My wife Phyllis and I discovered a wine oasis in the tiny Central Texas town of Calvert the last weekend in March as we made our first trip to China Spring outside of Waco to hug our grandkids after a COVID-required delay of 15 months!
In the Bible, En Gedi is an oasis near the Dead Sea where David hid from King Saul. In Calvert, En Gedi is the faith-inspired tasting room for Pat and Karen Hale’s En Gedi Vineyards & Winery located some miles to the west. The Hales call their woods-surrounded property in Jones Prairie “our oasis from the hustle and bustle of busy lives.”
For us, finding a winery tasting room on Highway 6 was only one of the surprises provided by En Gedi. We were most impressed with the deft touch of winemaker Pat Hale on both Blanc du Bois and Lenoir (Black Spanish), varietals of which we have not been fans.
While our delight with the wines that Pat has produced is new and local, the recognition of En Gedi’s NV Petulant Natural (made from estate Blanc du Bois using native yeast) and its estate-grown 2018 Lenoir Rose is national. Those wines won Double Gold and Bronze medals, respectively, in the 2021 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition that drew more than 5,700 entries from more than 1,000 North American wineries.
And the biggest surprise for me was discovering that Pat’s wife, Karen, is the daughter of the late Jack Cockrill, an outstanding educator whom I worked with in the Plano school district and later consulted for in three different districts where he served as Superintendent.
En Gedi’s tasting room is located on the east side of Main Street (Highway 6) in one of Calvert’s century-old buildings. It includes a bar where customers can stand to taste or take advantage of sofa and wine-barrel seating where the wines can be tasted with TACB-required food options. En Gedi merchandise is also displayed for sale throughout the tasting room.
The wine tasting menu allows customers to pick five wines for a modest fee from a list that currently offers eight white/blush wines and seven rosé/reds. The wines are also available by the glass or bottle.
We had Karen make the selections for us, and we tasted:
- Walk in the Woods, an estate-grown Blanc du Bois similar to a Pinot Grigio
- Reserve Blanc du Bois, aged lightly with oak chips
- Texas Sparkler, the Double Gold-winning Pét-Nat
- Brazos Bettie, an estate-grown Blush from Lenoir and Blanc du Bois grapes
- Lenoir Rosé, the Bronze Medal winner from estate-grown grapes
- Cabernet Sauvignon, a full-bodied dry wine from purchased Texas High Plains (THP) grapes
- Sangiovese, a dry wine from THP grapes
- Bellamente Caliente, a dry THP-grown Sangiovese with a touch of jalapeno pepper
- Sweet JC, an estate-grown Lenoir lightly oaked and fortified in the red dessert style that Karen’s father Jack Cockrill (JC) loved
The wines were so impressive that we purchased the Walk in the Woods, Lenoir Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bellamente Caliente. I was honored to have Karen gift me with a bottle of Sweet JC in recognition of my relationship with her dad.
While the En Gedi vineyards, winery and outdoor venue northeast of Cameron in Milam County is open to visitors on a reservation-only basis, the Main Street tasting room in Calvert in Robertson County is open to locals and passing motorists on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. A monthly Painting & Wine Event, scheduled music performances, the weekly Saturday morning Farmer’s Market, and the third Saturday monthly Classic Cards Cruise In are some of the events that draw customers.
For weekend motorists driving between Houston and Waco, we encourage you to make an “oasis stop” at En Gedi Vineyards at Calvert. And for those wine tasters who are hesitant to try wines from grapes with which you are not familiar, we encourage you to be daring. We are glad we did both!