Julie Kuhlken, PhD is the Owner and CEO of Pedernales Cellars, a winery specializing in Texas-grown Spanish and Rhone-style wines. As a well-versed professional in the wine industry, she has earned the Level III award from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust and has served as President of The Texas Hill Country Winery Association.
Julie currently serves on the marketing committee of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and the board of the Economic Development Commission for Gillespie County. She is the Author of Why Philosophers Take Artists Seriously and has published numerous essays on wine as well as ethical and environmental issues.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Julie Kuhlken’s entry into the wine industry
- How Texas’ growing conditions influence Pedernales Cellars’ wines
- Julie describes Texas Hill Country’s growing landscape
- Julie’s strategic approach to marketing Pedernales
- Tips for marketing your winery
- How does Pedernales create their house blend?
- Why Pedernales partners with local wineries
- How Julie executes Pedernales’ tasting initiatives
- Julie’s advice for marketing your wine to different age demographics
- The connection between wine and philosophy
In this episode with Julie Kuhlken
When starting a winery, marketing can be overwhelming since there are many factors to consider. So, how can you market your brand to attract local consumers and tourists?
According to Julie Kuhlken, you must first evaluate your location to determine the best method to structure your winery. This ensures accessibility and allows you to determine your potential customer base. Another effective marketing strategy is to support and partner with local organizations and other wineries that will promote your initiatives in return.
Listen in to this episode of Legends Behind the Craft as Drew Thomas Hendricks sits down with Julie Kuhlken, Owner and CEO of Pedernales Cellars, to talk about leveraging your area to market your winery. Julie describes Texas Hill Country’s growing environment, her strategic approach to marketing Pedernales Cellars, and how she executes Pedernales’ tasting initiatives.
.Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Barrels Ahead
- Drew Thomas Hendricks on LinkedIn
- Julie Kuhlken on LinkedIn
- Pedernales Cellars
- Pedernales Cellars on Twitter | Facebook
- Texas Fine Wine
- Kim McPherson on LinkedIn
- Jason Bushong on Legends Behind the Craft
- Paul Mabray on Legends Behind the Craft
- Jerry Amabile on Legends Behind the Craft
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.
At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.
Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.
So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!
Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Thomas Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show
Drew Thomas Hendricks 0:20
Drew Thomas Hendricks here I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. past guests of Legends Behind the Craft include Jason Bushong of Bushong Vintage Company. Paul Mabray from Pix in Jerry Amabile from Cream Ridge Winery winery. If you haven’t listened to these yet, be sure to check them out and subscribe. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy on the highlights your authenticity, tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue. Go to barrelsahead.com today to learn more. I’m super excited to talk today with today’s guests. Julie Kuhlken Julie’s the CEO and co owner of Pedernales Cellars located in Stonewall in the Texas Hill Country, a well versed wine professional, she’s earned the level three award from the wine and spirits Education Trust, and is served as president of the Texas Hill Country winery Association is a graduate of Stanford University and former academic. She’s the author of a book and numerous articles in the field of philosophy, including essays on wine and philosophy. Welcome to the show, Julie.
Julie Kuhlken 1:35
Hey, it’s great to be here.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 1:36
Oh, thank you so much for being on. So in the pre show, I noticed I misspelled pet or mispronounced Pedernales. Tell me the the way the locals pronounce it in the history behind that.
Julie Kuhlken 1:45
Yeah, Pedernales means plant, I mean the stone plant. And it’s the name of the river that runs through this part of the Texas Hill Country. So it was a logical name. A lot of things are named Pedernales in this area. And we decided to take it for our winery because our winery overlooks the Pedernales River Valley. So but this is also LBJ country. And in fact, most of the nation discovered the Texas Hill Country when LBJ was president, because up until then it was sort of known by some Texans was kind of really not known nationally. And a lot of people a lot of journalists end up having to stay in this area in order to interview LBJ or just stay on top of events and discovered the local German town, which just celebrates 170/5, which is Fredericksburg. And as it turns out, I mean LBJ stamped everything in the area, it was larger than life, person and family. And he for whatever reason, decided to call it the Pedernales. And so over time, almost everyone who came to fernet pronounced at Pedernales adding this weird are and you know, most people who come to our winery, they just say personalities, we always say Pedernales is back but just insisting on the actual spelling. But anyway, it’s duck
Drew Thomas Hendricks 2:56
herding now. So yeah, if you’re a local, you need to, you know, what does it know what to say? So, Julie, as far as you How did you get your start in the wine industry?
Julie Kuhlken 3:06
Well, I would say I have to blame my parents, because in many ways it was there. My parents worked for IBM, my father got early retirement, if you remember, in the early 90s, they were doing that for some of the older executives. Now at the time, we sort of felt bad for my father was had a wonderful career. And now you’re looking back and like they gave you full retirement and your 50s. So anyway, they use that in order. They were in Dallas, right? Corporate America, they were in Dallas, and they decided they wanted to leave the urban area. And my father wrote his book and did some consulting. And they said, Yeah, we’re done. We did that. And they sort of looked around as to what they might do if they moved, you know, outside of an urban area. And there’s sort of two things going on at the time in the 90s. In Texas. One was grapes. The other interesting enough was e moves. The pyramid scheme of you would get an emu couple and then you would have emu babies and then you would sell them and eventually the demand for emu meat never took off. And so all these people were stuck with these large birds.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 4:13
We have a family member that runs an emu farm and sells Emu Oil.
