Kuhlman Cellars Blog
We bottled the 2016 KanKar this week. Don't get too excited. We won't be releasing it until September, 2019 - or another 10 months from now. Patience!
The 2016 KanKar will take about 36 months from harvest to release - 3 years. While we would all love to open that beautiful wine today, the simple fact remains: fine wine takes time.
For example: We invested over 5 years to release the first Estate wines earlier this year. Much of that time was converting the land from a coastal field to a vineyard and then farming the land and tending the vines, nurturing them to health and harvest. Fortunately, the first wines are whites and rose, since those "only" take about a year to produce post-harvest! It is one reason we love our tasting experiences so much: we all get to slow down and savor the literal fruits of our labors.
Modern conveniences and machines now exist to speed up the winemaking process; however, the consequences of rushing and pushing are, in our opinion, to the detriment of the quality and character of the wine. For us and our winemaking philosophy, only hand tended wines with ample time provides the optimal path towards excellence! After all, once the wine is in the glass and you experience the exceptional quality, can we reflect and realize the time and effort are worth it.
So, as we look to the end of the year and the promise of the new, let's slow down and savor with our community and family. Open the older wine and enjoy the graceful aging which time brings. Enjoy wine with friends, family and food. And we can wait awhile longer with anticipation as the younger wines continue their path of maturation.
23* on November 14 brought the 2018 viticulture year at our three Fredericksburg, Texas vineyards to a fast frozen end!
2018 was a challenging year in many respects, though really just another typical grape growing effort in Texas. I often describe Texas viticulture as one of survival. We have many risks to navigate: springtime frost, hail, disease, animal predation and "tropical rain events" (e.g., Hurricanes). Any year we harvest fruit is a success!
2018 started a little later than 2017, with the vines waking up in early March rather than late February. We avoided springtime frost and by April, growth was fast and abundant as the vines burst forth with the energy of Spring!
We had a very hot and dry growing season. The heat spike of June into July proved challenging as the vines struggle in excessive heat. The Estate Carignan, in prticular, seemed to suffer. The warm weather though, generally had the vines progressing through their maturation efforts quickly.
The estate fruit came in beautifully! We were pleased to get the first harvest off the Mourvedre in Block 1. This will be part of the estate Kuhlmanation Rose. We also welcomed the first ever harvest from our partner vineyard at Barons Creekside inside the city limits of Fredericksburg. This Petite Sirah vineyard is developing beautifully. Finally, we were relieved to harvest fruit at Cobb Family Vineyard again, after the racoon predation of 2017. We took the last fruit from the estate Carignan block 5 at the end of August. The fruit was beautiful. We harvested just in time too, as Texas weather rotated to a very wet early fall!
Keeping the vines healthy with all the rain was a challenge - the muddy vineyard made it tough to enter either on foot or tractor! Yet, the team managed and the vines made it through - and are looking great for next spring.
After the first freeze on November 14, the vines quickly went to sleep. As we walk the vineyards, we see the remnants of the season, including the occasional late developing cluster, now frozen in time. Texas viticulture isn't easy and it's never predictable. However, when successful, we are rewarded with distinctly unique, quality driven wines. We look forward to sharing the new vintage with you... but only when the wines are ready. For now, practice patience!
What an incredible ride it's been since October 3, 2014 when we opened the doors and officially launched Kuhlman Cellars: It hardly seems like it’s been four years!
It's funny how time and events evolve over the years. When we opened, the rustic dirt entry road led our guests to the parking lot and the lone structure we now call ‘the barrel room’ had triple duty for wine production, storage and tasting room. Vineyard infrastructure was still being installed such as irrigation piping, end posts and wire; while the rough "path" to the front door consisted circular paver stones from Home Depot! On that first highly anticipated Friday, we anxiously threw open the doors to welcome our guests... and well, no one came on that first day! We realized that having a sign on 290 would be helpful, so that came a few weeks later.
Our winery vision and inspiration has been constant: elevate the wine and hospitality experience of Texas wine. We want to drive wine quality improvement and innovate an unparalleled tasting-experience. I feel we’ve achieved (and continue to innovate) our goals on both fronts. More importantly, we've built a wonderful team committed to enhancing the community and sharing our passion for wine. Vineyards take a lot of work and operate at the speed of life... as such, so do we. We've built countless friendships, been a part of engagements & marriages, moves both long and short, life events, new jobs and expanding families: for that we are boundlessly grateful.
Thank you to all who've been part of our story, because this is what it is all about: community. Wine is the center-piece of all that comes from motivated work and appreciation of the finer things. It's not instant and it isn't easy, but the rewards are immeasurable. In the end, we rediscover what matters the most when we slow down: Family, Friends and Fellowship.
