Wine Graft

The weekend of April 8 marked the 14th Annual New Vintage Wine Trail in Grapevine, a wine bash celebrating Texas' new releases. But it also marked the debut of Grapevine's La Buena Vida Vineyards under new ownership. Earlier this year, The Puente Group, parent company of two La Bodega Wineries in DFW Airport's terminals A and D, purchased the 11-year-old, 1.8-acre La Buena Vida tasting room and display vineyard in Grapevine along with the La Buena Vida, Springtown and Walnut Creek wine labels from Dr. Bobby Smith, who founded the winery in 1972. "It's great to have a real piece of real estate to work with versus our wonderful but lovely airport leases that we are always stuck to," says Puente Group President Gina Puente Brancato, who declined to disclose a purchase price. As part of the deal, Smith retains La Buena Vida's production facilities and 25-acre vineyard in Springtown, as well as the Smith Estates wine and Scarborough Mead labels.

The Porch, Consilient Restaurants' (Cuba Libre, Sense, etc.) urban tavern, was scheduled to open last month in the former Barley House space. But as a quick Henderson Avenue scan reveals, the building has been demolished with the slab reduced to rubble. Not only that, but chef Michael Morabito, who was poached from the Hotel Crescent Court to charge the Porch kitchen, has taken over Hibiscus, displacing Nick Badovinus, who is revamping the Cuba Libre menu and playing midwife to the culinary component of the Fireside Pies expansion. Who will pilot The Porch burners now? "We're on the hunt," says Badovinus, adding The Porch should be open by Labor Day...Since Dean Fearing vacated The Mansion on Turtle Creek to pursue a restaurant project in the upcoming Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has fielded hundreds of calls from parties interested in plugging up the vacancy. "We're not in any hurry and don't believe we need to be," says Rosewood regional Vice President Richard Baker, who plans to have a chef in place in six months. Will Rosewood execs pluck a high-profile chef from a high-caliber venue, or will they bring in some relatively unknown, high-caliber talent to develop and carve a distinctive culinary mark like Fearing did 21 years ago? This might be the time to do just that, since the chef vacancy parallels a Mansion dining room renovation and a planned shift in culinary focus. "The food that's in that room is about Dean," Baker says. "Unfortunately, some of those dishes won't exist or will go away." Still, bits of Fearing's legacy, like the tortilla soup and lobster tacos, will be preserved, says Baker, in a separate menu of "Mansion classics."


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