Julie Kuhlken 4:17
Okay. It kind of died off in Texas. But anyway, luckily, my parents chose grapes. My father is from California, my mother’s the sixth generation Texan. And so he grew up drinking wine and be very familiar with it. And he had a long term friend who worked with him as an engineer early in his career, but then we ended up moving to Washington and starting a vineyard in Red Mountain, which just area of Washington, and so they’re gonna name to the Johnsons. And so they came and helped my parents get started, like just go through the basic ropes of how do you plant a vineyard? How do you maintain it? So that that is you know, it’s because of their decision to do that they had no interest in having a winery, they just wanted to live on the land, grow grapes, sell them to the local wineries, of which there were about three at the time,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 5:12
I was gonna ask that and this is also a hill country.
Julie Kuhlken 5:14
This is on the Hill Country. Yeah. So they happen to they pick the place they pick to for for the venue was actually very, very well chosen. And because it’s within Belle Mountain, which is the oldest ABA in Texas, it’s even before Texas Hill Country ABA. So and Bob Oberhelman, who was the person had Bell Mountain Vineyards, he was the one who formed that ABA, he was just down the road. And he helped my parents early on. So there was just, they had a good network of people to turn to to do this. So but as I said, they didn’t want a winery. And it was really a decade later that my brother and I decided to form Pedernales Cellars. And at that point, we had 10 years of family experience growing and so we had had some ideas about a what not to do, which is what you know, when my parents planted, they planted what you would expect someone to plant in the 90s they planted mirlo and Cabernet Sauvignon Chardonnay and so I’ve you know, now the whites look terrible from the beginning. I mean, just awful. They have over time, we’ve discovered that basically almost no whites grow in, you know, in our vineyard, it’s just it’s reds vineyard. And so so
Drew Thomas Hendricks 6:25
sorry, what why why do you think that is the case? There’s
Julie Kuhlken 6:30
the disease pressure is fairly high and whites a little bit more susceptible to that. And the and I will talk about this more as we talk about the Texas wine industry. You know, generally you have most of the white grapes in Texas are grown, or the Vitis vinifera is grown in the high plains, which is an area south of Lubbock. And the High Plains has a much greater diurnal. So it’s like 30 degrees during the growing season between the day and the cooler night. And that obviously helps the white wines quite a bit. Or white grapes. So anyway, the cabin Merleau did reasonably well. But we could tell after 10 years, we’re like, we should not be why are we doing this? Right? Because this is like we’re never gonna make on the cab was maybe good every fifth or sixth year, we could say, Ah, now that’s a really nice camera. And then you’d like competing with California like, well, that’s dumb, right? Because they make excellent Cabernet Sauvignon year after year after year mirlo It was more consistent. Obviously, was not popular, because the sideways even tilted till till now. So anyway, David, and I do really sort of dial back and we weren’t the only ones. But we were one of the ones that really say no, no, we’ve got to stop doing this. And so we we realized that we needed to go with the warmer weather varieties, right, and the one that we chose as the core of our programs to Bruyneel, okay, and Jeopardy has another advantage in Texas. And you really, it is the red grape you see grown everywhere. Because one of the things about the Texas growing season, this is true, more or less everywhere, is it’s short, right? Whereas in California, you can have those longer growing seasons where mirlo and cab can ripen wonderfully, which can get maritime influence or your fog or your elevation, you have all these things going on that make that possible in Texas, we don’t have that. And so you need something that’s going to get full phenolic ripeness and sugar development is a shorter period of time and Tempranillo as the little early one that’s always ready to be picked early. And yet it’s still a complex grape is a almost perfect match to Texas. And so that’s why you see a lot of Texas tempered meal. We also we also planted and grow in source, Grenada Mourvedre. So the Rhone varieties, as well as we also planted this was really because we wanted to make port we planted trigger nasionale and tend to MRL and tend to cow what we discovered after a while discover to sing a never grow trigger and Nasional it’s an impossible grape grow. It’s like so difficult. But it’s wonderful in the cellar, which is the other thing we discovered as these purchase varieties are so nice. Last thing we want to do is pour brand new over them. So we really converted most of those to a different program. And we make most we do make poor not a lot. But we mostly make it with timpani because we just have lots of it. And it’s also important great, so but the trigger rarely ends up in the port anymore. Just go somewhere else.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 9:24
How many how much target at a planet.
Julie Kuhlken 9:27
I think at this point we’re looking at three or four acres more than webbing. It was a it was a it was one of those we have a basically a 17 acre vineyard and so three or four acres is a sizable chunk about 15 vineyard is is temperate do so as most of the other things are smaller holdings the more beds is fairly well read is another great variety that you’ll see. You see pretty widely in Texas. It’s you know, obviously we used it for up until the 19 1920 17 vintage, we use it entirely the way they use it in Europe, which is really a blending grape. But then we it was actually an accident. We were going, we wanted to make Rose out of block of more bed, and you know, put it in the press, and the press broke. I was like, Okay, well not rosy, it’s gonna be red wine. And so then we just, yeah, we just bottled it. And then here we start your wine wine club members are trying it and we start trying, we’re like, you know, that’s actually pretty good. We should probably just bottle that on its own. So now we bottle more badge on its own as well. And in addition to making our own style blender, which is a GSM a launch? So anyway, so yes, how did we get into this? Because my parents, that’s how we got into it.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 10:45
I like I always like to find the origin story. So did your parents but there plenty of one one children that never went into the industry? So for you why wine?
