Fine Wining

At D’Vino, the food plays second fiddle

We do love our trends here in little old Miami.

Unstructured jackets, shoes with no socks? Done that. Velvet ropes, snotty doormen, $300 bottles of crappy vodka? Done that too. Asian-fusion cuisine, Dwyane Wade jerseys, dance music, stupid faux-martinis? We have sooo done all of that.

Next up: wine bars.

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The Grape at Merrick Park

360 San Lorenzo Ave.
Coral Gables, FL 33146-1864

Category: Restaurant >

Region: Coral Gables/South Miami

Details

Open Tuesday through Thursday 2:00 to 11:00 p.m., Friday through Saturday 2:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Closed Sunday and Monday.
3143 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables; 305-443-8466

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They're springing up like kudzu, shooting out tendrils of over-oaked Chardonnays and smoky Riojas and delicate Pinot Grigios like, well ... grapevines. At least half a dozen have opened in the tri-county area in the past year or so, and there are plenty more to come. An Atlanta-based chain of upscale wine bars called The Grape plans to grow a bunch of them in the state — twenty, to be exact — with several in and around Miami.

Then there's D'Vino.

It's the latest wine-centric addition to the food-wine mix in Coral Gables, joining other relative newcomers such as Vida Bistro, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, and City Cellar. It's a sweet-looking place too — big, imposing façade; walls a dusky slate-blue hung with the works of local artists (this month: the vivid, sensual paintings of Marcy Grosso); comfy wicker furniture laid out in conversation nooks on the cool stone floor. The feel is stylish yet homey, somewhere between the stark minimalism of Vino Miami and the baroque exuberance of El Carajo.

The subtitle of D'Vino is "Wine, Bites and Boutique," and although there are a few knickknacks for sale and a brief menu of snacklike dishes, the wine is the real focus. The list isn't large; some 30-plus wines are available for tasting. It ranges from the intriguing (several off-the-drinkin'-path wines from Spain, a Carl Graff Spatlese Riesling, a Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc blend from Hedges Cellars) to the mundane (the simple, flabby Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon and generic-tasting Freixenet Brut).

Among those intriguing choices was a 2000 Koves-Newlan Pinot Noir that despite its relatively advanced years had retained a measure of its ripe cherry fruit, though now tempered by darker flavors of mushrooms, earth, and black olives. (We got the last glass.) A 2004 Torre La Moreira Albariño showed promise, but its gold-to-brown color and lack of Albariño's characteristic crisp, lemony acidity and faintly floral aroma suggested it had likely oxidized.

A few quibbles: Vintages are not listed, something that cheeses me off in a restaurant and doubly cheeses me off in a wine bar. There's only one size pour — a full glass, no two- or three-ounce tasting portions that would allow the curious enophile to sample several different wines without getting totally gassed. And flights — three-glass samplers — are restricted to a trio each of prechosen reds and whites, something that makes no sense if you're trying to encourage patrons to explore the wine list.

Notice I haven't mentioned the food.

Let's put it this way: D'Vino doesn't have a spit bucket for wine, but it should have one for several of the dishes on the menu. Bruschetta — crunchy, garlicky croutons topped with chopped tomatoes and molten mozzarella — was at least edible. Smoked salmon with "lobster spread over Italian toast" wasn't, tasting like funky old fish smeared on stale crackers.

Tortilla española betrayed no discernible sautéed onion (whose sweetness is an essential part of the dish) and had a flavor that can be described only as odd. (And it was served with crackers! Any more starch and it would have stiffened my collar.) Still, it wasn't as bad as a "Romano" sandwich — prosciutto, tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar on bread fouled by an overlong stay in the refrigerator — that would force any self-respecting citizen of the Eternal City to sell his Vespa and move to Cleveland.

Hey, I think I smell a trend.

 
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