Kuhlman Cellars Blog
There are so many factors involved in producing a quality bottle of wine, as things all begin in the vineyard and make their way to the cellar. Most of us can certainly agree, weather and soil play a very important role in winemaking. What better place to discuss soil types than in the Lone Star State. Texas itself sits on a rock shelf and depending on where you live in our wonderfully enormous state, you either have a little or a whole lot of rocks in your backyard. There is a reason most central Texans construct raised gardens, it is because you can literally bend a pick axe trying to dig into the limestone and caliche. Who wants to rent a Bobcat just to plant tomatoes?
Let’s talk a little about the two largest AVA’s in Texas, and how different the soils can really be. Understand this story is not a definitive- end all lecture about the structure of Texas dirt, merely a brief explanation of some of the key differences between the soil of Central Texas, vs that of the Texas High Plains. With such a large wine style dynamic between fruit from the Hill Country vs the High Plains, there has to be something unique regarding each region right? The answer is yes, both in climate and dirt, this thing we call terroir. What is terroir exactly? Simply put, it is the all-encompassing word for wind, rain, temperature, soil, elevation, etc, of a given region. Here are some interesting facts on the two prominent regions we are discussing.
Texas Hill Country AVA:
Impressively the second largest AVA in the United States, it covers 9,000,000 acres (14,063 square miles) and contains 2 sub regions; Bell Mountain AVA and Fredericksburg AVA. Elevation can range from roughly 1,000 ft MSL to over 2,500 ft MSL. The weather in central Texas is typically hot during the growing season. Hill Country daily high temperatures average in the in the mid 90’s, while the nights drop into the low 70’s. The soils vary in this region, but limestone and caliche reign. For example, the Kuhlman Cellars Estate Vineyard sits on a bedrock of Caliche with a clay topsoil. There are spots in the vineyard where the clay is only a few inches deep, you can ask our vineyard team. I cannot tell you how many vines we placed directly on white chalky rock when we planted the estate vineyard in April, 2015. It is basically “set the roots on rock, replace the soil, and wish it good luck”. Struggle little fella, struggle! The rocky terroir of central Texas is typically well draining, though the clay can cause all sorts of issues since it retains moisture. The caliche provides good mineral component to the wines made from these vineyards.
Texas High Plains AVA:
This is the second largest AVA in Texas and it also contains the most vines. It’s estimated, west Texas grows 90% of the fruit grown in the state, especially in the Brownfield/ Lubbock area. The Texas High Plains is far different from the Hill Country in a few ways, the elevation is significantly higher allowing for more of that much needed diurnal shift. Elevation in this region ranges from around 2,500 ft MSL to over 3,700 ft MSL. The soil is mainly composed of red dirt/sand with loam as well. There is quite a bit of rock in Lubbock, but it is typically buried under several feet of the famous red dirt. Sand is very well draining soil. Humidity levels here are typically very low, making the region ideal for grape growing, by reducing the incidence of fungus and molds.
In terms of temperature, the high plains tends to be slightly cooler during the days and the nights cool off into the mid to upper 60’s, providing a larger diurnal shift which helps the grapes rest and recover overnight.
All in all Texas is a diverse place to grow grapes and to make fine wines. I hope this brief synopsis helps you to understand a bit more about our local industry and what makes our two biggest AVA’s so unique, fun and interesting.
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!
Being "green" is not just a trendy-hip thing these days. Offering mother earth a friendly helping hand is becoming a necessity as the world population steadily increases, as does our waste production both in trash, and waste water. Here at Kuhlman Cellars, being green is very much part of our daily business. Everything from the plates we serve our Chef prepared food on, to the machine we use to sanitize our tanks, they are very earth friendly. Below is a list of things we do to maintain our steady track in keeping our planet happy.
As you walk from the parking lot to the tasting room, you might notice the large compartmented wooden box sitting to your left near our garden, this is the compost bin. Grass clippings, leaves, paper products, leafy greens, crackers, and fruits all go into the bin and are eventually naturally broken down to be used for landscaping in the garden, flower beds and we will use what we have available for the vineyard. We chose compostable trash bags for daily use in the tasting room, to minimize plastic waste. Utilizing the compost bin enables us to use sugarcane food plates, paper menus, and napkins on a daily basis with little guilt.
Rain capture and grey water system:
The rain gutters on the roof of the winery, as well as the drains in the cellar floor, divert water through an underground piping system to the pond located at the northeast corner of the property. This is a very low tech and efficient means of moving water. Here is a fun fact... One inch of rain captured via our rain gutter system, translates to approximately 10,000 gallons of water collected. Whoa!
Our pond, once full, will be a peaceful retreat, an oasis if you will for guests to admire, and it will eventually offer irrigation capabilities for our vineyard, landscaping and garden.
Glass and cardboard recycling:
We simply could not call ourselves earth friendly if we did not practice good old fashioned recycling. All of the empty wine bottles, wine boxes, and basically all glass and cardboard products are recycled using two recycling centers located in both Johnson City, and Fredericksburg, TX.
This machine is actually one of my favorite gadgets we have at the winery. Instead of using chemicals and excessive water to clean our tanks and cellar floor, we use a hot cart. This device utilizes water heated to 185 degrees and a high pressure stream to
clean and sanitize. This is not only better for the environment, but also for us humans as well.
Wine shipping boxes:
The boxes we use for shipping our wines are made in California using solar energy.
Basically, the boxes are produced using a green method, and they can also be recycled after the wine consumer receives their wine. How is that for helping out the environment?
