Kuhlman Cellars Blog
Thanksgiving looks a little different in 2020. Covid-19 caused a collective upheaval in our lives and continues to pose a threat. It is sometimes difficult to remember just exactly what we are thankful for this year; a year presenting challenges for all.
BUT… Thanksgiving is about giving thanks! It is a time to acknowledge the silver linings in the dark clouds of the past nine months.
While there have been difficulties, we feel blessed. Most importantly, our team has remained healthy and safe. Many of our staff members pulled double-duty and discovered new skills in other areas of the winery. This year’s Estate vintage is exciting for many reasons, but the greatest is all members of the Kuhlman team contributed to our Estate harvest this year – a true team effort! Through Virtual Tastings and Facebook Live, we learned new ways to maintain and build community with our guests. And, we were finally able to reopen and see your smiling eyes, even if we could not see the smiles behind your masks.
This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for our health. We are thankful for our amazing, hard-working staff. We are thankful for the opportunities coming from adversity. We are thankful for our community. We are thankful for our wonderfully supportive Vina Vita club members. And, of course, we are thankful for great wine!
We wanted to make our 2020 Thanksgiving bundle something to really celebrate this year. So, we turned to the cellar for some popular, limited supply, library wines. When you look for wines complimenting your Thanksgiving favorites, the key is versatility. You want wines pairing well with a variety of foods, so make sure you have plenty on hand!
Greet your guests with our 2019 Hensell (or pour yourself a glass while you prepare the feast – we won’t tell.) This delicate Provence-style Rosé is a perfect pre-dinner drink on its own but also pairs nicely with your favorite appetizers. For the main meal, you will want to serve both a white and a red wine. Our 2018 Estate Roussanne is both bright and complex at the same time. This wine has lovely acidity with herbal notes on the nose and flavors of pear and citrus in the mouth. The 2017 Sangiovese is a perfect accompaniment due to its beautiful structure, not overly oaky or tannic, and sharp acidity. Thanksgiving meals are usually heavy enough on its own, so it is best to keep the wines refreshing.
Thank you for being part of our Kuhlman Cellars community! We wish you all a happy Thanksgiving and a delicious Thanksgiving meal!
The Concours International de Lyon wine competition announced earlier this week Kuhlman Cellars won two Gold Medals and three Silver Medals!
We are obviously honored to win these medals; however, these medals are significant, not just because they are Gold and Silver, but also because of the competition itself.
Concours de Lyon is one of the largest wine competitions in France. Most of the entries come from France, though wineries around the world enter, with over 6,000 wines entered for this competition. No more than one third of the entries earn medals, making it one of the most competitive wine competitions. French wines, grapes and winemakers (Vignerons) are the focus and soul of the competition. We aren’t just competing against the entries of the year, but generations of experience growing grapes in their ancestral homelands as well as generations of winemaking experience.
The winning wines:
Gold Medal Winners:
2018 Estate Kuhlmanation White: A beautiful blend of Marsanne and Roussanne grown right on the Estate in Stonewall, Texas. We dug the holes, planted the vines and grew these vines since 2015. This is our second vintage and the wine perfectly captures the fresh, lively, brilliant ideals we envision for our white wine program.
2018 Texas High Plains Viognier: 2018 saw perfect ripeness in the grapes allowing for nearly ideal varietal characteristics to blossom! Ripe, rich, structured fruit grown for us by our vineyard partners, Bingham Family Vineyards.
Silver Medal Winners:
2016 Reserve Merlot: Grown by Flache Vineyards in Brownfield, our 2016 Reserve Merlot is our first reserve bottling. It spent a total of 30 months in French oak barrels, providing sufficient time to fully express the beautiful old world style of the best Merlot in the world.
2017 Marl: A new wine named after the clay and limestone soil of the estate (and found in Bordeaux), the 2017 vintage is a blend of Merlot and Petite Sirah - a blend never to be found in France, but certainly in Texas! The Merlot comes from the Flache vineyard while the Petite Sirah comes from Lahey vineyards.
2017 Sangiovese, Newsom Vineyards: 100% Sangiovese of the Brunello Clone. A special wine and our first ever Vineyard Designated! Neal Newsom, the legendary grower in Plains, Texas, tended the vines and grew this beautiful fruit for us showcasing classic varietal characteristics.
To further expand on the meaning of these awards:
Roussanne, one of our Kuhlmanation Estate White grapes, is thought to have originated in the Rhone Valley of France. It is one of only four white grapes permitted in Chateauneuf du Pape and is also found in the Northern Rhone. These areas are just south of Lyon and wineries and Vignerons have made wine from these grapes for generations. It is no exaggeration to say they have hundreds of years experience in growing, harvesting and making wine with these grapes. This same experience applies to other French grapes - Marsanne, Viognier, Merlot, and Petite Sirah.
