Posts in Passion
Siboney Cellars announces new Texas Hill Country winery site, partnership and expansion plans.

Have you heard the news? Siboney Cellars is coming to Wine Road 290 in the Texas Hill Country!

Yesterday, we announced a new partnership and the acquisition of a 52 acre parcel of land ideally suited for a full Texas Hill Country winery, production facility, tasting room and vineyards. The site is beautiful — a classic Hill Country property featuring a limestone plateau, rolling hills, heritage oaks, a fertile field, stepped terraces suitable for vineyard planting, and over 100 feet of elevation changes, rising to a plateau of 1500 feet.

The new home for Siboney Cellars Is the culmination of a long held vision, made possible by a new partnership we are very blessed to have, and a search that criss-crossed the Hill Country. It is ideally situated for our plans:

  • Location - With frontage directly on Wine Road 290, adjacent to Lewis Wines, the new home for Siboney Cellars is situated between Hye and Johnson City, continuing the development of the eastern corridor of WR290. We look forward to taking our place among the neighboring wineries in the area and participating as a 100% Texas house.

  • Vineyards - this site holds a promise for true Texas Terroir - a term we believe in when it is applied to an appellation or specific location. With limestone plateaus, north-facing terraces, and a soil structure that may prove favorable for vineyard growth, we are excited about the potential of estate wines.

  • Views - the limestone plateau rises 100 feet above the entry point on 290, and affords commanding views. We have many plans to share these views with you!

And the new partnership? We are delighted to introduce the Waldrips to the Texas Wine community, and over the next few weeks we will do exactly that. We met Bill and Mary Anne Waldrip at a wine writer’s event hosted at Boot Ranch in 2015 - one of many industry tours and events we have attended together. Mary Anne poured our first wine - the 2017 Coral Rosé, at the Texas Wine Revolution last year. And together, we have unlocked a mutual passion for creating a wonderful winery in the Hill Country. We can’t wait for you to meet them!

Needless to say, Barbara and I are over the moon! We just returned from our first 2019 trip to the High Plains and are excited about the this year’s vintage potential. With our collaboration at Hawk’s Shadow Winery continuing through 2019 and into 2020, the new partnership, and the new location coming to WR290, we can bring our vision into focus, put more quality grapes into Barbara’s capable hands, and put more Siboney wine into your own cellar. And as always, There’s a million things we haven’t done. Just you wait!! ~MRL

Wine Tasting - And The Wine Maker on the Other Side of the Table
Checking in on the 2017 Barrel Samples.

Last night, we set up a dozen glasses to taste through red wine barrel samples from the 2017 Harvest.  While we are close to releasing our first red wine, Travis, we are also working on a range 2017 vintage wines that will be released in 2019-20.  

Our sampling session reminded me of one of my first tastings in France, where a veteran winemaker poured his wine and told our of group of young students, "this is my wine. You may taste it, but I really don't care what you think about it.  If you don't understand it, that is not my problem!" 

Well, more than ever, I can empathize with this man!

Barbara and I have tasted wines through a number of professional programs over the years, from the Wine School of Philadelphia, the Court of Master Sommeliers, and a few terrific Texas Winery and club programs.  Barbara continued her education through the Winemaking Certificate Program at Texas Tech and in the cellars of a few of our colleagues. And, for my part, I have tasted thousands of barrel samples with the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, and with professional wine writers at the top of their field, for 10 years.

Last night’s tasting - assessing our own wines - well, this was something entirely different, for both of us.  

The difference is not just the personal stakes -- this is our wine, destined for your trial and appreciation, which is of course, quite motivating.  It's also the variations and stages of evolution of foundational barrel samples that - trust me on this - individually, you just don't encounter in finished wines... wines that are yet to be blended, then bottled, over the next two years. The :30s video gives you a simple idea of these variances.  But the two hours of tasting that followed is not so easily conveyed!  

It's one thing to assess a dozen wine samples from top Grand Cru properties in Pauillac, looking for nuances between blends and terroir, and between vintages and chateaux (It's also a privilege to make such assessments!). You quickly can pick up patterns and look for certain markers to create a strong view of what the finished wine will become. Plus you have a well-trained group of tasters who have a long history at this sort of thing to exchange views.

In this case, however, there are just the two of us.  And, we are assessing raw materials in early stage, building blocks that may very well be combined in ways we have not contemplated.  By definition in Texas, these are very young vines, new plantings for the most part.  We do have a going-in plan, again on paper, but the wines in the glass have other ideas.  Surprises to the upside or the downside, and on particular days one will taste completely different than it will on another day.  Samples pulled from barrels just recently stirred, or racked, will behave quite differently today than they will two weeks from now.  No matter, the show must go on!

One of the fundamental questions is, should we commit to a particular blend now, at this point, combining the barrels together and setting an irreversible course now?  Or should we follow each wine on its own trajectory, and defer the blending options until we decide to bottle?  Obviously these are not new questions for any wine maker, but for wine tasters, the implications of such questions rarely cross your mind.  It's not your problem, and by the time you are poured a glass of wine, it's fait accompli!

