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A Vintage Redux

Magnolia Avenue’s Renaissance in Fort Worth
Written by June Naylor. Photographs by Will van Overbeek.

reduxAt 6 p.m. on a Wednesday, I'm sitting with a good friend next to the cozy patio fireplace at Kent & Co. Wines. While gazing out at the foot traffic moving along Fort Worth’s Magnolia Avenue, I’m savoring a glass of Frog’s Leap cabernet sauvignon, a rare treat because a full bottle rarely falls within my budget. But at Kent & Co., I can indulge in one glass of something like this from a list of about 200 fabulous wines available by the glass at retail prices. It’s a beautiful complement to a charcuterie board of cured meats.

20 Things to Do

Need a little help navigating Fort Worth? Here's a list to get you started.

Fort Worth’s Magnolia Avenue

Kent & Co. Wines is at 1101 W. Magnolia Ave. Call 817/632-6070.

Grand Cru Wine Bar & Boutique is at 1257 W. Magnolia Ave. Call 817/923-1717.

Ellerbe Fine Foods is at 1501 W. Magnolia Ave. Call 817/926-3663.

The Bearded Lady is at 1229 7th Ave. at Magnolia Ave. Call 817/349-9832.

Proper is at 409 W. Magnolia Ave. Call 817/984-1133.

My pal says her Revolver Blood & Honey brew (made in Granbury), along with the brisket taco from the food truck outside, trumps my pairing. It doesn’t matter who’s right: We’re just happy that our city offers an abundance of sipping options within a 12-block stretch of restored 1920s buildings. Not too long ago, the same thoroughfare offered little more than a dry cleaners, machine shops, doctor’s offices, and boarded-up service stations.

In the heart of Fort Worth, a renaissance of the Fairmount National Historic District—of which Magnolia Avenue is part—has transformed the avenue in recent years, delivering homegrown eating, drinking, and entertainment destinations that stay busy nearly every night of the week.

The brother-sister team of Will Churchill and Corrie Watson brought their innovative Kent & Co. concept to life by combining their passion for wine and their desire to expand customer service for their auto-dealership clientele. The two also run Frank Kent Cadillac, a longtime Fort Worth company that was founded by their great-grandfather. Customers can drop off their cars at Kent & Co. to have them serviced at the main shop across town (a free service for those purchasing their cars from Frank Kent, and available for a fee for everyone else), then enjoy a glass of wine before catching a ride home from the shuttle service.

Like us, a good many Kent & Co. patrons don’t come for car needs. We appreciate the monthly car selection displayed on the lift in the middle of the bar—my personal favorite was the 1963, TCU-purple convertible Cadillac—but we’re all about the socializing aspect. Neighbors are, as well, as evidenced by those joining us on the patio with their leashed dogs tagging along. Guests not imbibing have options, too: The bar offers coffee from Avoca Coffee Roasters, a business also found on Magnolia, and inventive non-alcoholic “mocktails” such as Cash’s Lemonade, a mixture of fresh lemonade with muddled strawberries, fizzy Topo Chico, and a lemon slice.

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We can always count on seeing real wine connoisseurs in the crowd, of course: Will and Corrie’s wine cellar offers a selection of 300 different wines, with about 200 offered by the glass. California cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir figure prominently on the list, and there is good representation among Italian, French, Spanish, and Chilean wines, too. Demanding palates appreciate finding a 2004 Château Margaux among by-the-glass options. Guests who want something extra-special can ask sommelier Chester Cox for the “secret list,” which offers exclusive choices such as a bottle from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, one of the most honored vineyards in Burgundy.

When I’m after something a little more low-key than the usually buzzy Kent & Co., I’ll opt for a glass of wine instead at Grand Cru Wine Bar & Boutique, a few blocks away. I like a table next to one of the big picture windows overlooking the sidewalk or beside an exposed brick wall, burnished by the vanilla light washing over the room. On Tuesdays, when bottles are discounted 20 percent, I might opt for a bottle of bubbles; weekends usher in specially priced flights—such as reds from Washington or pinot noirs from Oregon. When it’s time to buy a gift, the bar’s shop provides plentiful bottles at retail pricing, as well as wine buckets, stemware, and decorative wine racks. My favorite accessory sold at Grand Cru is a Coravin, a high-tech tool (roughly $300) that makes it possible to enjoy any wine by the glass; its thin “wine access” needle glides through the cork to allow pouring, then when the needle comes out, the cork reseals.

A few blocks west, Ellerbe Fine Foods—a charming bistro within a renovated 1920s gas station—remains my go-to for a glass of French rosé. It’s particularly compatible with chef Molly McCook’s cornmeal-crusted local okra, served with a buttermilk-jalapeño dressing. Otherwise, I save up for one of Ellerbe’s popular wine dinners, when co-owner Richard King brings in a California winemaker to lead a tasting of elegant wines paired with one of Molly’s special menus. Among my favorite memories is the coupling of her butter-poached salmon served with spring peas and shaved radishes with a reserve 2009 chardonnay from the LangeTwins winery. One of Ellerbe’s other great draws is its retail wine offering: Anything that’s on the wine list is available for take-away sale at a discount.

Across the street from Ellerbe, in a thoroughly remodeled 1920s bungalow, a place called The Bearded Lady honors the booming craft beer and hard cider scene with aplomb. I like the banquette window seats, a sunny spot for Saturday lunch, when a salad of greens topped with smoked salmon and avocado is a good foil for whatever cider is currently on tap. The front porch and back patio teem with happy crowds, particularly on weekends. No matter the season, beer enthusiasts gather at this Magnolia hot spot to enjoy choices from the list of 30 beers on tap and more than 200 in bottles or cans.

A little less than a mile east, on the eastern end of Magnolia Avenue, a cheerful lounge called Proper is where my husband and I like to unwind over––well, a proper cocktail. Proper's bartenders can wh ip up a perfect Manhattan, offer thoughtful opinions on single-malt whiskey, and keep myriad beer orders straight, all at once. Trivia night happens every Monday, but when it's busy we often wander out back to the patio and settle near the firepit. Whether inside or out, we toast our good luck in having so many choices for relaxing along Magnolia Avenue.

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