We planted our estate Marsanne and Roussanne in 2015. The 2018 Vintage is only our second harvest.
We sent our wine to this year’s competition knowing it would be blind-tasted, side-by-side with all the other entries and judged by French wine professionals, many winemakers themselves, who know the best expressions of the grapes and wines.
We won Gold.
Great things are happening in quality Texas wine. There is no doubt: Texas Wine belongs on the world stage.
Here at Kuhlman we love being able to feature wines with fun pairings. While we all know and love Alluve, Barranca and Kankar; let's take a minute to talk about wines we consider “hidden gems” for our favorite Texas foods. Our cultural history is written in food & wine and Texas is no exception with its melting pot of flavors.
2017 Marl: This blend of Merlot and Petite Sirah has been winning hearts at the winery. Its velvety tannins and blackberry notes seem to surprise people who don’t care for merlot. The Petite Sirah adds a peppery note making this a great match for burgers on the grill or picnics with Roast beef or even Ruben sandwiches. We particularly love this with something that has red peppers in it like romesco sauce over potatoes. Try it with Texas style queso and tortilla chips. A red wine with chips and queso?! Yes!
2016 Gypsum: Gypsum is our hidden summer favorite. Lighter than Alluvé, this wine can be enjoyed chilled. (shhh, try it in sangria!) Gypsum’s light and cheerful nature makes it a wonderful surprise pairing for seafood and spicy Mexican, Tapas and Spanish foods. Try it with spicy Barbecue, beans, and potato salad on a hot summer night. This wine is the perfect way to introduce dry reds to people just beginning their wine journey, but it also has a complexity that lets those “experienced” wine drinkers enjoy as well.
2017 Zinfandel: There is a reason we put Texas on the label. This isn’t California Zin. This Zinfandel is light, fresh and peppery with hints of strawberry. Because this Zin is a lighter style, it is surprisingly versatile and loves big flavors in food. Try it with Lamb meatballs or Pulled pork with Barbecue sauce. We often pair this Zinfandel with game meats to complement their earthy nature. Try smoked duck breast for an extra treat. Zinfandel tends to be high in alcohol which can make spicy food seem spicier so be cautious with the hot peppers. But Indian flavors and Zinfandel are a perfect match, I also love it with chicken fried steak or Jaeger schnitzel. But the best… try it with barbecue potato chips.
As we, at Kuhlman Cellars, look out of our empty tasting room windows over a vibrant green vineyard and beautiful flowering grounds,
we are struck by how different the natural world is from our current world events. Things are quiet and we sit on opposite ends of the tasting room at our makeshift desks and dream of ideas to connect with you, our customers and community. Work still continues and the vines need tending. The beauty before us in our vines and flowers is a cycle that is never ending and always changing. The vines grow inches every day at a startling rate and the rain brings more lush green to our world view.
This time of challenge is a perfect opportunity to stop and view the world around us as an example of what is to come. Flowers will still bloom and grapes will still ripen. We will take time in anticipation of harvest and celebrate each other in a way that connects us to the world. Times are hard. We worry for your safety and health and look with hope to a time in the future when we can sit with you at our tables and enjoy the bounty that the vineyard cycle brings forth.
Now, in the midst of uncertainty, we cherish even more the opportunity to connect with you, our extended family. We developed virtual tastings, podcasts and Facebook Wine Time as a way to reassure all of us the harvest still comes and brighter days lie ahead. Life will follow nature if we let it and the cycle will continue.
Spring is a time to celebrate renewal and fresh beauty. It is a time to celebrate our Estate Vineyard with our spring club release, even though we can’t have an in-person pick up party. Take time to join us virtually and connect - we miss you! Two estate wines will be coming to you in this club shipment (unless you decide to customize.) These represent the heart of Kuhlman Cellars.
2019 Estate Roussanne
The third harvest of our Estate Roussanne gave us a wine attracting you with an “Or Blanc” (white gold) color and shows an intense nose of jasmine, honeysuckle, orange blossom, pear and lemon zest. You will not be disappointed as you sip this wine because it bursts with flavors of peaches and lychee with a touch of green mango. The well balanced and lingering acidity will make this wine a perfect accompaniment to ceviche, tapenade and tapas.
Roussanne can be challenging in the vineyard. We call it our “princess” and baby it to get the best, most flavorful Roussanne possible. Harvest comes when not just the sugar and acid are correct but the grapes pop with lemon curd flavor on the tongue. This always happens in the heat of the summer!
