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Grapes of glory

This year's GrapeFest -- billed as the largest wine festival in the Southwest -- not only saw the unveiling of medal winners from the Lone Star Wine Competition, but also glimpsed the official birth of the sixth Grapevine tasting room: Lone Star Winery. Lone Star is the agricultural opus of commercial real estate developer Dale Bullough, who operates a 50-acre vineyard on the Texas side of the Red River. To make his wines, which so far include a 1997 Chardonnay, a 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 1998 fume blanc, a 1998 white Merlot, and a 1998 California Syrah, Bullough inked a five-year lease deal with Grayson County College for its T.V. Munson Winery in Ivanhoe. Mike Friend, onetime wine buyer for Pogo's and Neiman Marcus, came on board last March to charge up the winery's marketing. And right out of the chute, North Star captured a bronze for its California Syrah. Among the three competition gold-medal winners this year (seven were handed out last year) were Becker Vineyards 1998 Muscat Canelli Amabile, Messina Hof Wine Cellars 1998 Muscat Canelli, and Cap*Rock Winery 1997 Merlot. Fifty-eight wines from a pool of 129 entries captured medals, compared with 55 medals out of 113 wines entered last year.

Coming and going

Former Al Biernat's Restaurant Executive Chef James Neel just bagged Tramontana, the 80-seat French spot in Preston Center. Neel, 32, who is partnering with his wife Lisa Neel (currently Food & Beverage director at Brookhaven Country Club), acquired the restaurant from owners Gary Barnes and Jade Synhorst via an SBA loan. He says lunch and dinner menus should be revamped by early next week...Shannon Wynne says his 8.0 Restaurant & Bar in the Quadrangle simply got laggard after 10 years. "We were just limpin' along." So the longtime Dallas club operator 86'd the thing last Saturday night, but hopes to reopen by the year's end if he can find a "hotdog" chef to take on as a partner and come to favorable lease terms with his Quad landlord. Wynne, who also operates an 8.0 in Fort Worth, quips, "We'd hate to throw away all that New Year's Eve money."...His Frantoni's Italian Café on Henderson was asphyxiated by Central Expressway construction in November 1997. Now Frank Carabetta, along with partner Tracie Barthlow, operator of Bridges Gourmet Coffee, is going to give it another shot. Frankie's Bar & Grill will open in the old Spasso's space on McKinney Avenue in mid-October with pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, a 10-foot projection TV, and a trio of pool tables. Traffic permitting.

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