Wine industry veteran Jean-Francois Bonneté developed his Houston-based wine brand Liberation de Paris as a tribute to the United States’ efforts in World War II.
Liberation de Paris creator Bonneté said he wasn’t born in Texas but he got here as fast as he could. He shared the family story that inspired him to develop his wine brand Liberation de Paris. He also discussed the Houston Food scene, divulged some of his favorite area restaurants and shared what about Houston he loved so much he decided to make the city his permanent home.
Q: For those that aren’t familiar with you or your work, could you briefly introduce who you are and what it is you do?
A: I’m a French-Texan I guess. Like the bumper sticker says, I was not born here but I got here as fast as I could. I grew up in France and then I came to finish my business studies in the United States and I never went back. I started working in the food and wine industry. As a matter of fact, I was supposed to be in New York and I ended up in Houston really by coincidence and I never left Houston. That was back in December 1997, so almost 23 years ago. What I do today is I have the pleasure of being a partner in a company called Liberation Wines which is a company I own with my better half Nathalie and our friends Laurent and Catherine Delaunay. Together we create and produce from our vineyards a line of wines called Liberation de Paris. So the wines are made in France but it is a Houston-based and Houston-owned company.
Q: What prompted you to develop Liberation de Paris wines?
A: The reason why I created the brand is that in 2012 my parents were her for vacation with us and my dad had a massive heart attack, kidney failure, heart failure. They set him up in a campus in west Houston and after I asked him, you know my dad had been pushing me toward the USA all my life and I asked him why and he told me a story.
He said when a convoy of US soldiers liberated the small village of la Vicomté-Sur-Rance in Brittany. Brittany had been destroyed in WWII. The convoy arrived and it stopped and the head of the convoy got out of a jeep and looked at a little boy in really bad shape and took that little boy and took care of him and gave him his first piece of gum, his first piece of chocolate and that little boy was him. My dad told me this is why he loved the US so much and this is why he always pushed me toward the USA. And when I heard this story, I thought I need to do something with this and I want to do something in my industry, which is the wine industry.
With Liberation de Paris, year-round, we raise funds and donate for US veterans.
Q: Which of your wines do you consider your favorite?
A: Wine is like music. It really depends on the moment and the mood. It really does. It also depends on the food you have. It depends on many different things.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Houston?
A: I love it. I fell in love with Houston. You know it’s funny because when I was a teenager, my parents would send me in for my English in Florida and then I did my business studies close to Boston, Cambridge and New York and I didn’t know Texas and I didn’t know Houston and I came here and I fell in love. I think the people are amazing. I think we have people in Houston who care, people who are civil. They are respectful. I think it changes everything in our daily lives when you have people who smile. I think we have a very diverse city. People don’t know Houston. But I feel because I work a lot internationally, people don’t know Houston, they’ve never heard of Houston so they don’t really know the city. But in our industry, you look at the food scene and I believe we are one of the very best food and restaurant scenes in America so I think it’s a jewel as a city.
Q: How do you think the city’s food scene differs from others?
A: The food scene in Houston is truly an image of our population. It’s diverse. It’s amazing. You can be in Houston and go around the world. It’s amazing and we have very good restaurants from every single influence, from French, all the Asian influences, Chinese, Vietnameese, Korean, the European influences, South American influences. You know, you’re going to find influences from all over the world because our food scene reflects our people and you have super talented chefs of those diversities, which creates a very amazing, very diverse scene. I think also in Texas and in Houston there is a lot of opportunity and entrepreneurship so you feel there is an energy here. People take chances, people try. Restaurants are entrepreneurial and here you have people to finance it, you have people here who have the talent, you really have a great mix of people.
Q: What are your favorite Houston restaurants?
A: We really have a lot of talented chefs. The French scene in Houston is so so vibrant. You have a chef like Chef Philippe Verpiand at Étoile, you have a chef like chef Chef Jacques Fox at Artisans, those are very talented chefs. It’s a vibrant city for chefs and depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll have a vast many talented chefs in this city.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Texas?
Q: When you think of Houston what’s the first word that comes to mind?
Q: When you think of Texas, what’s the first word that comes to mind?
During the month of August, which will see the 76th anniversary of the German surrender of Paris, Liberation de Paris will raise money for American soldiers. From Aug. 19 through the end of the month, for every bottle of Liberation de Paris wines sold at any Spec’s Wine, Liquor and Finer Foods store in the state, $1will be donated to Camp Hope, a peer coaching and support program for American soldiers. In addition, many of the restaurants throughout the country that sell Liberation de Paris wines will donate $1 for each glass sold and $5 for each bottle sold. The Bonnete’s wine company will then match every dollar donated by the restaurants.
Among the restaurants selling Liberation de Paris in Houston are A’Bouzy, Café Toulouse, Brenner’s, Brasserie 19, Three Forks and La Table.
Liberation de Paris wines are available to purchase in-store and online at Spec’s.