Fire Oak – New Vineyard Partner in Central Texas

Long before we dared to dream of making it ourselves, we readily understood that wine is really made in the vineyard. We are fortunate to work with top growers like Neal Newsom and Lahey Vineyards in the High Plains. Indeed, your feedback on wines like Quatre Rouges, Solo, Tempranillo is so encouraging. Ditto the upcoming 2019 Merlot Cellar Selection! We also have a custom-farming agreement with a fantastic new High Plains vineyard grower we can’t wait to share with you next month. But today, we would like to introduce our new vineyard partners from Central Texas. And extend a special invite to their harvest festival at the end of July. Siboney looks forward to great fruit from Fire Oak Vineyard for many years.

Fire Oak Vineyard


Fire Oak Vineyard was established in 2017 (coincidentally, our very first vintage!) on a beautiful 30 acre site by Billy and Shelia Busch. Our partners, Bill and Mary Anne Waldrip, introduced us to the Busch family last year. After walking between the rows of their well-managed vineyard plots, we made arrangements to contract the fruit from this unique Texas terroir. Situated on a gentle slope of gravelly loam and clay soil at about 1500 feet elevation, this promising vineyard site is located near Goldthwaite, in Mills County. It’s just about 90 miles north of Siboney Cellars, off Highway 183. The Busch family is a delight. Shelia has boundless energy and enthusiasm, and Billy makes sure they stay well grounded — a perfect Kite-and-String arrangement! We truly admire their strong commitment to expanding the vineyard footprint for Texas wine.

Under the capable on-site management of Adrienne Freeman, with assistance from veteran grower Penny Adams, Fire Oak Vineyard has 15 acres under vine, and 8 varietals. Right in the middle of a relatively cool, wet 2021 growing season, Adrienne reports Verasion is underway. While we are guarded with our forecasts, we know the site is in strong hands. We also know that August can be a difference-maker in the Texas summer! We look forward to the next site visit. Meanwhile, here is a highlight reel from June with Shelia and Adrienne.

Harvest Festival July 31

The Busches host a grand harvest festival and blessing each year. Here is the link to their registration, you’re invited! Scheduled for Saturday July 31, it’s a great day for families of all ages, including a grape stomp, wine blending, vineyard tours and kids activities. Check out the schedule! And yes, we are delighted to be a part of this event with food and wine pairings of Siboney Cellars wines!

Siboney looks forward to great fruit from Fire Oak Vineyard for many years. And, we are happy to partner with such a wonderful Texas family. Barbara is already talking about the wonderful potential of hard-to-source Rhone varietals for our portfolio. And whispering about another sparkling wine option. To that we say, #JustYouWait!

And watch this space for a future story about our new partners in the High Plains!

The Story of Siboney’s 2019 Merlot Cellar Selection

As we prepare the 2019 Merlot from Newsom Vineyards for bottling, we thought you might like to read a little more about this very special Cellar Selection from Siboney. The wine premiered as a pre-sale barrel sample wine to Members at the Spring Release event in April, 2021. We will fully release this wine in the Fall. All Photos by Miguel Lecuona
Midnight in Plains, Texas. September 27 2019 – Harvest date of Newsom Vineyards Merlot

Neal Newsom grows some of the best grapes in Texas, leading to award-winning wines from his vineyard blocks in Plains, TX for many distinguished Texas Wineries.  We met Neal at his barn many years ago and are so pleased to work with him.  You have tasted our 2017 Tempranillo, that is from Newsom Vineyards.  Now comes the next wine from Newsom Vineyards – the 2019 Merlot “Cellar Selection.”

Newsom Vineyards - Merlot Block.  Plains, Tx
Merlot Block at Newsom Vineyards, planted in 1996, 1999, 2011

Much can be said about the 2019 High Plains growing season, but like any great story, Mother Nature saved the best for last.  Harvest was September 27, at 1AM — in other words, late and very late! The reason for this situation?  A pronounced High Plains heat spike in August caused some vineyards to become unbalanced… sugar levels soared while seeds and skins remained unripe. And then…. nothing.  The vines basically shut down. So the grower and winery each face a dead-mans choice — harvest with good sugars and questionable overall ripeness, or wait and see whether the vines, with a little more time, can balance things out.  So we played vineyard roulette during September.  

