Make a Toast to the Environment at Pedernales Cellars, a Pioneering Texas Hill Country Winery

by Samantha Foster on March 10, 2024 in sponsored,

Pedernales Cellars, a pioneering Texas Hill Country winery, is at the forefront of the efforts to increase the sustainability of the Texas Wine industry. In the nearly thirty years that the Kuhlken family has been growing grapes, they have strived to offer award-winning wines that are friendly to the environment.

Photo courtesy Pedernales Cellars

For a Texan, there are a lot of good reasons to be drinking Texas wine. It is delicious; it is local; and increasingly it is good for the environment. Sustainability was the theme of the annual conference of the Texas Hill Country Wineries Association, held in early February at Horseshoe Bay Resort. At the conference, Pedernales Cellars’ pioneering role in moving toward more sustainable practices was highlighted.

Photo courtesy Pedernales Cellars

The Kuhlken family that owns Pedernales Cellars has been growing grapes in the Texas Hill Country since 1995. Over the decades, they have experimented with varieties to discover ones that thrive in the Texas climate with the least amount of chemical intervention. Though they started with Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, they have found much better partners to Texas terroir in warm weather varieties such as Tempranillo (originally from Spain) and Rhone varieties, Mourvèdre and Grenache. Knowing what to grow is the first step toward sustainably grown wine. It is also important to view the vineyard as a complex ecosystem. To this end, Pedernales minimizes water use through ground cover management and promotes natural pest management through use of local species. Compost from the winery is also recycled into the vineyard. Continuing their good stewardship of the land, the family has removed cedar overgrowth and invasive plant species and reestablished seeps and springs, making a better habitat for native Hill Country wildlife. Owner Dr. Julie Kuhlken likes to think of sustainability in terms of healthy habits. As she puts it, “Whether I exercise today is only marginally important, but if I exercise regularly, it makes a huge difference in the long run. Something similar is true of sustainable practices, each one is only marginally impactful, but taken as a whole, they make for a huge shift in the health of the environment.”

Photo courtesy Pedernales Cellars

Sustainability is about more than growing wine, it is also about the place and people who make it. When constructing the winemaking facility, the Kuhlken family decided to dig the cellar directly into the hill to form an underground facility that enjoys the natural insulation of limestone and the cooling soil. A geothermal cooling system and CFL and solar lighting reduce energy usage, and a 55,000-gallon tank collects valuable rainwater that is used for landscaping.

Photo courtesy Pedernales Cellars

On the people side of the winery, Pedernales Cellars is proud to be a majority woman-owned winery that offers health care benefits, PTO, flexible work schedules, and maternity/paternity leave to its staff, including hourly employees. As owner, Dr. Julie Kuhlken puts it, describing the winery’s employment philosophy, “If you create a work environment where women thrive, you are likely creating an environment where everyone thrives.” The results are impressive. Pedernales Cellars has had a woman winemaker since 2015 with the current winemaker being Joanna Wilczoch, a native of New Hampshire who started her wine journey working in Kuhlken Vineyards. The Controller of the company is Livia Schorlemer, a self-described “Grape Counter.” Cathy Martell is the company’s Direct-to Consumer Manager and oversees all of the hospitality operations at the winery. If you visit the Tasting Room in Stonewall – and of course, you should! – you are likely to see Cathy’s friendly face greeting you at the door.

So, the next time you are reaching for that Cali Cab at the grocery store, stop and think about the environment. Drinking a local Texas wine from Pedernales Cellars not only reduces the amount of pollution generated from transporting the wine to the shelf, but also comes from a winery that is doing its part to make the wine industry greener. In the near future, Pedernales Cellars will be making wine from organically grown grapes, so keep an eye out for those on the shelves. One more reason to make a toast to the environment with Pedernales Cellars.


Cover Photo courtesy of Pedernales Cellars.

About Pedernales Cellars

Pedernales Cellars is a family winery in Stonewall owned by sixth-generation Texans, siblings Julie and David Kuhlken. It specializes in world-class wines made from Spanish and Rhone varieties using sustainable practices. The winery is open to visitors seven days a week.

This article is a sponsored collaboration with Pedernales Cellars.