Hang on to your hats folks – Bud Break is upon us early in 2016.
Bud break is when the grapevines wake from their winter slumber and begin the annual growth cycle, hopefullyculminating in a high quality winegrape harvest! It is also the time when all of us winegrowers become obsessed with weather forecasts, temperature predictions and storm tracking. It is a nervous time. Inevitably, the grapes wake up before the last frost occurs and those frosts destroy more grape clusters than pretty much anything else in Texas! Our average last frost date in the Fredericksburg area is March 26. However, that simply means 50% of the final frost events for the year occurred by that date. The 90% last frost date isn’t until about April 14. This is when, historically, 90% of the final frost events have occurred.
The grapes awoke early this year. This is because we had an overall mild winter, but also because we had a very warm February. Let’s put things in perspective. Our 2016 bud break was March 7. This is the earliest we have encountered at the family vineyard. And it is the earliest by a lot – last year in 2015, we didn’t achieve bud break until March 24! Bud break in 2014 and 2013 was March 21 and March 15th respectfully. Therefore, March 7 represents about 3 weeks earlier than 2015 and 1 week earlier than our previous record.
So far, the weather looks promising. Though the weather isn’t up to us. Instead, we work hard to keep the vines healthy and we stay prepared to take whatever actions we can to protect those tender buds in cases of cold weather. Site selection is critically important to help defend against frost. At the family vineyard, we have nearly 2 miles of clear valley spreading out south of the vineyard along with about 200 feet of elevation drop. This allows the cold air to simply flow out of the vineyard and not settle to impact the vines.
As we progress through the growing season we look to transition from risk period to risk period. We start with frost, proceed through hail and ultimately encounter mold / fungus and proceed on to four legged and two winged pests in the form of mammals and birds who want to eat our precious fruit. We don’t breathe easy until the fruit is harvested and in the cellar!
With some fortune and very hard work, 2016 will not only see the third family vineyard harvest, but also the first at the Estate. We will see, but hopes are high and optimism strong.
For those of you who’ve recently visited the winery, you may have taken note of the new vineyard and the growing vines. With all the rain, we have a wide range of growth!
Overall at the estate, we have five different vineyard blocks ranging from just under and acre to about 2.3 acres in size. This represents anywhere from about 800 to just over 2100 vines per block. Of the five blocks, we planted 3 of them back in April representing about 3300 vines total.
Block 2, just north of the winery building and the vineyard section you see when you first drive into the estate, is planted with Marsanne. Marsanne? This grape may be unknown to many folks, but we believe it holds good promise as we continue seeking the best varieties for our climate and soil.
So, what is Marsanne?
Marsanne is a white grape, thought to have originated near the town of Marsanne, France, located in the northern Rhone valley. While the name may not be familiar, white wines from Hermitage, St. Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage and St-Peray are often predominately Marsanne blends. In fact, Marsanne is the most widely planted white grape variety in the northern Rhone. Marsanne is also found in the southern Rhone valley, where it can be found in white Cotes du Rhone wines.
Interestingly enough, Austrailia has the most Marsanne vines in the world, accounting for about 80% of the worldwide total. Marsanne was brought there in the 1860’s and the oldest Marsanne vines in the world are found there dating back to about 1927.
There isn’t much Marsanne yet growing in Texas. A couple of growers up in the High Plains are growing it, including VJ Reddy and Tyler Oswald. Mike McHenry has a block of Marsanne up near San Saba.
Marsanne in the Vineyard
We selected Marsanne for our estate vineyard because of the expected viticulture characteristics. It tends to bud late in the spring, typically about 11 days later than Viognier, which is important when we are dealing with spring frost events. It also tends to have less disease issues, partly due to the looser grape clusters which promotes better air circulation. It also produces wines of great character and structure, something we like when considering blending with our other white grape planted in Block 4 (and sister vine to Marsanne) – Roussanne.
So far at the estate, the vines are growing well in our clay-dominated soil over a limestone base. The rain so far has allowed the vines to grow without supplemental irrigation, a rare treat here in Texas. However, the high rainfall we’ve had this spring is causing its own challenges with standing water and disease pressure. Of course, we won’t get any fruit from these vines this year, though we might get a small sample in 2016. Look for a true harvest in 2017 with wine released perhaps in 2018.
Also, feel free to come on out and walk the vineyards and look at these wonderful vines!
The other day, someone asked me how long it takes for a vineyard to produce wine.
For us, it took two years to find our family vineyard with all the appropriate physical and siting characteristics. We planted four years ago, and just this past year we took a small fruit harvest. We were so pleased last year in August 2014 to harvest that inaugural fruit! The wine currently sits in French oak barrels resting and aging. Our best guess today is the wine might be available in another 18 months. Perhaps late fall of 2016. Indeed, 7 years to produce wine!