Slowly the seeds began to ripen and turn from a green to a dark brown over 30 days.  We visited Neal on September 19, tasted the grapes and thought if we could get one or two more weeks things might just balance out in the vineyard.  

Barbara, with Doug Reed of Hawk’s Shadow, Ben Calais, and Neal Newsom

As an experienced grower, Neal has many cares, many who depend on his choices. And he balances patience with practicalities. That’s why we love working with him.  On September 27, over dinner, we looked at an updated forecast to decide whether to return home, and there it was — a huge swirling mass of high plains thunderheads bearing down on Neal’s vineyards. Further, looking ahead, we could see the forecast showing more storny weather and fewer sunny days. No point waiting for an October Surprise with those risks. And so at that moment we made the game-time decision and contacted Neal to see whether he could fit the Merlot harvest into his already-tight schedule.  And, ’round midnight, he confirmed the plan of action as we were surrounded by lignthing storms on all sides.  The race was on!  Neal’s team worked in several vineyard plots to bring in grapes ahead of rains as they cycled ever closer. This image shows Neal’s harvester traversing his Syrah block as the storms edged ever closer.  Miguel scrambled onto the roof of his jeep with his Nikon and tripod to get the dramatic shot, thus creating the highest point in Plains at that moment, and impersonating a human lightning rod. What he lacks in smarts he makes up for in passion!

Racing against time… Harvester traversing a vineyard block at Newsom, against the backdrop of a High Plains Midnight storm

As the team set about the Merlot vineyard, the rains came — not enough to cause any dilution, but enough to create a bit of mischief on the loading dock.  Bins were blowing around, and Ben Calais pitched in on the forklift to keep the process moving under very trying conditions.  Janice, Neal’s wife, bundled up in a ski parka, cataloged each bin at the scale, and Barbara worked directly bin by bin with our grapes as they came in, to prepare them for a cold soak and the road home.  By 3AM, at 46 degrees in a 30 mph wind, the job was done.  We harvested about 6 tons of Merlot for Siboney that evening — Enough for 16 barrels. 

Back at the winery, whole-berry fermentation and malo-in-barrel, followed by a restful maturation for about 19 months resulted in a very promising young wine. As we tasted each barrel this spring, the excitement was quite evident, so we decided to bring a barrel sample to the Vineyard planting event on April 10-11 for you to taste. Following that, we committed to the final blend.  

Just 63% of the original harvest made the cut, comprised of wine from 80% one-time used and 20% new French oak, the 2019 Merlot Cellar Selection from Newsom Vineyards is complete.  It will be bottled in June, laid down for a few months, then released in the fall, nearly 2 years to the day from that unforgettable harvest in the High Plains.  Just you wait!

Nothing makes a winemaker smile as much as getting the harvest bin safely into the barn!

Cellar Note: Sourced from a special parcel of Neal Newsom’s family Merlot vineyard from 20+ year old vines, the harvest took place on September 27, 2019 as the vineyard was literally encircled by late season High Plains thunderstorms.  Racing against the oncoming rains, with the sky crackling with thunder and lightning, and the wind whistling through the vines, the temperatures dropped 30 degrees at 2am when Neal finally wrangled the grapes into the barn.  Barbara set our bins up for the overnight trip home.  From a harvest of 6.5 tons, just 63% of that selection made it into the final cuvée.  Barrel aged for 19 months, the final blend was committed in April 2021.  It will go to bottle in late spring, then rest for the summer, awaiting a fall debut and shipment.  This is a beautiful Merlot, and a wine that reflects the commitment of the grower and the perseverance of the winemaker.  Just you wait!

Futures purchased in April will be delivered in the Fall, 2021, as will the case bottle count and ABV%.

Only The Beginning! New Vines Lead to Estate Wines.

The Siboney Cellars Terrace Vineyard Planting and Spring Wine Release event is in the books! Thank you to all our members, guests, volunteers and partners. You have given us every chance to create great #TxWine and we can’t wait to share the fruits of this endeavor.

So many smiling faces in this video! We could not be more delighted with the turnout and the great energy from our members, guests, volunteers and partners on April 10-11. Thank you all for visiting us at the new home for Siboney Cellars, and for putting roots down with us in the Terrace Vineyard Block! For you vineyard lovers, check out the site details and additional photos below.