It is a great responsibility to be gentle with our loving mother earth, all it takes are a few extra steps in the daily routine to help keep waste to a minimum. Please feel free to ask us anytime about our green habits at Kuhlman Cellars, we are always more than happy to share our practices with each and every one of you.
Cheers to Vina Vita, the wine life.
Dining out; I venture to guess that this innocuous phrase just evoked a passionate and well rendered memory of your last restaurant experience (for better or worse). Meticulously designed ambience, well-seasoned service professionals and carefully constructed plates of culinary artistry are elements of the dining experience leaving diners elated- or infuriated when confronted with even the slightest missteps.
A well paired bottle of wine is the great diplomat of your culinary adventure.
As wine ages it endures pubescent awkward phases, breathes and undergoes a metamorphosis in the bottle, or glass, of Kafkaesque proportions. These complex changes give us a wine experience most often rewarding, but it is not uncommon that wine presents flaws. As a consumer you should not drink ‘bad’ wine and have the right to address issues of a detectable flaw with the Sommelier, server or retailer in exchange for an unaffected bottle.
In a professional setting the server or sommelier will present the bottle prior to opening it. Check the label to ensure it matches the selection from the wine list with attention to the vintage-if it is not what you ordered, ask for an explanation. Upon opening the bottle, a small sample should be poured (1-2oz) and this is your opportunity to examine the integrity of the wine.
Listed below are several of the most common flaws:
Corked wine is the most common flaw presented to consumers. As early as a decade ago it was estimated 10-15% of natural cork was affected by the presence of a compound generated by mold found growing on wood (cork trees) known as Trichloroanisole (TCA). While that percentage has improved in recent years, the problem persists. When the TCA infected cork is in contact with wine it taints the product.
How to identify: Did you sniff the cork? I’ve handled thousands of corks pulled from intensely flawed bottles only to find that cork smells like…cork. Smell the wine! When opened and in contact with Oxygen the wine will present a dank moldy smell similar to moldy wet cardboard or newspaper. The musty characteristic will be found on the palate as well and the fruit will be diminished.
Few wines are meant for long term aging. After time, exposure to oxygen begins to degrade the juice creating a chemical breakdown. This applies to wine both opened and unopened. White wines will appear ‘orange’ in color when too old. Red wines are more conducive to age, and older red wines will take on a ‘brickish’ hue. Opened wines begin the quick descent and begin to show degradation in an average of 3 days.
How to Identify: Examine the color for hints of cloudiness or orange haze. The fruit characteristic of the wine has become unpleasantly sharp much like sucking on a penny or the taste of blood.
Wine has a delicate constitution and will become flawed if not properly stored. Ideally wines should be stored between 50-60 degrees. Exposure to high temperatures can destroy the composition of a wine in as little as 15 minutes.
How to identify: Liquids expand when heated. The pressure of heated air can cause the cork to begin to push up out of the bottle creating a detectable ‘bump’ between the cork and bottle neck. The cork itself will show veins of wine staining from the bottom. The juice will take on an unpleasant ‘tangy’ note like canned or cooked fruit. It can create a heavy and one dimensional effect to the feel of the wine on the palate.
Trust your instincts, particularly when you are familiar with the wine in question. Life is simply too short to drink bad wine!
Kuhlman wines are now available at several locations in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. We thank these amazing venues for supporting Texas Agriculture and look forward to bringing wine closer to you!
Dai Due-2406 Manor Road, Austin TX. 78722
Cripple Creek & Company- 928 Main Street, Bastrop, TX 78602
Cured- 306 Pearl Parkway #101, San Antonio, TX 78215
Bohanan’s Prime Steak & Seafood- 219 East Houston Street, San Antonio, TX 78205
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa- 23808 Resort Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78261
Houston Wine Merchant- 2646 S. Shepherd Dr., Houston, TX 77098
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.
On a bitter cold winter day, some of the Kuhlman Cellars team, including myself, were walking the vines at the Cobb Family Vineyard. It was a company field trip of sorts and I was excited to finally step foot on the soils of the family "farm". This is where the winery name was born, for Kuhlman Creek which runs through the property and feeds into the Pedernales River when heavy rains fall. During our trip the sky was grey, and the vines had just begun their long winters slumber. Green leaves with hints of red and gold were clinging from the hard worked vines.
The 1 acre test block has been a solid experiment over the last few years of how several grape varieties grow on the family property, just north of Fredericksburg, Texas. The vineyard presently contains 9 different grape varieties. This specific piece of land is blessed with terroir conducive to protecting the vines from hail and late spring freezes. Hills to the north have proven to disrupt the worst of severe Thunderstorms, and downward sloping terrain to the south allows cold air during the late spring to flow through and away from the vineyard. This is especially important in protecting our lovely Viognier from having her gentle buds frozen in late March and early April. The intimate tour of the property that day was given by Diane Cobb, our vineyard matron. I hesitate to call her a vineyard manager, because the love she shows each and every vine, is much more motherly than managerial.
The Vitis Vinifera grape varieties currently planted at the Cobb Family Vineyard:
There is a special estate field blend from the first harvest currently in barrels here at the winery structured solely from the fruit sourced from the Cobb Family Vineyard. This limited release wine will be something to look forward to in a few years once released. This wine will express the unique nuances of the terroir, which is instrumental when it comes to the complexity and individuality of wine.
We invite all of you to come experience the splendors of terroir with each of our carefully made wines at Kuhlman Cellars. Each one tells its own story of the dirt, rainfall, sunlight and wind of that particular growing season.
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.