Kuhlman Cellars Blog
When I was a girl, my grandmother and I spent hours around her kitchen table plotting our holiday activities and indulging in the warm sweetness of freshly baked sugar cookies. During the long holiday season in Michigan, few things evoked the excitement of Christmas more than the crisp flinty smell of freshly fallen snow. My grandmother would dress me in layers of cold protection and send me out to forage for a bucket of pure snowflakes to make my holiday favorite; Snow Ice Cream. With a simple recipe of condensed milk and vanilla extract, she brought my seasonal delight to life with a wave of familiar and comforting vanilla.
Carefully un-wrapping me from my shell of wet wool warmed by my breath, winter down and leather mittens she indulged in the sticky sweetness of German Riesling. I would steal sips and swoon at the silky liquid candy. These rituals are still easily brought to mind by comforting smell of a warm winter wool scarf and with every glass of Riesling enjoyed in my adulthood I am transported back to those long holiday afternoons.
What is wine if not a scrapbook for your nose?
Few imbibements engage as many senses as wine. Sight delivers critical information about the age and condition of the wine but regales us with myriad of colors inspiring palettes found in artwork, fashion, and interior design.
We associate familiar sensations and sounds of pouring a glass of wine with celebration and relaxing. The heft of a bottle, the touch of a slender glass stem and the sound of a cork popping all help prepare us to enjoy what we are about to drink.
This leaves us with Taste and Smell, the two most rewarding elements of your wine experience.
The sensation of ‘flavor’ is a synergistic combination of taste and smell. When you cannot smell you taste very differently and in a diminished capacity. Test yourself by chewing a Jelly Bean while your nose is pinched. Can you recognize the flavor? Try it again, but open your nose midway through the process. When do you start to recognize the flavor of watermelon, cherry or black licorice?
I am frequently asked “At what point do you add the other ingredients or flavors to the wine?” The answer is never. The heart of a complex and flavorful wine is a continuous series of complex chemical reactions creating scents unique to the wine through the result of fermentation. While individual varietals (grapes) will have commonalities, the conditions in which it is grown and the winemaker’s process will influence the resulting flavor profiles. Your own personal body chemistry also plays a role in how you perceive these scents, which makes this process subjective by definition.
How do you develop the ability to find these scents and flavors? Wine is the ultimate example of Scent-Memory.
Sommeliers have made careers of waxing poetic about the dozens of unique flavors found in a singular glass. But, it is each individual’s ‘scent-memory’ that drives our understanding of wine. Recent Research has shown when areas of the brain connected to memory are damaged, the ability to identify smells is actually impaired. Let the process come naturally and try to ‘remember’ what you smell: a watermelon Jolly Rancher, a slice of Mom’s famous Cherry Pie or a new pair of leather boots. Open up a spice rack and put a name to those familiar warm smells. There is no wrong answer when it comes to describing the flavor of wine, never let anyone tell you what you perceive is incorrect.
The most important aspect of wine is simply enjoying it. During this season of Celebration, I challenge you to explore your ‘scent-memories’. Celebrate your past while creating the mental map for describing wine flavors yet to be savored. Find your True North wine, your sentimental ‘Grandma’s sweet Riesling’, or make a new memory linking a particular wine to a special time and place. Most importantly enjoy what you drink, don’t drink what you don’t enjoy and bask in the bouquet.
Aromatic Wine Recommendation:
2012 Kuhlman Cellars, Roussanne- This Southern Rhone beauty has found a true sweet spot in Texas. With an aromatic bouquet of honeysuckle and jasmine, the intense stone fruits coat the palate with a honeyed viscosity. The body offers complex herbaceous characteristics and a long finish.
2012 Texas Red (49% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carignan, 11% Cabernet Franc, 10% Grenache)- With a wonderful nose of baked cherries, sweet baking spices and roses, the body does not fail to wake the palate. Layers of earth, leather and cinnamon balance with the fresh red fruit and supple, fine, tannins.
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.
We've anticipated this day for several years - ever since we bought the familty farm back in 2010 - we've thought about having our first harvest from the test vineyard!
Well, today we gathered with some family and friends and harvested the first few varietals. This includes the Tempranillo, Viognier and some of the Alicante Bouschet. As we will do moving forward, this was a hand harvest where we take each cluster from the vines using hand shears. This provides a gentle handling of the fruit and also allows us to select only the best clusters and leave any damaged or otherwise less than pristine fruit.
There was a big celebration from everyone as we met at the south end of the viognier row and had Reed and Diane, our vineyard manager and winegrower respectfully, take the first two clusters. Some of the clusters were Huge! Especially both the Tempranillo and the Alicante.
We were very pleased with the amount of fruit harvested! In fact the clusters were larger than we anticipated, so our total weight was a fair bit more than predicted. The quality also could not be better!
Once harvested we then took the fruit to be destemmed and then sorted to ensure only the best berries and no MOG (material other than grapes) made it into the fermenter. This is an intensively manual process as the team literally looks at every single grape to identify those flawed items and / or potentially foriegn objects and hand removes them. It is a lot of fun, and there is always good conversation to be had as your eyes and hands do the work, but leave your mind and mouth for friendly conversation.
The fruit is all co-fermented. This simply means we are not separating the different grape types, but are putting them all in the same vessel for fermentation. This is a classic old-world approach to winemaking and it suits our needs very well with the existing vineyard.
What will the sine be like when done? Stay tuned and be patient as it will be a few years before we know the real result of our labors!
We have started the production facility construction and in only 12 days, the crew made remarkable progress! They worked nearly non-stop until time for the July 4 holiday weekend. This time lapse video shows just how awesome the Barns and Buildings crew is as they go about their great work.
The facility is 50x72’ on the inside along with an incredible 22x72’ shaded front porch overlooking the to-be-installed vineyard blocks. Our tasting room will be inside the production facility so you can taste among the tanks and barrels.
Work remains, but we are optimistic the facility will be ready for 2014 Crush as well as our limited opening later this summer. Stay tuned!
We spent the day with Dan McLaughlin in Robert Clay Vineyards recently where we helped with netting the Merlot as well as checking progress on our 2014 grapes.
The vineyard looks great and the vines are healthy with a good canopy. They managed to avoid freezes (see their prior post about the all night heroics on April 15!) and hail so far this year, so we are getting excited about the potential for this year's crop!
The vineyard is located northwest of Mason and we hope to get about 3 tons of fruit from them this year. Fingers crossed for a continued good growing season!