Short of having a baby, planting a vineyard is the most optimistic thing you can do in life.

All the photos you see in this video are available for you to have, with our compliments! To download, please visit this link. When you post your photo, please do tag us on our Facebook and Instagram feeds and let us know you’re sharing #Siboney!

Member Photos: https://miguellecuona.zenfolio.com/siboney-april2021

The estate wines coming from this vineyard are earmarked for the Wine Club. To join, visit www.SiboneyCellars.com and explore the Clubs page.

The next Member event is scheduled for Memorial Weekend May 30-31. Stay tuned for more details. And again, thank you for giving us the best possible start for 2021.

Siboney Cellars Terrace Vineyard

  • AVA Classification: Texas Hill Country
  • Region: Pedernales Watershed, 4 miles W of Johnson City
  • Topography: Sloped Limestone Terrace, live oaks, native grasses, wildflowers, and very much cleared cedar; no prior cultivation
  • Elevation: 1,450′ (443.2M), 35′ elevation change
  • GPS: 30.262326, -98.462126 (30°15’44,4″N 98°27’43.7W)
  • Soil: Well-drained Doss Silty Clay, Brackett Association, and sandstone aggregate to 24″; atop limestone foundation. Significant fossilized seabed treasures across the site.
  • Acreage under vine: 3.68ac
  • Varietals
    • Merlot 181 ENTAV-INRA on SO4 East block to Live Oak Mott
      • French Clone, originated from Bordeaux, certified 1973
      • Nursery: Wonderful, Kern County, California
    • Merlot FPS 24.1 on SO4Live Oak Mott and West Block
      • Italian Clone, VCR 101, certified 2002
      • Nursery: Novavine, Sonoma County, California
    • Total Planted: 5009 bench graft dormant vines
    • Vines survived wildfire, pandemic, and ice storms to reach Siboney
  • Spacing: 8×4, Bodark (Osage Orange) end posts
  • Orientation: South-North, with prevailing summer winds
  • Irrigation: Drip – rainwater capture and site well (depth 400′)
  • Soil and Site Analysis: Fritz Westover
  • Vineyard consultant: Bill Blackmon
  • Trellis Installation: Donny Jackson
  • Vine Planting: Luis Cortes and his team, by hand
  • Planting Date: April 5-11, 2021

With Gratitude…

Nearly 150 members and guests put roots down in our vineyard with us over the weekend of April 10 and 11! That just stuns us. We will never forget it, and we are every bit as excited as you to see it come to harvest in the future. Thank you!

We are blessed by our industry friends and project partners, all who share a love for the hill country and for Texas Wine: Legendary Texas Vineyard Grower Bill Blackmon who we hope never regrets asking to develop our vineyards at Siboney; (and thank you Tate, Andy and Evan!); Soil and Site Analyst Fritz Westover, whose joyous reaction to walking the site for the first time reinforced our own hopes and dreams; the vine-planting team led by my friend Luis Cortes, and his camaradas Javier, Sergio and Francisco. Thank you to Wonderful nursery for supplying the ENTAV Merlot clones. Holding that bundle in my hand must have been like Thor holding Mjolnir! And a very special shout-out to Sam Caselli of Novavine for his initial encouragement, timely and astute assistance and amazing service every step of the way. We also are indebted to Donny Jackson and his installation team; our Architect Kim Thompson of Reliance, and especially to Chad Meyers of Aquadocs and Blaine Langford of JK Bernhard, who pushed the limit on tying our wells together in time to commit the planting dates.

We also thank the expert volunteers who supported us to bring the event to such a success. Thank you Daniel Kelada, Kappy Simpson, Callisto Griffith, and Kourtney Collins. Thank you Chris and Elisa Hensz. Thank you to the Busch Family and Fire Oak Vineyards. Thank you Dee Dahlstrom. Thanks to our caterers, Mike’s Q on Saturday and Vivere on Sunday. We also appreciate the great music from Nathan of Spicy Loops, and the beloved Hill Country duo, Greg and Lisa Trace of Gold. And to Jason Cook, the Mayor of Hye, for loaning us those great tables and chairs from the Hye Hall!

