In memory of Doña Pilar Pla Pechovierto
On March 8, 2020 Doña Pilar passed away after maintaining the estate El Maestro Sierra that she inherited from her husband over forty years ago. She was a Grand Dame in every sense of the word and a breath of fresh air in Jerez. She arrived from Barcelona with her husband and their young child Maria del Carmen, to a Jerez still stuck in the 19th century, where people were aghast that her husband was actually holding their infant in his arms.
She persevered in this male-dominated environment, keeping the integrity of El Maestro Sierra intact as a loyal defender of the estate. When her husband passed away in 1976, she resisted the intense pressure to sell and kept the winery going through tough times by selling wines to the locals in jugs. In 1997, while the men were away from the Consejo Regulador, she was stealthily able to obtain the first bottling permit for an almacenista house. She was an extraordinary individual with a singularity of purpose: to maintain the grand estate of El Maestro Sierra.
I always remember, fifteen years ago, the day she first received me. I was led inside by Ana Cabestrero, who had just recently arrived at the estate, and Doña Pilar’s daughter Maria del Carmen introduced me to her mother. Doña Pilar took me by the arm and slowly led me through the hallowed ground of her iconic estate. As we walked through the passageways, filing past ancient barrels full of historic wine, she recounted the story of El Maestro Sierra until we stopped at the two famous barrels crafted in 1830 by the founder of the winery, master cooper José Antonio Sierra. As she drew wine out of these old barrels and poured the golden liquid into our glasses, I was transported to another time. This incredible experience was my first taste of El Maestro Sierra, and I was blown away. I asked what we had just tasted, and she told me it was the best wine at the estate. I looked at Doña Pilar and asked her what kind of way was this to begin a tasting, and she proceeded to quote Don Quijote: "Never was a gentleman such as yourself treated so well by women."
As we celebrate the women in our business this month, it seems appropriate to begin with the incredible contributions that Doña Pilar added to our world.