CALAIS winery is in Deep Ellum and I cannot think of a better place for it to be. Sitting in the same neighborhood as Cane Rosso, Cowboy Chow, Twisted Root and Angry Dog, CALAIS appears to be both socially conscious and produces some really good wine to boot. While I was visiting, there was a group of people meeting to talk about food sources and reading from a policy writer’s book. My focus was the wine so I did not pay too much attention to the cause of the group but it is telling of the man behind CALAIS, Benjamin Calais.
Benjamin Calais is French. There is no questioning this. He speaks through an accent that can be hard to understand but his passion shines through, especially when talking about his wines. I sat there over 2 hours just talking about the possibilities of Texas wines, vineyards and everything in between. Having just returned from the 2011 Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association in San Marcos, there was a lot of conversation on the future of the wine industry and what might be happening for the future. This was a conversation point throughout the afternoon, talking about what the past, present and future of the wine industry could be in Texas. Having grown up in France, Benjamin knew what wine could be and is trying his best to recreate his memories. This led to a tasting of 5 wines.
Ben had us start with his 2008 Cuvee Principale, an unoaked chardonnay. It had the common markers of green apple, lemon and pear with good acidity. There are not a lot of good Texas chardonnay but this seems to work out well. I followed this with his 2008 Cuvee du Canton Syrah, a very purple wine that is right for most of the Texas palate, a bit sweet with black raspberry, blackberry and blueberry notes. This was then followed by the Cuvee du Commerce, a Cabernet Sauvignon based blend with some Syrah and Merlot added in and the Cuvee du Chene, a Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were full of rich black fruit, earth and vanilla. Ben’s final wine was the Cuvee des Marrons, a Tinto Madera dessert wine that had a strong flavor of black cherry liquor with notes of pecans and hazelnuts. For my money, I think that Texas should be focusing more on dessert wines given our climate and temperatures. Benjamin understands this and created this dessert wine to help bridge the American palate. This was a successful lineup and when combined with the great conversation, a very pleasurable experience.
Texas wines may not be on the same level as wines from California or Europe like Benjamin and I wish but as long as there are winemakers who try as hard as they can to make the best wines they can, it will only make Texas wine consumers and winemakers better. As for me, I will be looking forward to his rose for the spring and summer months.