Julie Kuhlken 10:56
You know, I mean, I, you know, I have a PhD in philosophy of all things. And, you know, obviously, I like to learn, right? And the thing about the world of wine is, is effectively infinite. There’s always more to learn. Every single vintage is something new. Right? And, you know, particularly I mean, it’s true everywhere, but Texas has unusually, an enormous amount of vintage variation. The weather patterns are I mean, never resemble each other from year to year, as you’re always having to make these very quick decisions is like, Okay, well, what do we do now? Right, we lost that whole block to hell, or you’re constantly having to reinvent yourself. And that, that’s just exciting to do. And it’s particularly I mean, Texas, I mean, as I always say, you know, if you went, went down to your local AGVs, or local grocery store, and you decided to queue into the Texas aisle and pick up Texas wine, it was a pretty dicey affair. As to what you might find right? There, there was wine being made. There’s been wine being made in Texas since the 1970s. But it was just, there was not a lot of emphasis on fine wine, which is really what has happened in the last 15 years. Partially because they just the belief was there was no market for it. But now, you know, with the dialing in as to which grapes we should be using, there’s many more fine wine producers in Texas. And you know, being part of that evolution from you know, literally when we started, we would go to tasting events in Texas. And people would we say no, like, Well, what do you have? And we’re like, well, we have this temperature of Texas, Tempranillo. And they’re like, oh, no, I don’t drink Texas wine. So they just walk off and you’re like, it’s free to try. You already bought your ticket. But yeah, that just the attitude was so poor to go from that to where we are now we’re, you know,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 12:51
being on the forefront of helping people overcome those prejudices.
Julie Kuhlken 12:54
Yeah, and discover new grapes. And you know, it’s just, Texas are very proud of Texas, if no one’s noticed. And so you’re gonna be able to add wine to the list of things they can be proud of. It’s, you know, it’s fun.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 13:08
I was talking to, like we said, the infinite possibilities. I was talking to Jason Bushong. on just the other day, he’s a winemaker from Paso. And he’s, we were talking about the art and the science of wine, and why he’s so passionate about it. Because it you do have such a raw palette, and you have to work with both nature, and then help just bring out the innate qualities, which is what you’ve seen in Texas Hill Country. So that’s the next question. Why, other than the fact that your parents were there, but why Texas Hill Country? What sets it apart from the other abs?
Julie Kuhlken 13:12
I mean, to give you a comparison, I mean, there’s several things. But I mean, you know, we we had obviously the gratitude for do in the Texas Hill Country, and then we we source it from growers that, you know, we work with the Texas High Plains. And when you the different you get from the Texas High Plains is you know, it’s it’s obviously fruity or you know, the acid is usually better. But if you want a Texas company that really has a great structure, that Texas Hill Country is really the place you want to source it from, but you can just get much many more structural elements. The other thing about the the what makes the Texas Hill Country is obviously, as most people have noticed that they’ve looked at map, Texas is pretty flat, in general, right in almost all parts. So the hill country does kind of, you know, sticks out literally. And it’s because of what was called the llano uplift. And it was where this very old stone got pushed to the surface. And what it meant is that I mean a you have all these degraded sand types and stone types, which is obviously perfect for grapes, right. They love those kind of stress conditions. And you have just like a peacocks tail versus a set of choices, right? Almost every site is slight The different because it’s just, you know, all these different stones came up the comparative, I mean, and even within our own vineyard, we’ve just been doing some replanting, so we’re digging holes and you know, really sort of turning down and going from the bottom of the venue to the top, by the time you got to the top you were you, you’re hitting limestone. And Mike, who’s the guy who’s doing the was drilling, he said, you know, the problem was, you would try to drill down whatever the, you know, seven 810 inches of topsoil, and then you’d hit this limestone, and literally, the auger would just be pushed off right and or tried to flip it. And so he, you know, he had to, like, literally crack it, you know, to create some kind of fissure in it before he can actually then drill through it. So just those kinds of interesting variations and soil types I, we’ve known for, we’ve always noticed that temper knew from the bottom of the hill tastes different from temper near top of the hill. And that’s really the fun of the hill country, you don’t have any of that in the high plains, the high plates is, as the name implies, is a plane, I mean, you’re standing on a bucket, it’s like you’re on a hill, right? I mean, that flat, and it’s this, it’s very sandy soils, very, very different. They can literally just when they don’t have to drill holes, they can literally just run along and just create a trench, and they just throw the vines down when they want to, like 10 times easier. So but yeah, completely, but it’s very uniform, right? I mean, there’s different parts, from vineyard to vineyard, but you takes huge takes much larger distances to see the interesting variations.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 16:34
That’s great. So as far as the different how high up is the whole country, give us a little idea for the the kind of geology and elevation,
Julie Kuhlken 16:43
right? The whole country obviously varies. I mean, the thing, if you look at a map of Texas, you start down in Houston, right on the golf, right, your base is zero feet above sea level. And then if you drive to the northwest corner, you’re going you’re driving by the time you reach like where the high plains are, you’re looking at about 3500 feet above sea level. It is literally the high plains. So you know it’s I always say you’re driving across Texas, that way, you’re driving uphill the entire way, just very, very slowly. Anyway, the hill country is in the middle, right? where you’re at, you’re at where the Pedernales. So you know, the valley floor, you’re looking at being maybe 1000 or so feet above sea level. But like where we are in Vail mountain, obviously up one of the hills, you’re looking at closer to 1800 1900 feet above sea level. So it varies throughout but that gives you a sense of the range
Drew Thomas Hendricks 17:36
for when you do get that kind of the incline. So when when you guys decided to start Pedernales Pedernales. Cellars. What? Tell me about that. I mean, everybody just wants to start a winery. But I don’t think people really fully understand the challenges that how Yeah, no, it’s
Julie Kuhlken 17:57
I mean, we we had an advantage because as I said, we had we we had grown for a decade and makes a huge difference to start there. So a the romance was gone. Because you know, once you spend in even one season, you’re doing all the tasks in the vineyard, and then you realize, oh, crap, if you ever forget anything, I mean, it’s just you know, instantly there’s no negative payback. So maybe it was, you know, it was a set of very deliberate decisions. So one of those we did not put the winery and tasting room where the vineyard is. Partially because Fredericksburg as I said, this is German town, a lot of tourism into Fredericksburg, which is one of the other reasons that the Texas Hill Country has become so important to Texas wine country is because you have all these people coming for other reasons that have come historically. And so now as they drive along, and they’re like, oh, wineries, right, you know, and we literally have, it’s almost it’s funny, because you know, rather than 29 we have 290 is lighter than the highway that goes along and we’re most of the whiners
Drew Thomas Hendricks 18:59
in how many ways there now I saw a bunch on the map episodes researching the episode. I’ve never been to that area.