The bottom line: there is nothing fast in growing wine!
So, why do we often find ourselves in such a hurry to be tasting wine? As we rush along from place to place, person to person, task to task, and appointment to appointment, what is the rush to get through a wine tasting and race off to something else?
For us, the best wines were always the ones we've shared with friends and family, often around the dining table with food. These are the times when we relax and slow down--savoring life and the rich experiences making everything worthwhile. In our tasting room, we often talk about the Four F’s: Food, Family, Friends and the Fellowship which naturally occurs when the first three are found together.
This is why our tastings are relaxed, seated experiences complete with food pairings and conversations. As Jeremy often says, “sip, savor and enjoy!” This, to us, is Vina Vita - The Wine Life!
Give us a call, come on out and visit us. Step off US290 and slow down during one of our easy paced, nearly hour long tasting experiences and enjoy our wine flight with unique chef designed food pairing bites. It's a great opportunity to taste wine at the speed of growing... enjoy!
We held our first wine pairing dinner on January 31st - what an incredible Vina Vita event!
Chef Chris Cook, the co-founder of the San Antonio Chef Cooperatives, delivered an incredible multi-course dining experience filled with creative flavors, textures and beautiful presentations. Each course was perfectly paired with a different Kuhlman Cellars wine resulting in gastronomy harmony!
To match the elegance of the food, the dining experience was further heightened by holding the reception in our production and barrel facility and dining in the tasting room. Of course, our awesome team was there to ensure each guest was served and attended to without want of anything.
We intend to offer these Pairing Dinners quarterly as we rotate the wine tasting pairing menu with the season. Therefore, please watch for the next dinner in April when we announce the 2015 Spring Pairing menu.
I’ll wrap up now, but please enjoy the short video and selected pictures from the event.
It was a team effort as we came together to bottle three new wines yesterday, the first bottling run in our new facility!
After a couple of years working with these wines, it really feels great to have them now safely snug in their bottles where they can rest until time for release. We bottled three wines:
- 2012 Texas Merlot, Texas High Plains
- 2012 Barranca, Sonoma County
- 2012 KanKar, Sonoma County
These wines are all uniquely beautiful and we will tell you more about them in the coming weeks. For now, we can share about the Texas Merlot: The Texas Merlot is a very nicely balanced red and is the same Merlot which forms the backbone of the 2012 Texas Red. We expect to release this wine first among the three. Unfortunately, we only bottled about 40 cases, and will only be releasing about 30 cases. Therefore, this special wine will first be allocated to the wine club and if any remains after their allocation period, we will offer it in the tasting room. As a teaser, please take a look at the beautiful label I've posted below!
This bottling run is also special for us, as it is the first bottling done at our new production facility. We backed up the bottling truck and everything worked perfectly! Bottling is a fun, but tiring day – we start with the wine ready in the tank(s) and cases of new, empty bottles. Then, everything progresses through the bottling truck and then the bottled wine with labels, corks and foils all perfectly applied come out the other side. Viola!
The important part of bottling is having the patience to let the wine rest sufficiently before release. This is sometimes the hardest part, because everyone is so excited to have it “finished” and the bottles all look so pretty and ready to go. But you have to wait and let the wine recover from the bottling process—it doesn’t like to be pumped around, pushed through nozzles, exposed to oxygen and then sealed in the little bottle space!
Patience, patience, patience.
Stay tuned for the release announcements.
We've begun the earth works for the new estate vineyard!
There are several steps taken to put the vineyard in, including several which happen before we ever plant a vine.
Before we begin, we layout the vineyard blocks and agree on the orientation of the rows and the placement of the irrigation pipes. Generally, we want the rows to run north / south so as to get the best sunlight as the sun moves from east to west. Irrigation lines need to account for elevation shanges to ensure each vine gets the same amount of water - we don't want only the vines at the bottom of the rise to get water!
We start the land preparation by eliminating whatever is currently growing on the site. For the last ~20 years, the estate pasture was cultivated for coastal hay production. Coastal is a durable and resiliant grass and it handles period of drought by going dormant and then waking up once rains come. This means the roots are strong and well developed.
Once the coastal is eliminated, we rip the soil to fragment it and provide air for the to-be-planted vines. This involves running a large dozer over the ground and pushing long ripping blades into the earth to "rip up" the soil. We captured a short segment of this ripping in action in the video below!
The next steps include installing the trellising, running the irrigation lines and planting cover crops. All of this has to take place prior to the vines planting in the late spring.
Stay tuned and come visit to watch as we progress through the establishment phase in preparation for planting the first vineyard blocks next spring.