Monday, January 18, 2016


A Near Perfect Texas Wine Vintage

The Texas Wine Industry will be talking about 2015 for many years to come. 2015 will be our vintage of the century. We had a mild spring, escaping the treacherous late spring frost, we had tame temperatures through the growing season and a later than normal harvest. Growers and winemakers are on cloud nine, they are blessed with quantity and quality. Perfect vintages or near perfect vintages are few and far between, especially in Texas, and it has been incredible to witness. We should all enjoy it and never forget it.

While this vintage is in the glowing sun, shining bright, almost so bright that nothing else can be seen. I want to ask you to look carefully. There just above the horizon is a full moon rising, reflecting the light of this vintage. Yet it's own beauty should not be overlooked. This moon is the industry itself, waxing into maturity, coming off some difficult vintages, lessons learned from past mistakes and turning the tide of consumer knowledge in favor of the grapes that grow best in Texas.

One event that brought this whole picture into focus for me was on October 3rd 2015 at the Pedernales Cellars winery just outside of Stonewall Texas. The special occasion was the release dinner for their new allocated wines with the Kuhlken-Osterberg label. They are only available through the purchase of futures. The dinner was hosted in the winery itself, up the hill from the tasting room. Barrels were moved to the side and linen-covered tables were neatly arranged with shiny happy centerpieces. A classic music trio played for the gathered Texas Wine enthusiasts. An exquisite wine dinner by Sullivan Street Caterers. Everything you could want at a wine event anywhere in the world.

Our hosts, glowing with pride and joy, Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken, who planted their vineyards in the Bell Mountain American Viticultural Area in the early 1990’s, along with their children; David and Julie – along, along with with their spouses, Heather Kuhlken and Fredrik Osterberg. Guest of honor was Master Sommelier Guy Stout and Mistress of Ceremony was Veronique Cecilia Barretto. While the reason for the gathering is the new wine release, this was also a celebration of this incredible team, the and the Pedernales Cellars venture coming up on ten years, and the wine culture emerging in the Hill Country.

This team expertly runs Pedernales Cellars a over fifteen-thousand case winery, with many award winning wines with very high reputation. Having set a high standard already for Texas wine and recognizing that they have not reached their potential; this team brainstormed, designed and created Texas’ first Luxury Wine released “en primeur.

Fredrik Osterberg, with experience in European wine traditions, desired wines that could be cellared and aged to reach their full potential as liquid works of art. David Kuhlken, working with their geographically unique estate vineyards, and now wonderfully mature vines producing amazing fruit, knew that they have the raw materials to create some of the greatest wines in the world. Julie Kuhlken, genius and inspiration for design created an fluid, elegant and breathtaking package with a look somewhat reminiscent of avant garde artist Gustave Klimp.

Tasting Notes, in order of tasting:

2014 Kuhlken-Osterberg, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Mourvedre, 22% Touriga Nacional, 11% Tinta Cao & Tinta Amarela.
Seventy-five dollars a bottle

Aromas of violets with vibrant red cherry and hints of pepper, vanilla and cocoa with a tantalizing blackberry scent in the background. The mouthfeel is silky and ripe with the fruit of red cherries and black cherries, a decent oaky vanilla presence with the pepper and cocoa balancing out the elegant finish.

2013 Kuhlken-Osterberg, 30% Tinta Amarela, 30% Touriga Nacional, 15% Tempranillo, 25% Syrah blend. 
One-hundred dollars a bottle

Distinct smoky aromas with the undertones of tar that support the fruit of black cherry with hints of cedar and pepper. The wines bursts with flavor on the palate with black cherry and cranberry fruit, pronounced vanilla, grippy tannins and a very long finish leaving a impression of a firm wine with resolve. This wine is miracle that it exist at all; most of the Texas High Plains was wiped out by freezes and most of the Texas Hill Country was pummeled with hail, however the Kuhlken Estate vineyards was spared and flourished!

2012 Kuhlken-Osterberg, 76% Tinta Amarela, 24% Syrah blend.
One-hundred and fifty dollars a bottle

With shy aromas there are hints of red cherry, and smoke. Like a great old world wine that has a closed nose; this wine explodes on the tastebuds! Bursts of red cherry followed by vanilla and oak with tannins in a rich textural experience that makes the finish long and luxurious.

Years ago I can say I recognized that wine is an aesthetic experience; wine is art. As my education and experience has grown over the years my understanding of the world of wines available deepens; I can say all three of the Kuhlken-Osterberg wines are Masterpieces! Only this team could have come up with these wines and this night. Only this team has dared to kiss the sky and reach for the stars.  Only this team is creating wine that transcends the glass and time of the experience, achieving new heights for themselves and the Texas wine industry. From this new vantage point in shines a bright light on Texas wine with the bright light of the 2015 vintage; everything is clear and the world is within our reach!

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