Another factor -- A small winery does not have "safety in numbers" that allows larger wineries to specialize, blend away, or even declassify multiple barrels or entire parcels and still create a very good expression of the Grand Vin de Chateaux, or a particular wine program.  In our case, each barrel has a critical future, a role to play, a performance to give.  It's our job to maximize that potential, and then identify the best way to bring it to bottle. Obviously, the wine will not age itself or blend itself.  Left to its own in barrel, wine will (1) settle, (2) begin to oxidize, (3) commit itself to a course, and eventually (4) evaporate. 

Knowing the inevitability of these natural forces at work, and the choices that remain, it falls to the wine maker to monitor, guide, intervene, interdict, or redirect the trajectory of each barrel, and work out the plan for combining (or deferring) the barrels to showcase a vineyard site, a varietal expression, or a house style.  So the glasses in front of us now are scrutinized with specific intent -- not just what the expressions are, but how committed they are, what they lack, where one barrel might help another, whether tonight's sample is a true picture of the wine, and what might be the next action to take.  Options abound -- do nothing (you may be surprised how often this is employed, and how well it works in the world of wine!); rack to a different barrel, give it a good stir, top with a similar wine, blend into a combination you had not considered, or send out for testing.  Or retaste in two weeks.

If Blind Tasting is the great leveling experience for wine critics, then foundational barrel tasting is the great humbling experience for ANY wine taster.  As we tasted these samples, we learned a lot about what we don't know, even with our "experience".  But we are resourceful, and can work through any problem..., that is clear in the determination I see from Barbara, which always inspires me to be at my best.

Take a look at the photo at the top of Siboney Passion.  That was taken after tasting two wines that would make even the most stoic jaded wine taster give in.  You can see the bottles in front of us.  Its hard to imagine those winemakers at one point in their careers working through the beginning stages of new wine programs.  But they all do.  One day, we fully expect to earn the right to say, "WE all do".  Just. You. Wait.

And if you hear me say, "this is our wine, I don't care what you think", just slap me!

Siboney Cellars - The inspiration Behind the Name

Siboney Cellars takes its name from a personal metaphor that speaks to the journey of the owners, and is embodied in several meanings of the word, Siboney (See-Bo-NAY)

  • Siboney is a beautiful old Cuban song written in 1929 by Ernesto Lecuona.  A true child prodigy and prolific songwriter, Lecuona composed many classical pieces, theatrical plays, and ground-breaking Afro-Cuban songs.  Well known in Cuba, Latin America and the USA, nominated for an Academy Award, and inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, his musical career spanned 5 decades before his passing in 1963 in the Canary Islands.
  • Siboney  was adopted in Cuba as a cross-over song with great popular appeal (well before Fidel Castro), to the point where it became an unofficial national anthem -- the song is played by the television network at the end of broadcast each night.  
  • Siboney has been recorded in dozens of arrangements over the decades, and featured by artists including Placido Domingo and Bing Crosby, and more contemporary to Texas, The Mavericks (who one day we hope to meet).  Listen to the original classical version by Ernesto Lecuona, the flawless interpretation by virtuoso Thomas Tirino, and several by the Buena Vista Social Club. 
  • Lyrically, in English, Siboney is nothing more than a catchy pop tune evoking the rhythms of a Havana night club, crooned by Bing Crosby.  The original Spanish lyrics, however, written by Lecuona, are a different matter.  The Canto Siboney speaks of a man calling to his one eternal love, without whom he cannot live.  The one who he asks to come to him, the treasure in his heart valued beyond all.  That even in the murmuring of the palm trees in the breeze, he wishes to be thought of by his one true love.  Entreating for his love to hear his voice, his clarion call, his voice of crystal, and not to lose this calling amid the many distractions of life, he loves her, and without her love, he will die.  This, without doubt, is passion defined. Perhaps in a future post we will showcase the lyrics in Spanish, as we are seeking permission to feature a version sung in Spanish that is particularly haunting in its rendition.  
  • This life journey -- to discover, recognize and follow the clarion call – to hear life’s passions – and not to lose track of the fragility of this song in the midst of life’s chaos – this is the passion that brought the owners together 10 years ago.  And it happened on a trip in Bordeaux.  Since that moment, Barbara and Miguel have endeavored to stay in touch with this calling. 
  • Siboney Cellars is the embodiment of this journey.  Siboney Cellars is a life's passion. Pursued, realized, savored.

The composer of Siboney, Ernesto Lecuona, is Miguel's great uncle.  

Would you like to hear Siboney as it was originally composed for solo piano?  We have permission from BIS recording artist Thomas Tirino to feature his virtuoso recording of Canto Siboney here, and it is the only one we know of that faithfully replicates the version Ernesto recorded in 1954 for RCA, for there is no sheet music of this rendition. Mr. Tirino executed this recording through his own efforts by ear, in 1995.  Bravo Thomas, thank you for allowing us to feature you!