Kuhlman Cellars Blog
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 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 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.
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.
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 is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a dusty old cellar beneath a Chateau in France? What is the first thing people want to see when they tour a winery? The answer for most of us would be the wine barrel. Simply put, the oak barrel is one of the single most romantic things to observe in the cellar, they are equally as beloved in regards to winemaking. Barrels act as a vessel, a membrane between the wine and the oxygen-rich air outside of the barrel. These metal-hooped, toasted bunches of oak slats, call staves, are oh-so important to the art of making fine wine. Let us take a look into the world of wine barrels, and why they are an integral tool in the cellar.
Firstly, why barrel age a wine? A wine barrel acts as a porous barrier, allowing small amounts of oxygen transfer to occur over time. This aspect of barrel aging really helps to achieve structure and marriage of flavors in a wine. Second, it is very common to obtain flavors from a new oak barrel during its first use, typically within the first year or two of a barrel’s life. After such time, the barrel becomes what we call neutral, basically meaning it imparts little flavor into the wine, but the oxidative effect and additional tannins from the wood are still very much present.
There are several regions in which we harvest oak, but the two most common would be French and American oak. Each has their own unique personality and offers different characteristics to the wine housed within them.
American oak- Harvested from oak in the warmer climate of the United States, this type of wood has looser graining which produces more aggressive flavor profiles. Baking spices, dill, vanilla and toasty flavors are often exuded from American oak.
French oak- Harvested from the cooler climate of France, this type of wood offers tighter graining which produces more gentle flavor profiles. Gentle notes of vanilla and toast can be expected from French oak.
What about tannins? In wine, tannins come from the skins, seeds (called pips), and the stems of the grape clusters. Did you know tannins also are imparted from the oak barrels? Typically we perceive phenolic tannins from the fruit on the front palate, while the tannin compounds from the oak barrels are often sensed on the back palate. Tannins in general are perceived as astringency all over the mouth, and add a ton to the structural mouth-feel of a wine.
Next time you are in a tasting room and are admiring the oak barrels, try and remember how much they add to the finished product in your glass. Let us also give a shout-out to the people that put in the time and effort that went into making a wine barrel by hand.
Vina Vita, my friends!
The holidays are a time when giving and receiving can result in a nice stash of wine accumulating in your cellar. If hosting a holiday party, chances are a guest will bring a bottle of wine or Champagne as a thank you gift. Santa may deliver an intriguing bottle of your favorite varietal with a note to not open until Christmas… five years later. Rather than let your yuletide bounty of bottles sit on the kitchen counter, here are some tips for storing the gift of wine all year long.
Only 1% of the world’s wines are meant for “long term” storage. The other 99% is meant for consumption between immediate and up to 10 years. During that time, the way a wine is stored can help preserve the integrity of the product and encourage the long-term chemical reactions happening inside improving it with age.
Wines biggest ‘frenemy’ is Oxygen. Oxygen allows wine to ‘open’ when uncorked, allowing a wide range of aromatics and flavors to emerge. Prematurely introducing oxygen for long spans of time degrades and ‘spoils’ the wine. Wines with a high level of natural acidity help slow the oxidation process. . When you cut open an apple, the flesh begins to brown very quickly due to oxidation. Wine undergoes a similar ‘browning’. High natural acidity in wine helps slow the oxidation process much like lemon juice stops oxidation in fruit.
Tannin levels also help prevent oxidation. Tannins act like a “shock absorber” to process oxygen in a way that allows other chemical complexities to not bear the full brunt of exposure. Tannins are primarily gained from extended contact with the seeds of the grape and barrel aging. Storing wine properly allows tannin chains to be “used up” or broken, giving aged wine a softer, more nuanced body. White wines do not have the same exposure to the seeds and barrel age resulting in low tannins and a generally a poor candidate for long term storage. Try to consume white wines within three years of the date on the bottle for best results.
Every collector dreams of stepping into a stone-walled underground cellar lined with cedar racks nestling bottles like sleeping baby bats in a cave. Sadly, this romantic version of the perfect cellar is simply not reality for everyday urban living. A functional, practical cellar for storing wine can be incorporated into any home. These four simple rules will help save your wines from spoilage:
Find a cool place: Ideally wines should be cellared at 65 degrees. But here in Texas, following the rule of not exceeding 75 degrees is more practical. Find a spot that provides a stable temperature level and avoid wild heating and cooling fluctuations. Wines stored in excess of 80 degrees can ‘bake’ in the bottle causing heat damage.
Find a dark place: UV light rays are damaging to wine. Find a shaded space away from direct sunlight. Green or brown or bottles act as a UV filter, but prolonged UV exposure will harm the liquid in the bottle.
Bad Vibes: There are tens of thousands of complex chemical reactions happening in a single bottle of wine. Vibrations can speed up or deter these reactions from happening. Keep your wine collection away from heavy machinery like washers and driers, climate control systems and vehicles.
Going Sideways: Bottles should be stored on their side to maintain contact between the liquid and natural cork. Because cork is porous, it can contract when dry and allow unwanted oxygen into the bottle. For this same reason, don’t allow corks to dry out. Keep your wine in a place where fresh, humid air can maintain the natural sponginess of cork.
Navigating the Wine Aisle
One item not on the label of a bottle is how long it should be stored for. Price point can be an indicator of how long a wine can sit before consumption. The majority of wines that price under $30 are meant to be drunk within 1-5 years after the vintage date. Wines between $30 to $100 are meant to age for 5-10 years of the vintage date, though there are many exceptions. The quality of the bottle and cork can offer subtle insight as to whether the winemaker chose to invest in the longevity of the juice.
Keep in mind that long term aging is not a benchmark for quality. Many highly praised wines are not meant to age past 10-20 years; the chemical composition simply does not hold up over time. The lack of prolonged cellaring possibilities does not impact the quality of a wine consumed within its proper stored lifetime.
National magazines and wine websites often note wines with the potential for long-term storage. When looking for a wine gift (or a gift for yourself) with delayed gratification in mind, consult these resources so you can buy now and enjoy later. If you are looking to shop for local this holiday season consult The Texas Wine Journal for guidance with Texas grown and produced wines. The Journal offers ratings and descriptions compiled from a panel of professional sommeliers after tasting the wines blindly by category. You can find more information about the journal at TexasWineJournal.org. Happy Holidays and safe imbibing!
Kuhlman Wines that are expected to age:
2012 Merlot: expected to show improvement for 5+ years, assess the progress in 2017
2012 Texas Red: expected show improvement for 5+ years, assess the progress in 2017
2012 Barranca: expected to age gracefully from 5-10 years
2012 KanKar: expected to age gracefully from 5-10 years
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.