Julie Kuhlken 19:04
Yeah, you would. I mean, people who haven’t driven down to 90 from Austin to Fredericksburg are shocked,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 19:10
right? It’s about an hour and a half from
Julie Kuhlken 19:13
an hour and a half from Austin and about an hour and a half, a little bit closer to San Antonio, which is of course an advantage. The other thing is that Houston has notoriously horrible weather, humid and everything. So people have looked for excuses to leave. She’s Houston since Houston was formed. And so the hill country is one of the places that Houston nights cut. It’s just to get, you know, to something drier, you know, less urban, right?
Drew Thomas Hendricks 19:37
So they wanted to put it on a route that people would actually visit. Yeah, so it is
Julie Kuhlken 19:41
it is a place that people would come to but no as we made a bunch of deliberate decisions, we didn’t put the winery tasting room there are a because the that particular road as I described, it, rises quite a bit. It’s got all these blind turns and everything and we’re just like that is not a good place for a tasting. Yeah, and as it turns out, you know, we made that decision back in 2006. And there is still no tasting room on that row. There’s there are tasting rooms on every single road, but not that one. Because I think everybody looks at that makes the same decision like, no, that’s not a good idea. So, so we decided to locate down the 290 corridor. But we didn’t try to find a property right on 290, we actually got about a mile and a half off of it. So we have this view down into the river valley, obviously required more marketing early on to say, hey, we’re here. But that was a very deliberate choice. Obviously, I’ve described the plantings of deciding what we wanted to grow what we want to make. And the other thing was at the time, I mean, a lot of wineries cellar was someone else. I mean, you make your first wines or someone else’s cellar, and then you start building around because there’s no reason to do it the other order. So we sell it with a guy, Texas hills, who’s down in Johnson City, which is sort of a little bit closer to Austin from the then stone wall. And you know, we’re talking about what we want to do or like, yeah, we want to specialize in Texas timber, new and dunya is the white we we specialize in. And Gary was listening to us. And he’s like, where’s your sweet red? We’re not making a sweet red. He’s like, Oh, no, you have to have a sweet read. And we were one of the first wineries to say we’re not leaving, we’re not going to make that that just makes no sense, right? We don’t want to drink it. We don’t think other people shouldn’t be drinking it. So you know, and that was, you know, most of the whiners. And the biggest winners, it’s still the case that if you go into their tasting room, you really see essentially have two wine tasting lists. One are dry wines and one are sweet wines. Because there is such a strong demand for that. That, you know, they want a caterer because they’re larger, they can cater to both ends. And we were very much like, No, we’re not going to cater to that if they want that we can direct them to someplace. Because we do get people come in and say, Oh, I really like sweet wines, you kind of like you are in our bond. That was really good. We have poured, but few people want to sit around sipping on port and August, but it’s 98.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 22:06
Toasty how you mentioned the unique challenges of marketing the winery, when it’s a mile and a half off the road? How did you? What was the success? What was the key to that your success and getting people into the door?
Julie Kuhlken 22:18
You know, I would actually put a lot of it the fact that we have very strong organizations and in the hill country and Texas. And it’s really making sure they know what your you’re doing. And supporting these organizations like I’ve been the president of the Texas Hill Country winery association. So as my brother right, I’ve sat on the board, I said, you know, you spend the time like, you know, getting making sure those organizations are currently
Drew Thomas Hendricks 22:47
on the Marketing Committee there right now. Yeah,
Julie Kuhlken 22:49
marketing. And so yeah, supporting your local organizations that will support you. This, the Fredericksburg CVB is very strong, because as I told you, it’s a tourism center. And so, you know, early on, I would literally every month, you know, sit there say yes, these are the people we’re having for live music this Saturday, and this Saturday, you know, anything, just say, Hey, get me on your list of places to go, you know, when people are looking for X, Y, or Z. And so really making use of those collective marketing exercises, we do have a billboard, right, we, you know, we did, you did get what’s called you have what I call a directional billboard, like, Hey, turn here, right kind of thing. So, but the fact is, we use social media very heavily. Again, early on, a lot of the places early on, were still very, there were a lot of mom and pop kind of places. And I remember sitting in one of these Texas, we decided to have a marketing seminar, like help people with marketing, right? And we have one of these you hate brought in by these experts for the wine industry in California, right? Trying to get people to go through the exercise. You know, a they think that social media is is for losers, right? And you’re like, oh, that’s actually kind of useful. And then you have like, okay, let’s let’s figure out what your target audiences and they felt like it was wrong to target an audience that you should be for everyone. Like, that’s exactly what marketing is about is to be a little bit more specific. So, but anyway, but yes, you know, being aware of the various possibilities, you have to
Drew Thomas Hendricks 24:29
like join the community organization will lean into that collective group to help rise every shipping rising tide. But the one thing is like some marketing and marketing in Texas, how do you see that as different than like a winery in California? And that being a winery outside of Napa Sonoma, like someone that’s in one of the lesser is California or Washington or Oregon?
