend.
Another new grape in our mix this year is Grenache. We now have 12-year-old Grenache vines in our vineyard which bears hearty fruit that makes age-worthy red wines, rather than light styles.
Where to find KO wines.
Join us on Sunday, October 20 for our KO Wine Pick-up Party, for 6 or 12 bottle club members. We will release our 2017 vintage, with less than 100 cases available.
As a special treat, we will taste the 2018 vintage from the barrel.
We can’t wait to hear what you think.
Pedernales Cellars is fortunate to work with the best wine growers in the state of Texas. The best grapes deserve to be featured in limited production wines. We are proud to release our next two Signature Series Collection wines. These wines, created by the Pedernales Cellars winemaking team are one and two barrel lots of single varietal, single vineyard wines that highlight the most extraordinary blocks from the vintage. They are extremely limited, and we are super excited to share them with you.
At our Fall Wine Club Party, we will preview the 2016 La Pradera Tannat with the Winemaker. This will be one of the only times you will be able to taste and pre-order this wine.
2016 La Pradera Tannat, Texas High Plains
This wine is the first varietal Tannat that we have ever released and was planted for us by the folks at La Pradera Vineyards in Brownfield, TX. It is a relatively new grape to our cellar. We planned to use this variety as a blending component for the rich flavors, tannin, and color it can contribute to a wine. However, after tasting this lot in the cellar, we decided this vintage absolutely had to stand alone.
La Pradera Vineyards and is managed by a Texas winegrowing legend, Andy Timmons. This 120-acre vineyard used to be home to a raucous nightclub, now the winegrowing operations headquarters a tranquil and serene change of pace (except during harvest season).
Acclaimed for their red wine varietals, La Pradera is situated at 3,300 feet in elevation, has Amarillo fine sandy loam soil over clay which are a great combination to consistently produce some of the best wines in the state as featured in Texas Highways Magazine and Texas Monthly Magazine. Their Tannat is no exception.
The 2016 La Pradera Tannat has loads of character and intensity with scents of bramble, tar, dark chocolate, blackberry jam, eucalyptus, dried currants, dried cherries. Pleasant minerality underlies lush flavors of blackberry jam, cocoa, earth, and fresh green herbs. This Tannat has a pleasant finish with a hint of eucalyptus, and ample tannins that make it age worthy through 2023.
This wine especially complements smoked or cured meats, sausages, and game. We hope you’ll enjoy this wine as much as we have. It is the first harvest from this block, and we are looking forward to many more to come.
2017 Farmhouse Vineyards Cinsault, Texas High Plains
Since we opened our tasting room in 2008, we are well known for our wines made with Rhône varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. But more recently, we have worked with growers such as Farmhouse Vineyards to expand our range of Rhône varieties to enhance both the red and rosé wines. Cinsault is one such addition, and this expressive 2017 vintage gives our club members a chance to experience Cinsault on its own. We think wine club members will understand why this variety has earned a place in our cellar as a blending component once they experience its bright fruit flavors.
Operated by the Seaton and Furgeson brother/sister team, Farmhouse Vineyards is comprised of four vineyards on sites covering 112 acres in the High Plains AVA in West Texas. The vineyards situated at 3,330 feet in elevation see hot days and cool nights. The climate is similar to the hot, windy weather in the Southern Rhone Valley and Chateauneuf du Pape where the Cinsault grape thrives. The variety withstands dry conditions and grows well in the loamy soils of the High Plains.
We bottled the 2017 with about 9 months of barrel aging in neutral oak allowing the expressiveness of this light-bodied wine to really shine. It has bright notes of fresh strawberries, cranberries, fresh tobacco, and basil. It will fill your mouth with just-picked summer strawberries and a long finish with soft tannins.
Our 2017 Farmhouse Vineyards Cinsault is a great aperitif and is easy and lovely to drink on its own. It pairs beautifully with soft goat cheeses, blueberry salads, trout or salmon seasoned with dill.
With its lighter skins and soft perfume Cinsault is particularly suitable for fruity, early-drinking reds. This wine is being released now with the hopes you’ll enjoy it young and get the full expression of fruit flavors. Drink up and don’t worry about cellaring!
Join us at our Fall Wine Club Parties to preview the outstanding 2016 La Pradera Tannat.
Pedernales Cellars is fortunate to have an amazing estate vineyard located close to our winery. Kuhlken Vineyards is the heart of the family-owned winery. My brother, and Pedernales Cellars winemaker, David Kuhlken, and I relish the family history that has gone into cultivating vineyards and thoroughly enjoy our roles in helping the vineyard to evolve over the past two decades.
Our parents, Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken, planted a 5 acre the vineyard in 1995 originally on a 55 acre property adjacent to State Highway 16 in Fredericksburg in the Bell Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the Texas Hill Country. We have since expanded the vineyard to 17 acres with the totally property now at 295 acres. Our parents had a dream to return to their agricultural roots, having both grown up on farms for part of their respective childhoods.
Kuhlken Vineyards is situated on rolling hills with excellent soil and enjoys cooler evenings, making it one of the most ideal locations in the state for grape growing. At this site, we grow Albariño, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, and Touriga Nacional, and small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for our award-winning vineyard designated wines. Each grape variety is in various stages of ripening, and we are quickly approaching harvest. The Pedernales Cellars team will soon be incredibly busy in the vineyard bringing in the grapes for the 2019 vintage.
We’re incredibly enthusiastic for harvest and want to share that excitement with you. We have two excellent ways for you to celebrate the Texas Wine Grape Harvest:
2019 Pedernales Cellars Harvest Photo Contest
Here is your opportunity to experience harvest and share it with the world. Now through August 22, 2019, we invite you to capture and share the hard work, passion and beauty of this unique time during the wine cycle in our Harvest Photo Contest.
- To enter the 2019 Pedernales Cellars Harvest Photo Contest, simply shoot a photo of any Texas wine-grape vineyard during harvest, tag your shots with @PedernalesCellars and hashtag #PedernalesHarvest19 and share them on Facebook or Instagram. We encourage you to tag other fantastic Texas wineries as well.
- Follow along via #PedernalesHarvest19 as the contest is also a great way for you to get unique insights into the winemaking process right from the start and an appreciation of the hard work, commitment and passion that goes into every bottle.
- The winner will receive tickets to Grape Stomp, and a Wine & Food Pairing event on September 15, along with Pedernales Cellars logo Riedel glasses.
2019 Kuhlken Vineyard Harvest Tour
On Saturday, August 3, beginning at 9:00 we invite you to take a little road trip to see the harvest firsthand at our estate vineyards in Fredericksburg. This tour begins at Pedernales Cellars at 9:00 a.m. and includes transportation to and from Kuhlken Vineyard, a picnic lunch, and a tour of our winery.
For more information, please visit: /events/2019-Harvest-Vineyard-Tour
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.