Kuhlman Cellars Blog
It’s hard to believe it has been seven years since we first opened our doors to welcome guests to the Estate. What a journey!
Some of you may recall the early days - back when the vineyards were not yet planted, or when the Barrel room was the only structure on the property. How we started out with an ideal of building the best boutique winery in the Hill Country through exceptional fine wine coupled with exquisite hospitality. Today, Kuhlman Cellars is a welcoming place to slow down and savor an afternoon away.
We acquired the Estate property in 2013 when it was just a coastal grass field. And we got to work. Drilling a well, installing a fence, getting electricity as well as an entrance from the highway. Vineyards were put in with both irrigation as well as the physical trellising, followed by planting vines in 2015, 2016 and 2018. White. Rosé. Red. We are wine-growers. Tending the land in addition to growing the best boutique winery in the Texas Hill Country
Fine wine takes time. Building an Estate community does as well! Things evolve when raising a community. We’ve had guests spend their first date at the Estate to be followed by engagements and then visits after their wedding. We’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, welcomed new babies to the family. And we’ve also mourned the loss of loved ones.
Reflecting on things, one of the most remarkable parts of creating our Kuhlman community is the friendships and memories. The FEB2021 ice storm comes to mind, but also getting notification of our Estate White winning medallions in the Concours d Lyon International Wine Competition. Our little patch of heaven, along with our team, grow wonderfully beautiful fruit which is transformed into exceptional wine.
We appreciate all who have joined our journey and look forward to welcoming new smiling faces as we go into the future!
As of October 2021, seven years into being open, we have not yet released an Estate Red wine. We have the 2019 vintage Estate Red in the bottle and can’t wait to share it, but it is not yet ready. As with many things in the wine business - it takes time. Patience.
Thank you for growing with us. Thank you for celebrating - the big and small - with us. We wouldn’t be here without our amazing team - and that includes our guests, our friends, our community. Vina Vita!
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.
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!
Welcome to 2019! Hard to believe we are already in January 2019. I know it is always this way as we wonder where last year went and what is in store for the new year. With the start of the new year, it is also time to debut the new 2019 Winter Pairing menu.
We rotate the menu every three months to keep things fresh, local and seasonal. Besides, it's always neat to anticipate and then experience what new and different ideas Chef Cook has for us to enjoy. This menu is no different. To provide a little bit of a spoiler, we get to enjoy puffed Cheetos... wrapped in salami and dipped in an incredible avocado aioli paired with the 2016 Texas High Plains Merlot. Chester will be proud to see his snack elevated in ways unexpected!
We are sometimes asked why we go through the effort to provide wine and food pairings. The answer is two fold: First, in our opinion, wines are best experienced when surrounded with friends, food and family. They facilitate community and conversation. Gathering around the table is the foundation of our food culture and traditions. We find ourselves connecting and reflecting. Wine helps us slow down and appreciate the bounty in our lives.
The Kuhlman Cellars food pairing tasting helps promote connections and relaxation. We sit at the tasting table where all are welcome. We find ourselves talking, laughing and sharing with friends new and old. It is amazing
how many times new friendships are made or old ones are rediscovered by happenstance in the tasting room. That is what it is all about! We are pleased to facilitate this experience and have our wines be part of something special.
Second: growing and making wine takes a long time. Our red wines age around 30 months between harvest and release. KanKar, one of our flagship wines, takes about 38 months from harvest to release. So, let's not be in a hurry to slam down a wine-shot and race down the road. Instead, let's slow down, sit down, relax and savor. It is worth the effort.
The new menu will run until the end of March. This gives you plenty of time to find a day to reserve your tasting at the estate taste the wine and food bites. Don't forget, we also list out all the past pairing menus on the website, should you want to remind yourself of prior bites and perhaps new ideas for your own culinary adventure!
See you at the estate soon.
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!