El Maestro Sierra

A winery founded in 1832 by José Antonio Sierra, who had been a master carpenter. As such he was responsible for building barrels for all the major Sherry houses.  Recognized as one of the top coopers in the area, he longed to become involved in the Sherry trade itself. Eventually he set about building a small winery with the aim of making the best Sherries possible. As this business was dominated by the nobility, a start-up such as his was not very welcome. After many hardships he was able to establish and grow his business, becoming one of the top almacenistas (stockholders) of high quality Sherries. Poking fun at his struggle, the label depicts a fox hunt of that time period with the “nobles” hunting the fox (El Maestro Sierra).

Pilar Pla Pechovierto currently owns El Maestro Sierra. She is assisted by Ana Cabestrero and Juan Clavijo who is the capataz (more below on the job description of a capataz).  Doña Pilar is a widow whose husband was a direct descendent of the family. She has respected her husband’s wish that the winery remain in operation and over the last thirty years has been selling very limited stock to a few of the large Sherry houses. Because the wines have remained virtually unmoved due to the very low business, the stocks at El Maestro Sierra are some of the oldest in Jerez.

Juan Clavijo has been the capataz of the winery for over fifty years. The capataz is essentially the cellar master, in charge of all the wines once they have been transferred into the casks for aging and designation. He is the one who decides which wines will become Finos, which will become Amontillados, an so on. He is responsible for tasting all the barrels and deciding when to rack the wines. Having been at El Maestro Sierra his whole career, he knows the treasure it contains. Juan does everything by hand according to the old traditions.

In 2003 Ana Cabestrero was brought on board to oversee the winery. She came to Jerez looking for a change from her family’s Ribera del Duero operation. In what many in Spain would consider a questionable move, she left the comfort of her home and moved away to find a job in viticulture. André had met Ana before in Ribera del Duero and she was and remains an independent and fiery person. To move to such a male-dominated area and look for a job in a sector experiencing regressive growth was a bold undertaking. When she landed at Maestro Sierra she immediately recognized one of the great treasures of Spain. She has moved quickly to get the wines out into the market and attain the recognition they deserve.

The treasures of El Maestro Sierra are many. From the back of their building they have a clear view of the Atlantic Ocean (at El Puerto de Santa María). This unique location in Jerez is one of the keys to their terruño. Their situation allows for the flor at the winery to be present all year round, giving their wines a unique quality. They have been buying their grapes from the same suppliers for many decades and these growers are known as having the best and oldest parcels within Jerez Superior.

Since the wines at El Maestro Sierra have seen little sales the stocks have remained virtually untouched for the last thirty years. The soleras at the winery are easily over 60 years old and some may be close to 100 years old. The larger houses have pillaged their old soleras, leaving them with little old wine. Unfortunately the legistation only allows for wines to be labeled as old as 30 years (VORS). They also maintain an in-house cooper to uphold their heritage. By anyone’s standard in Jerez, the crown jewel of Sherry is El Maestro Sierra.