Julie Kuhlken 24:51
Well, I mean, basically you don’t have to market California wine or Washington wine Oregon wine. I mean, the fact is no wants to say, No, I don’t think they can really make wine and I guess
Drew Thomas Hendricks 25:03
a lesson on region like, I’m kind of thinking of that. Just in my backyard, I’m down in San Diego. And Ramona wine region is just booming with there’s about I think it’s gonna be about 40 of them now. Really? Yeah, it’s in the produces some great wines. But what advice would you give to like a regional ABA, that’s just starting up? Well, you
Julie Kuhlken 25:25
have to recognize it every time you’re marketing yourself, you’re marketing everybody, right? So you definitely want to, we, you definitely want to, like, make sure everyone’s on the same flip, you’re on the same page, right about like, hey, we, you know, we want to raise the bar so that people know who we are. And so yeah, I mean, we even got on people at some point, like, you know, you have the landing page, there’s all the wineries and we would literally go to them and like, you know, I can take a picture of your winery. But no, you have to think of those collective terms that you’re going, if someone has a bad experience down the road, they’ll just assume it’s everyone in the area. Right? You always have to think in that, you know, your, as I always said, you know, if I’m marketing, data analysis, I’m marketing, you know, to steal country and Texas wine in general, right, every single time and, you know, but yeah, that is just really part of it is you have to think in terms of, you know, what it’s like to be a consumer who just wanders in randomly, does no research, right? Just, you know, turns off the road in the first shiny winery they see. But if it turns out to be, you know, you know, the person you wish they hadn’t visited. That’s going to be their impression of the whole area. So
Drew Thomas Hendricks 26:40
well, that’s part of the discovery process. So hopefully, they’ll go to the next one down and figure out which one they like better. As far as Pedernales winery, how would you describe your house style?
Julie Kuhlken 26:50
Well, I mean, one of the things that is very, I mean, this is my brother’s the winemaker, I should say. And he did, he went to UC Davis and did the certificate program there. He has a both of us have engineering backgrounds. This was material science, engineering. And so he took a lot of chemistry. And obviously, that plays
Drew Thomas Hendricks 27:07
a background of mechanical, mechanical. Well, you guys go both sides of the equation.
Julie Kuhlken 27:15
So anyway, so Dave, I mean, David, having that kind of background, you know, when he approached winemaking, he views it as very much a process, obviously, you know, the mantra, you know, everything’s determined in the vineyard, right. So all of that is the most important input. And that sort of the rest of winemaking is not to screw it up. But there is the fact that you can then when you decide, hey, well, what’s gonna make the best of the best come forward, Dave’s approach, and it’s been really followed by the winemakers, we’ve employed since it’s been a lot of emphasis on blending. So you know, even our temper Neos are very often blends, right? I mean, even just different do with temper Neo. And we’ve only with the 2016 vintage, that we started to put out a lot of single varietals, single vineyard wines. But it’s still not the core of our program that’s really sort of like, hey, we just didn’t, as we were doing these blends, you would recognize these two barrels of let’s say, sound, so we’re so amazing. And it was just such a shame to throw it into the GSM with everything else, right. And so you just take it out, and we have a whole separate label line for that. But there’s many wineries in Texas that are much more focused on single vineyard single Friday, all the time, right for their main program. But our main program is mostly, you know, blended wines, even if they’re varietally. labeled. So
Drew Thomas Hendricks 28:35
as far as the blending, like, what’s his goal to sort of the style of this blends? Is there a particular like expression is looking for is
Julie Kuhlken 28:43
well, yeah, when he’s looking? There’s no question that for David, the most important thing was is always the structure. And so getting the acidity, right? Getting the tannin profile right into the oak treatment, such that it’s balanced and integrated. So one of the things we said early on it, we still say it, although we don’t use it as much as it uses the bit of the old world into the new because if you look at the style of winemaking, we were doing it wasn’t anything like California, right, you know, California, it’s just it’s almost like trying to push the sound barrier all the time in terms of how big and how much can you get out of it, whereas Texas is more restrained. In terms of and I There are wineries who are not like that, but I think there are a lot of wineries are sort of realized we don’t I mean a we can’t achieve in most varieties kind of alcohol that you guys can achieve. And so then you don’t have this big alcohol that you’re trying to balance out with big fruit stuff. And so you’re just you’re on a more restrained style. So
Drew Thomas Hendricks 29:45
that fits my palate fits my palate. And so as far as the see, do you have a tasting room or a winery tasting? Describe for us the experience of what someone? What’s it like when someone visits your winery?
Julie Kuhlken 29:58
Well, you’re Do as I say you get off to 90, which is this, I mean to 90s. Effectively, it is a highway, though it’s not, it’s not a raised highway or anything, it has quite a bit of traffic on it not simply because of the tourism. But because basically, historically, Fredericksburg was sort of the last, you know, the last place before you drive to nowhere, meaning you’re basically driving into West Texas, which always feels like you’re driving into nowhere, because it’s just everything opens up. And so there’s actually quite a few trucks that go through here. So it’s a busy road. And so when you turn off, you get you get off of that, and then you know, you’re climbing up the southern southern Ridge, South of the 290. It’s not, it’s not a big rise, but you do go up some, and then you turn off and we have this nice winding driveway, we’ve had a landscape architect, look at, can we add some more winding here? Anyway, and you come up with the first thing you see is the tasting room. And the fact is, what most people do is they walk up to the tasting room as a sort of do this, like, oh my gosh, that’s quite a view, right? Because it is, you know, it’s a 180 of the Pedernales river valley that you’re then facing. And we have a deck next to the tasting room where you can just sit out and it’s shaded with live oaks. So it’s tolerable until it hits about 95 degrees, and then you’re like, Yeah, I’d really like to be enjoying this indoors. So this is why we’re in the process of designing a new buildings. So we can finally have that where we have, you know, that view inside with air conditioning. So but right now, you know, if you want if you want to join it directly, you have to sit out on the deck to do so. But so and then if you want to if you do a tour, the the production facilities is actually invisible to someone as they drive up, they cannot see it. And but if you walk around the tasting room building, you suddenly like, oh, the production facility, and it’s actually built directly into the hill, I was wearing near the top of this particular Hill and the southern part of South of the Pedernales. And then we are able to dig directly into the hill. So we effectively have an underground barrel solar, which is very nice, obviously helps you to obviously keeping that place 55 degrees, you know, 365 days a year is very important. And we have a lot of hot days. And so having at least that kind of installation has been helpful. Yeah. So if you tried to do a seller down in Texas, it’s almost impossible. Almost no one has sellers, because you hit what’s called Kelechi. And it’s like trying to go through concrete. Oh, here’s one local winery that decided no, we’re gonna build a barrel cellar. It ended up being four times what they thought it would cost just because they had to blast it out.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 32:53
Yeah, sounds like a personal goal. It’s like, I care. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna say I did it. I’ve seen that too often. How? Um, so is the experience at the winery? How’s it evolved since you opened? Over the last, you know, 1415 years?
