Charles Michael Bear Dalton died peacefully on December 19, 2020 of metastatic cancer. Now in God’s hands, Bear was born in Houston, Texas on March 9, 1959. Bear, as he was most widely known, lived nearly all his life in the Houston – area where he attended Sharpstown High School and the University of Houston.
Barely of legal age when he began, Bear built a career in some facet of wine sales and the distribution business, beginning in restaurants and retail operations. In 1996, he became the fine wine buyer for Spec’s Wines, Spirits, and Finer Foods, one of the largest wine-and-spirits retailers in the U.S. At Spec’s, his responsibilities included wine buying, wine sales and marketing, as well as wine-related public relations.
Bear laughingly agreed with a friend’s recent assessment that Bear’s life and career were nothing but an extended fulfillment of bucket-list items. In part, that was because Bear’s life included tasting in excess of 9,000 wines each year, traveling extensively in the wine countries of the U.S., Europe (particularly Bordeaux), South America and Australia and meeting people from all walks of life. Bear enjoyed the friendship of many wine makers, growers, and distributors around the world and appreciated their willingness to share their knowledge, experiences and cultures, along with really good food and great wines.
Bear held the Advanced Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and was certified by the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) as an International Bordeaux Educator. Bear was a member of the Chevalier du Tastevin (Burgundy Wine Society) and in the Port Wine Society. In October 2008, he was honored with the Houston Legend Award at the My Table Houston Culinary Awards. Bear’s charity work was recognized in May 2018, when he was community honoree for Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC) and then in September 2018, when he was the community honoree of Epiphany Community Heath Outreach Services (ECHOS).
Bear taught, wrote and consulted about wine and many would be oenophiles were introduced to wine at classes he taught at the Rice University School of Continuing Studies, the Conrad Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston, and The Wine School at l’Alliance Française. In addition, Bear consulted and taught classes for numerous restaurants and other businesses and firms. Lifelong friendships were forged in these classes and a number of these friends accompanied Bear on some of his travels to wineries around the world. It was on one of these trips that Bear met his beloved wife, Carol, and yes, she did speak English.
From 1996 through 2014, Bear volunteered with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and was instrumental in founding HLSR’s Wine Competition and Auction Committee, where he served as chairman and also on HLSR’s Board of Directors.
In 2007, Bear was involved in starting a women’s wine industry social and networking group – Women Of Wine (WOW) – which raises money for charities including HAWC. Always up for a challenge, Bear participated against professional bar tenders in the Fifth Annual Sangria Throwdown fundraiser in 2016 sponsored by WOW and won both the Judges Choice and the People’s Choice awards. He won an additional prize in 2018 before leaving the field to focus solely on his own special margarita recipe – “The Margarita Perfected”.
Bear was an active member in the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany where he served on a number of committees and as senior warden of the Vestry in addition to being a lay reader and Eucharistic minister. Bear was also an active supporter of Epiphany Community Heath Outreach Services working to raise funds and visibility of ECHOS. His fundraising efforts included wine dinners and the annual Toy Gather.
Bear loved to cook for family and friends and over the years many would reminisce about particular dishes he created, often just for them. He was an avid reader and a lover of music across an eclectic range of styles. Many will miss his regular blogs about wine, faith and, above all, his enjoyment of life. For many years, he and his wife Carol owned and rode horses and Bear was active in several riding and western culture organizations. Due in part to his January 2018 diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer, the Daltons decided to disperse the herd and Bear spent much of his remaining time to planning-and-cooking (with a talented team of volunteers) fund-raising dinners for groups ranging from 12-to-over-100 people. Much of that fund-raising benefited ECHOS, the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, and WOW.
Bear is predeceased by his paternal grandparents, Martin Joseph and Maizie Turney Dalton and maternal grandparents, Ray and Mildred Hatch, as well as step-brother, Kevin Sayre and mother-in-law, Nancy Logan. Survivors include his loving wife, Carol Logan Dalton; mother and step-father, Susan and Tom Sayre; father and step-mother, Charles Dalton and Patricia Cavanaugh; son and daughter-in-law, Charles (Chip) and Ann Dalton along with grandson Charles (Charlie) F. Dalton; son, John Dalton; brother and sister-in-law, David Dalton and Karen Cason; step-brother and sister-in-law, Clyde Sayre and Annette Gonzales; former wife, Paula Strom Dalton (mother of Chip and John) and many friends and colleagues too numerous to mention, but whom he held dear. He is also survived by his beloved and loving dog, Scout, along with a clowder or clutter of cats.
The family would also like to thank extended family and friends, Dr. Monisha Singh at Methodist Hospital, Dr. Daniel Karp at MD Anderson Cancer Center, his caring nurses Alice Moore and Stephanie Rockey at Houston Hospice, John and Lindy Rydman and the rest of the Spec’s family, and numerous colleagues for their support, particularly over the last three years. You are too many to mention, but you know who you are.
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages those wishing to make charitable contributions in Bear’s memory to consider the following organizations:
ECHOS, www.echos-houston.org/ 9600 S. Gessner, Building E, Houston, Texas 77071
Women of Wine, http://www.wowcharities.org/ 448 W 19th St, Houston, TX 77008
Houston Area Women’s Center, https://hawc.org/ 1010 Waugh Dr, Houston, TX 77019
A private family memorial service will be held at a later time at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany and Bear’s ashes will be interred at Forest Park Westheimer Funeral Home and Cemetery.
Cheers and happy trails!