2019 Estate Rose
This delicate Rosé made from our Estate Carignan and Mourvédre will seduce you with a soft strawberry color and smooth wild violet with crushed strawberry aroma. This light and refreshing wine has a subtle acidity that will best be enjoyed on a hot Texas summer evening with tabbouleh or any picnic food - hopefully at one of our picnic tables at the Estate!
Fans of the 2017 Hensell will be ecstatic! This release of Hensell is lighter in color and true to classic Provence-style Rosé. Delicate in the nose with hibiscus, pink apple and lavender aromas but powerful on the palate with a perfectly balanced acidity. Flavors of ruby red grapefruit will pair magically with spicy Thai or Mediterranean style food.
Celebrating spring in your home with your community, even if only virtually, is important for all of us in times like these. This is a beautiful time to strengthen our relationships and deepen friendships, being grateful for the gifts we have. Enjoy time with your community to cook, garden and be out in nature. Celebrate this spring as a time to renew our bonds and appreciate the joy that is Food, Family and Friends.
With our five year anniversary upon us, Kuhlman Cellars has something special now we have not had before: history. While of course our history is in the making, we now have the gift of a place and entity transformed by time. Time takes our original story on a curvy road of changes, through both elated and bittersweet moments. Time transforms our story, as the former beginning and end morph into a completely different picture. The beginning seems to span more time than before while the end is somehow simultaneously where we wanted to be and yet not exactly as planned.
As we capture our history, we become able to share it. Our newest tasting, The Reserve Tasting and Tour, explores our history in physical form: through our vintages. The Reserve Tasting is a celebration of time. It is a way for us to share with you our history, our evolving vineyard, and our winemaking philosophy.
The Reserve Tasting is an intimate conversation with our winemaker Bénédicte Rhyne, who through the eyes of Kuhlman’s winemaking, takes you on a journey through our story. Together you travel through time, exploring the present moment with wine-in-progress (barrel/tank tastings) and our history with our library wines.
Opening each of the rare and special library bottles is exciting new territory. They are gifts to share. For Kuhlman Cellars, having a reserve library is not about bottles collecting dust but rather about sharing something special with our families and community. It is about experiencing wine and tasting the evolution. Each Reserve Tasting focuses on exploring a particular aspect of our vintage library. Bénédicte shares the story of each of these wines, what was happening with them at their birth, and then sharing in the experience of what they are now.
It is so reaffirming to know that our patience pays off--that the hard work keeps giving back to us years down the line.
The vintages of Kuhlman Cellars are our living history captured in a bottle. They charm and entrance us, and there is nothing better than sharing in our living history with the Kuhlman community.
As we approach our 5th birthday, we are excited to finally unveil two new red wines, years in the making.
We’ve learned our patience for the process because fine wine takes time. At Kuhlman, we don’t believe in bottling our reds a year after harvest. Fine red wine simply needs time to mature and reach it’s true potential. You can taste the difference in wines that haven’t been rushed. Currently, we take an average of 30 months from harvesting to release a bottle of red wine - that’s two and a half years! We also will never, ever “bottle Thursday, sell Friday”. Our reds get at least a few months if not upwards of a year of bottle aging prior to their release. Patience is the name of the game for fine wine!
Our two newest reds received this same patience and care in their development. Which is part of the reason we are so proud to offer them in the September Club Release:
Our Kuhlman proprietary blends are named after distinct geological features of Texas terroir. Marl is a soil structure of mixed of clay and limestone, which we have generous amounts of towards the eastern half of the Kuhlman Estate.Blocks 2, 3 and 5-- Marsanne, Agilanico and Carignan, respectfully, all contain the Marl soil, contributing to our ability to grow this fruit beautifully and capture its essence even in the extremes of Texas weather All else being equal, clay results in a “cooler” soil which tends to slow down ripening and helps keep acidity of the fruit. It also holds significantly more moisture - which on a wet year, can be challenging! 2019 certainly has shown this, as we’ve had about 50% more rain than a “normal” year.
Pomerol, Bordeaux and Piedmont, Italy also are known for their Marl terroir, and the amazing quality and blending in these wines regions help inspire our own old world blend, Marl.The new 2017 Marl is a beautiful Old World style red blend. It has bright red fruit notes with aromatics of plum and cassis. As with all of our blends, the grape composition will change from year to year. For 2017, Marl is a wonderful, rich blend of Merlot and Petite Sirah.
