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calaisCalais is a small winery on the Route 290 wine trail in Texas Hill Country using fruit from their main growing region near Lubbock. With a production facility and tasting room occupying what looks like a small shack from the outside, it’s easy to conclude that winemaker Benjamin Calais is all about wine quality, not flash or lifestyle. And his wines confirm it. His French heritage shows–old-world style using new world fruit.

This is an unusual wine–a Bordeaux-style blend with grapes grown in High Plains heat showing 15.4% alcohol, high for Texas. That sounds like a recipe for brawn but instead we get very pretty aromas on a soft, juicy palate, the very picture of elegance. Gentle fig, black cherry, and dusty earth play on the aromatic surface with hints of vanilla, chocolate,  and French roast coffee in a supporting role. Restrained but juicy on the palate, it’s a sea of serenity until hi-toned acidity gradually emerges that toys with tart but never becomes aggressive—just good balance. Prickly, broad tannins are never drying or angular drawing all the attention to the delicate aspects of the wine which on the medium-length finish is an intriguing interplay of slight citric flavors and a hint of alcohol burn. A genuinely original wine.

This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (42%), Merlot (42%) with some Malbec and Cabernet Franc sees 23 months in French oak. Despite blazing summer heat in the Texas High Plains, Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t always ripen well when the growing season is shortened by frost and rain. But 2015 was a great vintage.

I have never been tempted to pair a Cabernet-based wine with delicate Japanese Shakuhachi music but this works with John Neptune’s jazz inflected version:

Score: 91

Alc: 15.4%

Price: $67 (Purchase here)

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