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Jeff and Toni Guinn took over ownership of Grand Cru Wine Bar on West Magnolia Avenue in June. The married couple were longtime patrons of the Near Southside establishment and personal friends of previous owner Karen Chu, who will stay on as the bar’s wine buyer. Photo by Edward Brown.

For the past several years, craft beer breweries have given the Near Southside area a hoppin’ vibe, but the district may be increasingly defined by vino-themed events in 2021. Rancho Loma Vineyards, the chic tasting room on South Main Street, recently opened and features award-winning wines that showcase the terroirs and varietals of Texas.

Kent & Co. Wines, formerly owned by siblings Will Churchill and Corrie Watson, is now under the ownership of Marty and Marilyn Englander, and there are rumors of a possible renaming of the popular West Magnolia Avenue wine bar. The 7-year-old, two-story bar WineHaus was recently purchased by Robyn Davis and Dan Larrimore, and plans are in the works to expand the bar’s outdoor patio for weekly jazz nights.

Jeff and Toni Guinn took over ownership of Grand Cru Wine Bar on West Magnolia in June. The married couple were longtime patrons of the Near Southside establishment and personal friends of previous owner Karen Chu, who will stay on as the bar’s wine buyer.

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When Chu “tossed” the idea of selling Grand Cru, Jeff said that he and his wife thought it’d be a fun purchase. “We loved that bar and didn’t want it to go away.”

The biggest changes brought by the Guinns include a new logo and revamped website (GrandCruMagnolia.com). When Gov. Greg Abbott shut down Texas bars shortly after business ownership was transferred, the couple used the two months to spruce up the space. Warmer, brown tones replaced the dark gray paint, Toni said, to give the space the feel of an Old World winery. Andrew Marshall recently painted a large mural of a European wine cellar on the back wall.

The Guinns kept staffers Alfred Davila (wine associate) and Bobby Williams (assistant manager), and during the toughest months of the recession Guinn hired a handful of waiters at an appliance repair business that he owns.

With Chu overseeing wine purchases and Davila and Williams handling much of the day-to-day work, the Guinns aim to retain the qualities that have kept regulars coming back.

The previous owner “cultivated quite a following by having unique choices,” Toni said. “She picks vineyards that are not necessarily the best known, but they are very good wines. People who are in the know love them. She isn’t afraid to bring in new wines. We have many wines that you don’t find in the area.”

Jeff said customers frequently compliment the wine selection as one of the best in North Texas.

“We have a lot of California and Old World wines,” he said. “We want to teach people about wine. The reason we fell in love with this place was the opportunity to learn about wine. Someone might say, ‘I like a California Cab.’ The staff will expand on it. ‘What do you like about it?’ You might like this South African region and not know it. Once you know that, it takes you to the next step.”

Grand Cru’s active wine club and general pandemic-induced boredom in the area helped buoy to-go retail sales as in-person visits slowed, the couple said. In the coming months, the owners will tweak the current small-plates menu, Jeff said. The owners also plan to streamline the food offerings while increasing the quality of every item to better match the wine selections. To provide expanded outdoor seating options, the owners are going to take advantage of a new Near Southside program that allows tables to be placed on partially enclosed curbside parking spots.

Jeff said he welcomes “competition” in Fort Worth’s growing wine bar options.

“We’ve visited” numerous local wine bars, he said. “I’m a believer that more wine drinkers will benefit all of us. We feel that Grand Cru lends a more homey, relaxed addition to those options. Customers feel comfortable here.”

 

Grand Cru Wine Bar
1257 W Magnolia Av, FW. 817-923-1717.

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