The 2016 Reserve Merlot is a landmark wine for Kuhlman Cellars. It is our first ever “Reserve” designate wine, made with great intention and care. Prior to bottling the regular 2016, Bénédicte sampled and tasted each barrel, selecting the very best to be set aside. We allowed these barrels to rest, reserved in the cellar, for an additional 12 months French Oak barrel aging. All told, the 2016 Reserve Merlot spent 30 months in French oak barrels developing mature aromas of dried cherries and violets. The extended aging also developed exquisite mouthfeel. We are very pleased with how the complex finish lingers and creates a layered experience/reflection which time, patience and intention bring. This is a wine to enjoy with rich, complex foods, or for a special occasion.
We are excited to share this Reserve wine with you. When we first considered the possibility of reserving part of the 2016 Merlot for special cellaring treatment, we were driven by creating a distinct and elegant wine. We expect you will be delighted when you open the bottle and experience it for yourself!
As we look further out on the horizon, there will be a steady release of new red wines. Of course, our favorites and anchors of our wine program such as Alluvé, Barranca and KanKar will continue their rich legacy
For Vina Vita wine club members, you have choice on each club shipment and you can always order more than your minimum quantity while enjoying your membership discount. Be sure to customize or add to your selections to fit your palette, and remember to try our new release wines. We want you to enjoy what you receive, try new wine adventures, and live Vina Vita!
Cheers to the Wine Life!
2018 Hensell Allocation!
Probably the most frequent question I’ve heard in the tasting room the last 5 weeks is “when will Hensell be released?!”
We understand. We’ve been anxiously waiting too! Great news though: 2018 Hensell is ready for release!
Our big question was how should we do this? Waiting till September for the next scheduled club release seems too far away. Especially since Hensell Rosé is one of the quintessential summer wines in Texas! So, we’ve decided to do something new and present a new club membership perk:
We are offering each club member the exclusive benefit of early-access to Hensell.
Each member has the opportunity (but not the obligation) to purchase between 3 and 12 bottles of Hensell! Simply log into your Kuhlman Cellars account, navigate to the Allocation section of your profile, confirm your bottle counts, add to your cart, and hit checkout. Simple!
You have until July 4th for the early-access Hensell pre-release. After that, it will be made available to general release in the Tasting Room.
But wait….there’s more exciting news!
We’ve also heard from our members who sometimes can’t make it to the winery. So, we are hitting the road this summer for a Hensell Roadshow! We will bring your allocation bottles to events held in major cities in late June!
If you’ve accepted the allocation, make plans to join us at one of the different events where we will sample Hensell and other Kuhlman Wines! Each location will also have a special Hensell food pairing which you can purchase to enjoy with a glass of Hensell. The best part is we will bring your Hensell to you (and any other wines you might want as well).
As always, be sure to bring friends! You can find the RSVP information here.
2018 Hensell Rosé
For the 2018 Hensell, we continue pursuing our goal of exquisite Provence styled dry, aromatic roses. We’ve also changed the fruit blend, with this year being hand harvested Grenache and Cinsault from our great partners at Farmhouse Vineyards blended with some of our Estate grown, hand harvested Carignan.
Hand harvesting provides the most gentle handling of the fruit to preserve the delicate nuances while also conveying the most winemaking control to Bénédicte, our winemaker. Having grown up in Provence, Bénédicte's rosés are true to style and beautifully transport us all to the south of France and the epicenter of rose in the world!
This wine will be a certain palate pleaser for anyone seeking a refreshing, crisp, aromatic easy drinking wine. Enjoy with salads, shrimp & grits, BLT’s, as well as BBQ, duck & sausage gumbo, and Tex-Mex. Or, simply enjoy on a porch swing, poolside lounge or an evening relaxing with friends.
Whew, we made it past May 4th! Why the sigh of relief? We are celebrating because in 2013, Texas had a devastating frost decimating the 2013 grape crop!
Growing Grapes in Texas Ain’t Easy
We’ve been watching weather forecasts and our vines with prayers and fingers crossed since late February. At the end of February, you may recall a frigid cold snap, where luckily our vines were mostly asleep and so were unaffected. Some of our friends and neighbors in the hill country weren't as fortunate and suffered losses.
As is said of Texas weather, if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute! And now as the threat of frost is removed, our eyes turn to hail.
Hail can wreak terrible damage on a vineyard (or house, car or really anything) in a short amount of time. Already, two of our three Hill Country vineyards have been hit with hail. Twice in one week, the Cobb Family Vineyard suffered damage from a hail storm. Most recently, the thunderstorm of May 3 also brought hail to our newest vineyard of Petite Sirah at Barons Creekside, right inside Fredericksburg. Luckily, damage to both vineyards doesn’t appear to be significant and we will adjust our canopy management to adapt.
