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A Frenchman, A Texan, and Their Love Affair With Wine

Raise a glass.
By Mary Candace Evans |
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photography by Ira Montgomery

Because he is French, everyone expected Alain Bellet to be a wine connoisseur. Which he was not. In 1971, the then 25-year-old French attorney was working in the United States. Out of national pride, one supposes, Alain decided he at least ought to learn how to read a wine list. Once he started learning about wine, he could not stop. About that time, he met Cynthia, a Texan, and the two fell in love—with wine. A gourmet cook, she would prepare meals and he would make meticulous selections. Very romantic. Very French.

When they moved into their home in the Turtle Creek area in 1982, they first joked about the sauna the previous owners had installed adjacent to their swimming pool. For obvious reasons, a sauna in Dallas just didn’t seem necessary—they’d probably use it as a tool shed. But it also seemed like a waste to use the perfectly insulated sauna as a place to store rakes and old paint. Then it dawned on them: Take the steamer rods out and put in a cooling unit and voila! The Bellets had their own wine cellar. They crafted the diamond-shaped storage shelves and started their collection (although Alain disdains the idea that he is a “collector;” it is, he says, his “passion”). Alain now has 1,500 bottles of wine tucked away in redwood. As a rule of thumb, he says a collection should be 10 times what one might consume in a year. He figures that he and Cynthia, between their own meals and frequent entertaining, probably consume much more than that, but the “sauna” can only hold so much. He also likes to hold on to his wine; he’s patient. Bottles he purchased for less than $10 are now worth much more because he has allowed much of his collection to age.

In truth, the Bellets’ love of fine wine and good food has been a powerful force in their 23-year-long marriage. Each day the couple, who work close to home—and together—enjoy their midday gourmet meal with fine crystal, china, and silver. As Cynthia cooks, Alain selects, filters, and breathes the wine, bottles he may have put down years before. And, yes, he’ll snooze before heading back to the office.

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