Exploring Pebble Rock Cellars: A Hidden Gem Artisanal Winery
I’m what you would call a wine nerd. I love learning all of the different aspects of wine. Its history, how its made, how it tastes, how its grown. This is exactly why I love having wine with Rob and Lydia Nida. A tasting at Pebble Rock Cellars is perfect for any newcomer to wine and especially for wine nerds like me.
Rob Nida studied horticulture at Texas A&M and didn’t know what he wanted to do, so he studied abroad in Chilé. When he returned to Texas, he worked as an intern at Woodrose Winery in the hill country. Next, he entered a Masters Winemakers program that took him to southern France and Madrid, Spain. While he honed his skills and continued learning, he worked a harvest in South Africa, then as an assistant winemaker at William Chris Wines, on to the Dundee region of Oregon, and spent a little time with a couple more wineries in the hill country.
Lydia studied entomology & horticulture at A&M. Once she narrowed down her interests to viticulture and completed her Masters degree at Fresno State. Back in Texas, she became the vineyard manager at Grape Creek in 2012. She stayed a couple of years and then backpacked in Europe for four months to learn more about organic farming practices. She worked as the viticulturist for Lost Draw Vineyards in the High Plains and, by 2017, started consulting with vineyards in the Hill Country.
The couple was growing together – she consulted in the vineyard and he was consulting in the cellar – and they worked towards creating their own small wine label. The first vintage of Pebble Rock was started in 2019. They started with private and in-home tasting events and developed quite a following before opening their tasting room in Johnson City in the spring of 2021.
Rob makes his wines in the cellar at Limestone Terrace. The business model for Pebble Rock is one I can get behind. They want to keep their own label small while continuing to help other winemakers create their wines. They are currently producing about 500 cases annually, and this should increase to 1,000 in the 2023 vintage. Even as they grow the label, they will continue to remain boutique, not exceeding 5,000 cases or 500 club members. This measured growth will ensure their experiences remain personal.
Once they are big enough to hire employees, the hope is the staff are all active in the industry and will want to make wine, learning each step along the way. The staff can learn business, permitting, winemaking, selling, and everything in between. The Johnson City tasting room may even become a shared space for several winemakers ¬¬¬to pour their individual wines. Currently, the couple has eight consulting clients, all new to the wine industry. This type of support is precisely what the Texas industry needs. The ultimate goal is to give back and grow the industry!
When you visit Pebble Rock, I recommend making an appointment, but sometimes they can accommodate walk-ins. Be certain to ask for the story behind the name. I don’t want to ruin it, but it’s a love story! You will also want to ask about their growler program, which is a fantastic way to get high-quality hand-crafted wines at the lower price of mass-produced wines. The growler is also a sustainable way of packaging wine with less glass waste.
The tasting experience changes each quarter, which is where my thirst for knowledge is satisfied. Each quarter is a different education component, and each month in that quarter is a variation on the topic. On my last visit, the education was color, and we looked at how the colors around us could change the look of each wine. The wines they offer in the tasting will change each quarter, based on the theme. This means you can visit regularly and get different perspectives each time. So fun!
Pebble Rock Cellars offers a fun and educational tasting experience with wines that are hand-crafted with attention to detail. My current favorites from their list are the 2019 Chenin Blanc and 2018 Sangiovese. Plus, the couple is super cute and they truly care about the Texas wine industry. What’s not to love?!