We still have a fair bit to go in terms of springtime hail threats, but we keep crossing our fingers and waiting the Texas minute!. There are plenty of worries in farming that are threats out of our control: we have “tropical rain events”, severe heat waves, animal predation and a host of diseases. In 2017, the tropical rain event was Harvey, which brought an astounding amount of rain to Texas. Luckily for the vineyard, we had harvested our Hill Country fruit before his arrival,
We take our challenges as a reminder of our connection to the land we farm, the community that supports us, and the miracle that is the resulting fruit. In every bottle there is a story: a labor of love, a commitment to faith, and the rewards of perseverance.
I was leading a tasting the other day and someone asked where our wine names came from and who named the wines. The very short answer: me! The longer answer will be revealed in two parts: our winery name and then our wine names.
When Jennifer and I “bought the farm” back in 2010, we specifically sought a place both peaceful to our souls, but also furthering our family goal of a personal vineyard. The 34 acres we bought has a beautiful 10 acre pasture but also some hills and a small valley. Kuhlman Creek forms on this property, which is sited at the northern ridge of the Pedernales River Valley. As we face south, we have a beautiful view stretching 4 miles and several hundred feet gradual drop down to the river. It’s stunning and peaceful.
When we launched the winery, we struggled with a name. We didn’t want to name it after our family, because the winery isn’t about us. Further, we didn’t want to distract from our amazing wines and the meaningful experience of food and wine pairings. Some of you know we originally thought Kuhlman Creek Cellars, but dropped “creek” when we realized how many places already have a “creek” as part of their name! Kuhlman is anything but a follower or part of the crowd - we’ve completely redefined the meaning of wine and food pairings as related to wine tastings.
Back in 2010, the creek was a live water stream and had flowed seemingly uninterrupted for years, even through the terrible 1950’s drought. Our oldest son even caught some small perch in the creek, much to my surprise and a lost bet! However, the extreme drought of 2011-2013 changed that and the creek dried up. It’s flowing again on a seasonal basis, though the importance of water on all of our ecology can’t be understated. The Texas A&M Forest Service estimates approximately 300 million Texas trees perished because of the 2011 drought!
The winery is named after water - the foundation of life. Our wine names are about the dirt in which the vines grow, and their story will be told in a later blog. When we add in our unique Texas weather and our yearly labor of love in the vineyard and cellar, the result is wine. Really great wine!
Where did January go?!
I know I feel this way every new year, but we’ve turned around, took a breath, and have already flown into February! That’s exciting though because that means we’ve also enjoyed one of our favorite events: the Annual Super Bowl Tailgate party! That day was so much fun with wine and incredible food. And, we won the weather lottery - AGAIN - with stunningly perfect weather. It’s always risky in February in Texas, but we all adapt and do what we do.
Another reason I look forward to February: it’s time to think about our new vintage red wine blends! It’s an exciting and anticipatory time when we start talking about blends, volumes, and goals. It’s more enticing when Benedicte comes around with sample bottles and graduated cylinders.
Our red winemaking process follows a general pattern: harvest in the fall to make red wine in individual lots from our different vineyards. Let the wine begin maturing in tank and barrel until February the following year, when unique terroir character becomes more evident. Bénédicte then begins her blending magic crafting the wines we’ve come to love as well as potential new. By the end of March, we typically settle on the blends. By June, the blending is typically complete and the wines then rest in barrel till bottling. Bottling is a long process guided by the wine’s maturation progress. Our first red bottling tranche typically happens in June, two years after harvest. A second bottling typically happens around 28 months post-harvest. We now have some wines which we are aging even longer to see how they develop in the barrel. Once bottled, the wines then rest anywhere from 4 to 12 months before release. It is a long process!
For 2017, we have some familiar red wines in barrel: Alluvé, Barranca, KanKar, Merlot, Zinfandel, Gypsum and Malbec-Merlot. Excitedly, we are producing several new wines, including: a Brunello Sangiovese, a Bordeaux Blend (Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec) as well as a Newsom Vineyard blend (Tempranillo, Cabernet, Malbec). These new wines are amazing, already complex, and teasing and testing the patience of us all. Bottling of these 2017 red beauties starts in June, but some of these wines might not be bottled for another couple of years. Patience!
We don’t yet know the blends for 2018… ask us in a couple of months. We do know the Brunello will in the line up along with our regulars. What else awaits? We will just have to wait and see… there is no speed in winemaking, just the careful cadence of nurturing the vineyard and wine.
See you at the estate soon!