Kuhlken Vineyards
September 8, 2023

Family Tradition at Pedernales Cellars in the Texas Hill Country

Family Traditions at Pedernales Cellars in the Texas Hill Country
Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken planted their 17-acre vineyard in the early 1990’s in the Texas Hill Country in an area now known as Bell Mountain American Viticultural Area (AVA). This area is blessed with cool nights and superior soils. Which eventually became Texas’ FIRST AVA!. Their daughter Julie and son David each went on their way after graduating college. Dr. Julie Kuhlken, PhD taught at universities in the United States and Europe. Her brother David got his Bachelors and Master Degrees and was involved in the Corporate World. Their parents continued tending to their vineyards, producing some of the best grapes in Texas with the few wineries in Texas snatching their grapes when available. Both Julie and David gravitated back to the Kuhlken Vineyards and entered into the vineyard industry with their patents and eventually establishing a winery in 2005. At that time, there were only 50 wineries in Texas. The Brother-Sister Team wanted to build a Texas boutique winery with an emphasis on making world class wines from their Texas-grown grapes. David studied Oenology at University of California at Davis, becoming Pedernales Cellars winemaker. Dr. Julie has taken on the role as Chief Executive Officer. This 6th generation Texas Bro-Sis duo has evolved Pedernales Cellars into “a dream come true” with PC making authentic Texas wines from their vineyard grapes. Pedernales Cellars now buys grapes from some of the best vineyards in the Texas High Plains such as Bingham Vineyards, Newsom Vineyards, Desert Willow Vineyards, and Lahey Vineyards.
Pedernales Cellars has evolved into a sustainable vineyard-winery enterprise that Texas can be very proud of. They host interns to educate them about vineyards and winemaking. Joanna Wilczoch was one of those interns who left the non-profit world to explore her love of foods and wines. This first-generation Pole has wonderful childhood roots with homemade meals on the dinner table. She took this love for culinary arts and started her internship in 2016 at PC. Joanna fell in love with the wine industry and continue working at Pedernales while earning her degree in oenology at Texas Tech University in Fredericksburg. She literally has worked from the bottom up at every vineyard/winery job. She has evolved in her experiences at Pedernales Cellars to become its winemaker.
Julie and Joanna have experienced the vineyards and wineries which used to be a “man’s world.” Both have provided a lot of sound advice to women interested in the wine industry. Develop your palette with regular wine-tastings in a group setting. Go after your WSET certification which stands for Wine and Spirit Education Trust. This non-profit organization was established in 1969 to educate with beginner’s level, intermediate level, and advanced level, being a certification of WSET I, II, and III. This world-wide organization has local courses and online education. Both Joanna and Julie are certified WSET III.
If you are truly interested in the wine industry, try an internship program at one of Texas’ vineyards/wineries over a period of time. Although it is a lot of repetitiveness to the work, there is a lot of romance and satisfaction in making outstanding wines. As Joanna told me, it is “rinse, wash, repeat” in the wine industry. You can find these internship via the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association in Grapevine, Texas or via Wine Business Monthly which has a website and weekday e-newsletter. Fredericksburg High School has a culinary program with vineyard/winery internships. LiftCollective.com is another source for seeking internships. Of course, there is networking which landed me an internship at Alexander Valley Vineyards in 2007. Julie emphasizes to have experience in the vineyards. This is where great wines come from!
Julie’s happenstance into the wine industry as a result of her parent’s vineyard gives her the possibility that one or all of her four children will take over Pedernales Cellars. Time will tell! During this time, Pedernales Cellars continues their replanting of the original Kuhlken Vineyards and progression into evolving into one of Texas’ premier wineries.
Julie and Joanna see more high-end Texas vineyards evolving. Julie predicts more specialization in grape varieties in Texas. This growth in the Texas wine industry means better quality wines being made available to Texans and eventually to the rest of America!

Leave your comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter comment.