Brazilian Whacks

After nearly 15 years, Café Brazil is abandoning its Lakewood bed, aborted by a landlord/lease dispute. "They just wouldn't work with us," says Café Brazil CEO Brant Wood, who bought the then six-unit chain in 2004. "They wouldn't put any money into the building...I have a feeling they'd like to do something else with it." So Wood is packing up after securing the space on Lower Greenville Avenue that was once home to the Pony Keg--a shabby bar with local bands, pool tables and videogames--where operating hours can be expanded to serve those afflicted with the deep-night whirlies. It should open mid-month. Café Brazil was sired in December 1991 in Lakewood and was moved to a larger Lakewood space just 18 months later after the original location was consumed by fire. Since then, the late-night coffee house has multiplied in Dallas, Richardson and Carrollton with a seventh location added last August in McKinney. "This may turn out to be our coolest-looking store," says Wood of the roughly 85-year-old Lower Greenville building equipped with a fireplace and raised seating platforms. "There will probably be plenty of people that go have a few beers at Stan's [Blue Note] and walk over and have something to eat in the evening with us. So it's a pretty good fit right there."

Starlight Vineyards near Marfa was supposed to open last month. Won't happen. It's been felled by a high-caliber cease-and-desist letter alleging trademark infringement. "[A winery] out of California decided they wanted Starlight and stole it from us, essentially," says Linda Armstrong, who launched the Texas winery in 2003 with her husband, Houston-area lawyer John Armstrong. "We weren't bright enough to file for a federal trademark right away." The shot was fired by Starlite Vineyards in Geyserville, California, which produced 1,300 cases of its inaugural 2003 estate-grown Alexander Valley Zinfandel last summer. According to Starlite owner Arman Pahlavan, he established his Starlite in 2001, well before the Armstrongs founded their Starlight. At any rate, the Armstrongs renamed their operation Luz de Estrella ("starlight" in Spanish) Winery under the Armstrong Cellars corporate umbrella. Linda Armstrong says this time they will be cease-and-desist-letter-free, even though the Bronco Wine Co. , the fourth-largest winery in the U.S., bottles wines under the Estrella label and has the muscle to write cease-and-desist letters of bunker-busting proportions. The Marfa winery should open in June with winemaker Patrick Johnson, who crushed and fermented grapes for Blue Mountain Vineyards in Fort Davis before that winery shut its doors several weeks ago.

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