And finally, this must be said: Our partnership with Bill and Mary Anne Waldrip has made every bit of this possible, and in ways we could never dare to hope. No project has extracted more commitment, trust and perseverance than this. We do this for our Members. We do this for Texas. We do this for Love. And we will work hard to make this site a point of pride for all of #TxWine. And it’s only the beginning. MRL

Read More

A New Dawn at Siboney

The 10,000 square foot, 800 ton concrete foundation is poured!

Morning people own the world, don’t they? The most important events seem to happen at dawn, and bring undeniable clarity. Wednesday March 3 was one of those days for Siboney.

Mary Anne, on top of the world as the concrete slab is poured at Siboney Cellars!

Before the sun rose on a chilly hill country morning, Mary Anne was already in position. She sat on a limestone ledge, high above the excavation zone, bundled up and ready to witness the major effort about to take place. A goal she has pursued for the winery with determination was about to be fulfilled. Naturally an early riser, a 3AM start was not daunting for her. The symbolism could not be missed. A convoy of 40 cement trucks would soon descend on our location, delivering over 800 tons of concrete. There a team waited, tasked to build a technical slab that is literally foundational for everything to follow. Months of planning, preparation, pandemic delays, detailed site work, and even last week’s epic ice storm would all be buried under this beautiful slab today, and nothing would stop it!

Then the pump truck operator arrived and informed the supervisor that he forgot to bring the battery and gear to operate the boom. D’OH!

Well, when you’ve worked this long and hard to get to this very moment, what’s another two hours! Presently, the missing gear was en route, and after a round of hot chocolate shots for the team, the headlights from the first trucks broke through the darkness. Two at a time, the trucks offloaded their 10 yard cargo into the hopper. The big pump, directed by the now-fully-charged operator and the team handling the hoses, proceeded to pour the 4,000 psi concrete mixture all around the perimeter, bringing the full pad to a consistent level just below the rebar. Once that two hour process was complete, the rest of the concrete would pour, and presto! Slab!

With the rebar now encased, and the concrete setting around the plumbing and other pipes, the team turned its attention to the most technical aspect of the pour. Setting and aligning the 8 stainless steel slot drains in the barrel cellar and production room would occupy many skilled hands. Here, the slopes and creases of the new foundation received the most attention. A rep from Reeh Plumbing of Fredericksburg was on hand for any needed coordination. After 5 hours, the pour was completed. But the work continued and for the rest of the day, the 10,000 square foot slab was fussed over by the team. As the sun climbed higher into the beautiful blue sky, it revealed the superbly set finish. Trowels, skids, polishers, and even a concrete Zamboni applied just the right texture to the entire surface. And let me tell you, it is beautiful!

Blaine Langford – the on-site Supervisor from JK Bernhard – and the team from Lehne construction handled the project like real pros. Mary Anne summed it up this way: “It was exciting to watch the first batch of cement come out of that long orange pipe and fill the first rebar section of Siboney Cellars’ slab. As the team of men worked, each having a specific job, the long-awaited beautiful slab was poured, smoothed over, and polished. So many details went into getting to this place in the building process and that is continuing on as the walls go up, roof is put on, and the building takes life. Onward and upward!”

There’s lots of video footage for The Big Pour on our Facebook page. And we will show more at a Slab Party one day soon. It really is a fascinating part of the process with a ton of artisan work, as Mary Anne said. We did a few live broadcasts by drone from the site throughout the day. For my part, I was quite surprised how many people were genuinely excited and engaged at that early hour to watch us pour concrete! So head over to our FB Page for more. Meanwhile enjoy this epic sunrise over the site and raise a glass to Mary Anne, our intrepid morning person. It is a New Dawn at Siboney.

The Big Pour — the concrete slab is poured and set on March 3, 2021 at Siboney Cellars.

Travis and Hot Shot – The Origin Love Story of Two Siboney Cellars Wines

Travis and Hot Shot - a Siboney Love Story
Miguel and Barbara were married February 15, 2008.

[Note from Miguel: The big Texas #IceStorm2021 disrupted pretty much everything including this blog entry which was to mark the debut of the new website. Now that power has been restored we can update you on many things!]

Like you, we often wonder about the inspiration for wine names. Truth is, before we even named Siboney Cellars, we knew the first two wines would be named Travis and Hot Shot.