Julie Kuhlken 33:11
Well, I mean, it’s gotten bigger and bigger. I mean, to Sunrise Point out the bar that right? We still call it the reserve bar, um, there’s obviously the pandemic cause a whole nother set of change. And
Drew Thomas Hendricks 33:21
that’s how I was gonna get to like, the whole pandemic and what’s come out of the pandemic, right? Yeah. How has it evolved? Like, I’m constantly talking to people that have learned something through the pandemic, and they’ve actually made the experience better coming out of it?
Julie Kuhlken 33:37
Well, what we did you once was, our doors were closed. We, you know, you’re just, it’s really hard, heartbreaking for small business owner, right? You have these people whose work for you for years, and you’re like, I have almost no work for you because you’re a tasting room associate. You know, luckily, we found out during the pandemic, that making wine is an essential business. So we had to do that. So all of the production and vineyard were going as normal. And so what we decided to do though, was we suddenly had this opportunity, like our doors were closed, it was like, Oh, wow, we can do that remodel, we’ve talked about for years, because it was just like, you know, usually it’s like how we’re going to do any remodeling and it’s gonna disrupt the tasting room operations and then there’s like, no, there was nothing to disrupt. So we had we had it’s been the tasting associates who wanted to do that we’re in here painting, tearing down, you know, we put a new face on our bar. We took out a whole bunch of stuff because we all the merchandise we used to have we just obviously we took it all out. And then we never really put it back right we had just have a very small amount of merchandise because we just suddenly was Oh, so much nicer having it more open. The way that the reopening occurred in Texas, we had to do seated tastings, even though we have a U shaped bars or a classic bar had to be seated And so we started bringing tables in that suddenly we have space to place around the room. And we’ve just given the the main bars again, back to standing on only bar. But we do have tables scattered around because we have space for them where there used to be merchandise and so and this ball bottles, beautiful. Yeah, we did that during it, it used to actually it was actually, because of the way the building was remodeled over it or expanded over time, that was actually an outside window at one point got inside, and then we just shoved a piece of furniture over there to like, cover it up. So we’re like, no, let’s do something with that space. And so we turned it into a ball of wax. So but so that was all an opportunity. Honestly, in your you know, I would not have wished a pandemic to have done all that. But we learn quite a bit and then the I think everyone learned in the wine business was about virtual tasting. Yes. Because that is just like you suddenly realize, like, hey, if I get my wine to you, I don’t care where you are, or you be Kuala Lumpur, we can have a more or less reasonable discussion over something we’re really sharing. Even though you’re that physical barrier, just looking into a digital screen actually becomes less when you’re like, oh, I can teach that too. Right. You know, it’s like actually being in the same experiential zone. And so that was real. Yeah, that was a real eye opener.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 36:17
Are you gonna continue the virtual tastings?
Julie Kuhlken 36:20
Yes, we do the we doing with a group? We formed a group, we call it Texas Fine Wine. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t available. I wish we could have that domain.com Yes, we got Texasfinewine.com. And as a group, it’s been at various time for wineries and five wineries. We’re all like, more or less the same size around the 15,000 cases a year size. So we don’t have room for a huge marketing budget or any of these things, you know, we can you know,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 36:49
again, a collective effort. Collective isn’t just your club members, you actually formed a collective is probably not the right word. But you’ve a group of wineries all doing these tastings together.
Julie Kuhlken 36:59
Yeah, doing tasting together, we do events together, together, we pay for a PR agent who are the group over time now there’s many more candidates for this group, who we sort of found that we, every time we come up with candidates, or someone will be like, No, that won’t work. But then we realized that it’s really consensus based to make this work, because we really all agree as to what are good opportunities for us. We believe in everybody else’s wines. Right? I have no problem pouring any of theirs. And you know, and overtime now, I mean, we’ve been doing it since 2014. So I know their portfolio and how it’s evolved. So
Drew Thomas Hendricks 37:35
tasting since 2014.
Julie Kuhlken 37:37
No, no, no, no, no, we weren’t that
Drew Thomas Hendricks 37:40
for marketing back then. That would have been four thoughts.
Julie Kuhlken 37:43
Yes, it would have said no. Anyway, we were doing and with Texas, Fine Wine, we do them every other month. The next one will be on June 9. So and what we do is, you know, we obviously promote them to our wine club members, respectively. And then we send wine to, to media, so that they come on, and it’s a chance for them, you know, you you know this, if you’re in media, you get bottles all the time or you get requests, Hey, can I send you this bottle? Would you try it? And it’s all those decisions like, well, do I have a time space to store all this wine? Am I ever going to write about it? Right? So in this case, you’re actually like, they open it up, they put down their tastiness, and they can just talk to the winemaker or you know, or at least an owner. Right then if they have any questions, they get all that extra information at that time.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 38:31
And so is it just for media? Or is it consumers? Both? It’s that’s that’s really interesting. I like that, that both the media and the consumers on a virtual tasting
Julie Kuhlken 38:40
ya know, it’s obviously get very different questions.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 38:44
But I’m sure the consumers love the love the fact that someone’s asking the the media like questions, and vice versa. It’s frightening to hear what the consumers are asking.
