Newcomer to the 290 wine trail is Siboney Cellars with their winemaker and co-owner Barbara Lecuona. Siboney Cellars started by co-sharing winery locations but they have big plans ahead next year! More on that later. We are proud to feature Barbara Lecuona as this month’s featured winemaker profile.
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I’m a title insurance professional. I’ve owned and operated a title insurance agency since 1989.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
The biggest challenge is trying to be in two places at once during harvest and handling the logistics of bringing the fruit to the winery quickly and chilled. We won’t have our estate vineyard until we plant at our new, 52-acre hilltop location on 290 in Johnson City – next door to Lewis Wines – so we work very closely with our growers throughout the season to make sure that the best decisions are made in the vineyard. Every year is different, every variety is different, and Mother Nature likes to throw curve balls here in Texas!
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
Winemaking is both art and science. There is a lot of science in winemaking, and it’s the science that allows the winemaker to be artistic. Science provides the information and data about the fruit, must, and wine that allows the winemaker to make the best decisions and stylistic choices for the wines we want to create.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
Champagne, or any good bubbly, and just about anything – including oysters, fried chicken, even chips!
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
I’d drink everyone else’s! If I didn’t make wine, I would still be in the wine industry in some capacity, probably with a focus on education.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve been interested in wine since my first trip to Napa and Sonoma in the 1990s, but it was our first trip to Bordeaux in 2007 that really sparked my interest in winemaking. Visiting and tasting at several First and Second Growth Chateaux, and speaking with the winemakers made me taste and think about wine in a very different way. After that trip, both Miguel (Lecuona) and I began pursuing education opportunities, with Miguel earning his Court of Masters pin and a second MBA in wine marketing from INSEEC in Bordeaux, and me completing all levels of education at the Wine School of Philadelphia. When we moved to Fredericksburg, I began helping out in vineyards and wineries, and completed the Viticulture and Enology Certificate Programs at Texas Tech, followed by a Masters Winemaking program in Bordeaux. My first vintage was 2017.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
Why did I decide to become a winemaker and how did I learn so much about wine?
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
After a long day I relax with Miguel and our two awesome Akitas, or we get together with friends. During harvest, after a really long day, and some of them stretch to more than 35-40 hours, I realize it’s been two days, I haven’t seen my husband in a week, and I’m probably in the High Plains with a bunch of other winemakers and vineyard folks, or I’m catching a cat nap at the winery, getting ready to do it again.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
We always talk about the romance of wine. Making wine is fairly hard work, physically and mentally, especially during harvest – not really romantic at all, but it provides a great feeling of time well spent and a job well done. I love that feeling of accomplishment, while at the same time continuing to raise the bar and challenge myself. But the very best part—and the romantic part—is sharing wine with friends and family and strangers who then become friends, and the memories we create. Watching someone smile and enjoy a glass of our wine makes my day!
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
I want to make the highest quality wines possible in any given vintage. My style is old world with barrel aging, patience, and as little intervention as possible so that the wines can speak to the variety or the blend, the vineyard, and the vintage. Our wines are small batch and hand-crafted, so there will be variation in vintages based on the growing season. I believe that if you taste a wine from the 2017 vintage vs. the same wine in the 2019 vintage, it should be different. It should reflect the growing season of each individual vintage. Wine can take you back in time in that regard, and that is one of the most fascinating things about wine. It is the ultimate slow food, representative of where it is grown, and also capturing the essence of when it was grown, yet it still continues to evolve over time.
- Anything else you would like to add?
It’s a very exciting time to be making wine in Texas, and I appreciate the work everyone in the industry is doing, including Texas Wine Lover! And I’d like to invite everyone to taste with us at Siboney Cellars. We are in the process of building our new winery and tasting room on 290 in Johnson City. Watch for us to open in 2020! In the meantime, you can taste with us at Hawk’s Shadow Winery in Dripping Springs, and we’re very proud to have our wines at Bryan’s on 290, Cabernet Grill, Vaudeville, and Wildseed Farms.