Wine and cheese bistro coming to Northeast Tarrant County

Bizzi's, a micro-winery that will feature locally produced fare including cheese, bread and wine, is coming to Northeast Tarrant County.

The Bedford City Council cleared the way for the winery/bistro at Tuesday's meeting. The business is scheduled to open in February at 313 Harwood Drive.

Owners Elaine Vaught and her husband, Glenn Stokes, said that while they will serve locally produced wines, none will be made at the Bedford location.

"We haven't committed to any Texas wineries yet, but we're visiting some," Vaught said. "I'm sure we'll have some from [Grapevine's] Delaney and Llano."

Artisanal cheese will come from Mozzarella Co. in Dallas, Brazos Valley Cheese and several small operations that tightly control quality and flavor, Vaught said.

"We'll make the bread in the building," she said. "It will always smell like baking bread."

On the retail side, Bizzi's will carry about 50 kinds of wines and 75 kinds of cheese. The bistro will offer a small menu of sandwiches, soups and desserts, Vaught said.

There are similar businesses in Grapevine, Stokes told the council. "We could have gone to Grapevine, but we're Bedford residents and we'd rather bring the money here," he said.

Saving energy

At least three beneficial things happen when homes are retrofitted to make them more energy efficient, according to Ray Beavers, CEO of Cleburne-based United Cooperative Services, an electric distribution cooperative serving 55,000 customers.

First, consumers save money as a result of lower utility bills. Second, lower energy consumption reduces the need to build costly new power plants and transmission lines. Third, polluting emissions are reduced.

United, which has most of its business in North Central Texas, has done its part for energy efficiency by conducting about 2,000 free energy audits for customers this year. Beavers said he believes that is the chief reason why United is among only nine participants selected by the U.S. Energy Department for a national pilot program to help consumers make their homes more energy-efficient.

United was the only electric distribution cooperative picked, Beavers said.

Details of the Home Energy Score pilot program are still being formulated. United probably won't activate its effort until after Jan. 1 and therefore isn't ready to take requests from co-op customers who might want to participate, Beavers said.

Under the program, he expects the federal government to back low-interest loans consumers would take out for home energy efficiency projects. An extensive energy retrofit of a home could cost potentially $15,000 to $20,000, he said.

The Home Energy Score program "will dovetail into our existing [energy audit] program and hopefully provide greater clarity with regards to how our members can target certain areas of their home to improve efficiency," Beavers said.

Under the pilot program, United will provide a Home Energy Score between 1 and 10 for a residence, estimate the dollar savings from energy efficiency improvements, and complete a customized list of recommendations with an estimated payback period for proposed upgrades.

The program, which won't be limited to low-income homeowners, could be especially helpful to middle-class consumers, Beavers said.

"This is not a giveaway program," he said. "People will have to pay it back, and pay it back with interest, but it will be affordable" thanks to modest interest rates, he said. "I'm really excited about it," he said. "I think it's an investment with a long-term payoff."

United, established in 1938, maintains more than 10,000 miles of power lines. It serves all or parts of Johnson, Erath, Hood, Bosque, Somervell, Palo Pinto, Coryell, Eastland, Comanche, Stephens, Young, Hamilton, Tarrant and Ellis counties.

Artificial islands

How can you save big bucks on an expensive oil or natural gas drilling project? Well, sometimes you can build islands, says Irving-based oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp., which acquired Fort Worth-based natural gas producer XTO Energy in June.

Exxon Mobil and partners plan to build four artificial islands in the Upper Zakum oil field off Abu Dhabi to save billions of dollars, according to a Bloomberg News report quoting Exxon Mobil's Morten Mauritzen, who spoke at an event in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The islands could allow the removal of almost 100 wellhead towers in the sea, potentially saving $1 billion to $15 billion during the estimated 25 years remaining for commercial production in the Upper Zakum field, Mauritzen said.

Islands don't come cheap, with a price tag of $15 billion to boost production at the field by 40 percent, to 75,000 barrels of oil per day. But they're considered cheaper than erecting huge offshore production platforms.

Modern medicine

Texas Orthopedic Specialists is scheduled to begin construction Friday on a 26,000-square-foot state-of-the-art medical facility in Bedford to help it better serve the needs of its Northeast Tarrant County patients.

The two-story facility, 2425 Texas 121, just south of Harwood Road, will have four patient exam rooms, advanced X-ray and MRI equipment, offices and patient waiting rooms.

The building is going in adjacent to the group's physical therapy and X-ray facility. The group will relocate its Grapevine office to the new building.

"Three years of planning through challenging economic times, changes in the banking industry and uncertainty in the medical field has not deterred us in our goal to become one of the premier orthopedic practices in Dallas-Fort Worth," Dr. Howard Harris, a senior partner in the practice, said in a statement.

Ridgemont Commercial Construction is building the facility designed by Ascension Group Architects in Arlington.

Staff writers Terry Evans and Jack Z. Smith contributed to this column.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718