Julie Kuhlken 38:54
Yeah, the way it’s worked out. Last year, we were doing them every single month. And then finally, it was Denise’s the name of our PR. And she was like, Denise, I just can’t do this every month. That takes a lot of work does. Anyway, so we’ve gone to every other month, and it’s it’s working out? Well. It actually becomes sort of fun every every other month to talk to people and oh, yeah, how do you
Drew Thomas Hendricks 39:15
um, as far as I’m super curious, and especially to talk to a lot of wineries on whether they’re gonna continue this format. What do you see as the success or how has it evolved from when you did your first virtual tasting to now?
Julie Kuhlken 39:26
Well, at first, I mean, I mean, we did some like we did Facebook Live Events, and we did virtual Hastings as just Pedernales. And my take on doing those, you just get much better. More interest if you have several different wineries. So I’ve done it with the Texas Hill Country Winery Association. We have done corporate events where it is only our wine, but in that case, the social part of it’s really been provided by the fact that these are teams that want to you know, have some forum in which interact you know, other than flying does someplace.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 40:00
Yeah, that’s a great I was talking to Sarah Molot been social and she does those type of corporate events where you have dispersed teams, and you can have like a collective or a group Zoom meeting, and you’re all kind of drinking the same wine or the same alcohol at the same time. Which forms is a real form of bonding?
Julie Kuhlken 40:18
Yeah, no, no, it did. It really works. So yeah, no, I think I mean, I definitely think that’s there to say we, again, because of the way Texas did the reopening, we had to reopen it. So one of the phases of our reopening, they really wanted to basically reclassify us as a restaurant and not a bar because they couldn’t come up with a category winery, apparently, right. You can you really, you’re either a restaurant or a bar. So because that made a lot of sense. But anyway, so we started doing a lot more food pairing.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 40:48
Do you have a restaurant there?
Julie Kuhlken 40:50
No, we don’t know. We
Drew Thomas Hendricks 40:52
just have more of a tasting pairing menu.
Julie Kuhlken 40:54
Yeah, yeah. So. So like this coming Sunday. Again, based on experience during the pandemic, we do what we call these tasting room takeovers, usually on a Sunday, and we pick some part of our portfolio we want to feature and we only pour that we don’t for our normal tasting. So anyone who doesn’t want to do that, and it’s a paired tasting with a small bites. I love those. Yeah. Anyway, it’s just anyone who shows up and who wanted to just do a generic tasting or say, sorry, you obviously can buy a bottle and sit on, you know, sit on the deck, you know, there’s
Drew Thomas Hendricks 41:29
no reason not to do this pair tasting. Well, that’s, uh, do you do that virtually as well?
Julie Kuhlken 41:37
We have talked about doing it virtually. And we one of them, we kind of were working out what can we turn this into a virtual event as well? And we decided just to complicate it, because you’re just trying to do that present and not present kind of thing. So we just and they obviously, anyone virtually, yes, they can have the wine, but they wouldn’t have food. So
Drew Thomas Hendricks 41:56
yeah, the funnest one I went to they had a it was a virtual tasting with everybody got the menu. We were all supposed to be cooking it while we were tasting Oh, yeah. We had a bunch of was well varying various expressions of the same recipe. Like that. So that’s, that’s the new experience. You’ve got the food and wine pairing type of things. Do you see those experiences is the way the industry is moving forward? Less than just like belly up to the bar?
Julie Kuhlken 42:30
Well, I mean, I think you’re going to always have a mix of the two. Because you always, but I definitely think in terms of long term relationship with your with your wine club members. Yes, no, I think that you know, for them to just tell them, Oh, you can come in and do a tape another complimentary tasting? And they’re like, Oh, wow. I’ve done that. So. So yeah, I think creating, if you will, points of experience. I mean, that’s one of the reasons we’re building this new building, is to give them a place where they’re always seated. All the tastings are seated, right? Because that’s just for wine club members, we really feel that is what should happen. So
Drew Thomas Hendricks 43:09
you find people by more experienced tasting or sit down tasting versus that casual,
Julie Kuhlken 43:16
generally speaking, yeah, no, generally speaking. I mean, the other thing is that people are choosing very specifically to come, it’s usually smaller groups, because I mean, not Yeah, the reality is, the larger the group, the less wine is purchased, generally speaking, because they’re, it’s more likely they’re there to talk to each other. And the wine is just sort of a lubricant to that. Yeah. Whereas if you have a couple or you know, or two couples, they are usually very much focused on whatever the experience is,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 43:44
or they hit two experiences a day, like the, the, the number of wines you visit is inversely correlated to the amount of wines purchased. Exactly, exactly. That’s a good point. I do see a lot I do see that experience is just happening more and more. That’s, that’s one of the things that I think is one of the biggest Silver Linings coming out of the pandemic is there is that further concentration on experiences,
Julie Kuhlken 44:06
ya know, as being people, I mean, you just end things that you never thought were so valuable to you. Like, I remember the first time I could go and just when the restaurants reopened in Texas, and you know, I would buy myself just to sort of sit in a restaurant, and just to sit there and and listen to that babble of voices around me. I was like, Well, this is so comforting.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 44:28
Yeah, how, um, as far as demographics, we talk a lot about the age demographics, from Gen Z, all the way up to Gen X, me and all the boomers. How are you bringing in the younger wine drinkers? Or what advice do you have to wineries looking to kind of cater to that, you know, mid 20 audience?
Julie Kuhlken 44:47
You know, interesting, have I, the first thing I want to say is don’t forget Gen X. Honestly speaking, there’s this tendency because it’s a smaller,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 44:54
we’ve always been forgotten. Yes, we’re forgotten back when we were 20.