Barbara and I were married February 15, 2008. Prior the wedding, Barbara lived in Philadelphia, and I lived in Austin. We kept a running game of Scrabble going online, for many months. I played under an alias, Travis, because after years of spelling “L-E-C….U-O…. N-A” for Austin restaurant waiting lists (remember those???), I simplified to “Travis, party of 2” because every Texan can spell Travis! So that stuck. I was fortunate to win many of the early contests. But as is typical for Barbara, her competitiveness and determination are pretty much unstoppable. And sure enough, she got on a hot streak, and won 7 games in a row. So I wrote to her and said, “okay Hot Shot that’s enough of that!” Next thing I knew, she changed her Alias to Hot Shot.

Travis and Hot Shot were printed on the matchbooks for our wedding, and so naturally they are the first red and white wines for Siboney Cellars. And now you know the rest of the Love Story!

As for the wines? Both are delightful Texas blends of Rhone varietals, and we will create these each year. The 2017’s sold out. The new 2018 Hot Shot (Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier) is now available in our wine store. And the 2019 Travis (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) is in barrel, and will debut this Spring. We’re sure you will show both of them nothing but Love!

Read More

High Plains Harvest Update – September 2019

Back from our latest trip to the High Plains, and one things for sure, we are picking up the Pace! Catch these highlights fresh from our Syrah Harvest at Lahey Vineyards in the Texas High Plains.

In addition to the vineyard owners who have become essential partners in the creation of our wines, we are working alongside two of our favorite winery owners — Ben Calais of Calais Winery (on US 290 between Hye and Johnson City), and Doug Reed of Hawk’s Shadow Winery (in Dripping Springs). Collaboration is not only a welcome aspect of working in the #txwine industry, it is, to be honest, a business necessity. Small wineries focusing on small-batch, block-levell harvests and single varietal wines often find it advantageous to pool resources on logistics. We do our best to share transportation and trucking costs, delivery dates and coordination, as well as notes on vineyard data and harvest impressions.

And even so, it is still with gratitude that we thank our vineyard partners for working with us — we know we are the new kids on the block, but we will give you our very best efforts to make the best #TxWine possible. Just. You. Wait!

100% Texas Wine Labeling – Now Where Do We Go?

Originally Published on our old website in June 2019, now re-printing this to our new site… our advocacy and support for the current “Grape Compromise” proposed by the major Texas Wine Associations.

Miguel Lecuona, Siboney cellars March 22, 2021

Now that HB4233 died in committee, let me get right to it. 

For three years, we’ve pursued the wrong answer to the right question. In the long run, State-level Appellation wines (100% Oregon, 100% California, even 100% France) are not the most sought-after, defining and collectible wines particularly among consumers who buy, cellar, track and even write about fine wine, and true Wine Origin.  State AVA wines are priced lower, tracked less by collectors and critics, and are not nearly as defining to the reputation of a wine producing region as other wines can be.  State-Appelated wines are less valuable, as a category, than wines designated at AVA, Vineyard, and Estate levels.

Read More

Update on 100% Texas Labeling Bill HB4233 – Public Testimony

On April 16, 2019, the Texas State Legislative Committee charged with consideration of HB4233, the 100% Texas Labeling Bill, convened a public hearing on the matter (and on many other bills of more significant importance) at the State Capitol in Austin. We participated in the hearing, submitting a written testimony outlining our dissenting view as to why this bill is not in the best interest of the Texas Wine Industry.

Read More

100% Texas – Our View, Our Passion, Our Word

What is our view of 100% Texas Wine? We spell it out on each label: ‘Every bottle from Siboney Cellars is, and always will be, 100% Texas. Hand crafted and aged with the passion it deserves, and the patience it requires.’

With the advent of a prodigious wildflower season in the Texas Hill Country AVA, we are eager to begin the work ahead for the 2019 Vintage, and introduce a couple of new wines for you, perfect for Spring. But a couple of other flowers have popped up this season in the Texas Legislative session that are also catching our eye. (For our out-of-state friends, the standing joke about the bi-cameral Texas congress is: Texas Legislators meet for 172 days every two years. Perhaps they should meet for just 2 days every 172 years). Here is a rundown on a few of the filed bills:

The first bill, SB313, (there are Senate and House versions of this one) would eliminate the annual 35,000 gallon limit on winery production earmarked for Direct-to-Consumer, whether at the winery or through wine clubs and regular sales operations. This is a positive growth bill for wineries in the state where DTC sales have been on a roll this decade.

Read More