Julie Kuhlken 44:59
Yeah, Just hear that people go from talking about the Boomers to talking about millennials. And you’re like just a minute, there were like a lot of people like 42 million or so skipped over. So the fact is, don’t forget, I really feel that our target audience, obviously, it’s about it’s our age to is more nearly Gen X. Because we find within the Texas wine industry, we are actually just personally there are, there are some much older, essentially, my parents generation are slightly younger, who formed wineries. And the further established there are some of the bigger, more established wineries. And then you have a bunch of wineries that are basically being run by maybe not millennials, but you’re slightly older than millennials, right? And we’re kind of again, stuck in the middle. But the fact is, we sort of realized I feel that you know, for to get interested in Texas wine, right? The baby boomers are not have never been our thing per se, not that we don’t appeal to older people. But just because, you know, they’re going to drink California, California cab. Their tastes are formed in a different era, the less experimental but you know, in terms of the younger consumers in general and interesting of Gen X actually kind of like is more tends this direction, is don’t be afraid to serve them something they’ve never heard of, right? Because that’s really the things we bottle now greats that even other people in the wine industry are like, Oh, what, like we have a turbos ago right turbos ago, I mean, how many people who has a section of drilled ago in their local wine shop, right? And so we’ve been willing to say, hey, you know, just bottle the best wine, you can and then just be willing to take the time to talk about it. And and to teach your staff, right, we do a lot of internal wine education, because we want them to feel comfortable about talking about where trauma goes from and where Senzo is, and what petite serraj is, and you know, and yeah, I’m just not, you know, whatever it is, we decided to to the or to Riga, right, you know, so have it you have to you do have to do that extra effort, both with your staff, and then also with consumers to say, you know, I think ultimately, personally, you know, whereas the baby boomers, I think you still saw, or you still see a lot of the snob appeal of wine, right, you know, becoming a connoisseur, you know, the whole thing. Whereas I would say, basically, when you’re looking at the younger generations, it just doesn’t, it doesn’t fly, because they’re gonna compare you more nearly to a craft brewery experience, where they also talk in detail about the hops they’re using, and, you know, technical details. And so just your beef. That’s not a snobby. That’s a geeky experience.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 47:43
Yeah, I like that leaning into the education and the geekery of it is really, really would appeal. Especially me, I’m a Gen X to is how was how was great advice on that. As far as, as we’re winding down here, and I was mentioned I had the clunkiest closes ever. Who do you respect most right now in the wine industry?
Julie Kuhlken 48:09
Um, you know, I have to give a shout out. And this is obviously someone that you know, outside of Texas, people are not familiar with very deeply as, as Ken McPherson. His father, Doc McPherson plant, I think it was in 1976. He planted in the High Plains. And that really was the sort of, you know, first and this was part of Texas tax. So he’d do doc McPherson was a professor. And but that experiment started to experiment with growing grapes in Texas, because you have to understand in Texas prohibition worked. And the sense that there are only one winery survived prohibition in Texas, and obviously making sacramental wine, it’s down in Danville, their dates, way off the beaten path. And so and then what followed prohibition was a whole bunch of dry counties and wet counties, and all kinds of prohibitions and laws that made doing anything with alcohol, just like no. And so it was really Dr. McPherson, you know, saying no, this is an agricultural product that we should be able to grow in Texas and do well. And so his son really turned it into a commercial entity as opposed to just experimental entity. And I am always amazed. I mean, in terms of what I always say to people, like his price points are amazing. I don’t know how he does it, because his wine is always solid, right? It’s just always solid. And yet, he also can put it at price points that he can have it on the grocery store shelf, and you’re like, you know, it’s one of the best deals in the Texas wine section. And so I really admire that and every time I talk to him, he’s just very approachable. And he wants you to ask him some questions immediately. He was like, You described what he had to do and the choices and you know, and there’s no even though he has a degree of pedigree within the industry, there’s no snobbery there with that or anything and so you I’d definitely give a shout out for him
Drew Thomas Hendricks 50:02
to check him out. Is there anything else I haven’t asked you that you’d love to talk about?
Julie Kuhlken 50:08
Well, I mean, you, you never asked about the white in philosophy.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 50:12
I know, I didn’t, I didn’t, we got so into it. So in two minutes or less, why is wine and philosophy,
Julie Kuhlken 50:19
whatever those are actually a there are infinite subjects. But B, it’s also that if wine culture and philosophical culture are actually grew up together, and I don’t think that’s entirely random, that the fact is that both of them involve a kind of more step back approach to life, right, let’s, let’s take a step back and really think about it. And so the fact that and they also, it was one of the world’s first, you know, by today’s standards, it wasn’t a democracy in our sense, but a deliberative culture where you, it’s based on socializing, and really trying to understand the other person and dialogue. And I think both wine and philosophy share those. And I do think there’s a lot of crossover.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 51:03
I like the I mean, that dialogue has been so important. And wine has been a lubrication for many philosophical talks over the years. That’s been that’s known, but also this that, like I liked to talk about the infinite aspect of it. And also the, the way you can attribute something to juice that’s far more than beyond just the fact that it’s fermented. We’re bringing just it’s fermented grape juice at its heart, but it’s so much more. It’s that conferred, meaning I think that really is that nexus. It’s what appeals to me and what actually got me into the wine industry having come from a philosophical background. It’s a good analysis, but thank you for bringing that up. I wanted to get your thoughts. Julie, where can people find out more about you?
Julie Kuhlken 51:49
Well, obviously, we’re pedernalescellars.com You can follow us on social media. Again, Pedernales Cellars. Minh, obviously, you can come to the Texas Hill Country, right? And you can actually find out more by seeing what it’s all about here.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 52:06
You got to experience and experience it in person. Well, Julie, thank you so much for joining us today. It was lovely. Thank you so much. Have a great day.
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