Raise a glass to D’Vine, an unstuffy wine sanctuary hidden beneath Downtown’s O Hotel, where imbibers descend into a shadowy den of communal tables and worn-in sofas. It’s so calm and peaceful here, you would never guess Honeycut was next door. So: what'll it be tonight? Start by cracking open the D’Vine binder, a compendium of all of the 50-plus international varietals and the dozen-or-so grape-based spirits that this cellar can hold. If you get overwhelmed, D'Vine's spirited wine director Joe Ochs (formerly GM of Scratch Bar) or his posse of in-the-know servers are there to lend a hand. And if you get hungry, there are funky cheeses (3 for $12) and adventurous French dishes (like fois gras torchon, $15) to share. Bring friends and stay awhile at this spacious and homey hideaway.
Good for: Plenty of seating and the chillest atmosphere you’ll find Downtown make D'Vine an excellent choice for mingling with co-workers or catching up with old friends. Thanks to cozy nooks, it’s also an ideal date spot. But perhaps the best reason to visit D’Vine is for a proper education in wine. You'll leave with an understanding of the differences between Old and New World varietals and, in our case, an appreciation for an apple brandy from Normandy called Calvados ($10).
The scene: Cool—both in temperature and ambience, Honeycut’s inconspicuous neighbor offers a subdued reprieve from the hustle and bustle next door. A casual, after-work clientele starts filtering in at 5pm for happy hour, where $4 house wine does not disappoint. Large parties park themselves on mammoth communal tables and melt into divans, lingering over bottle after bottle, while twosomes hunker down at the shabby-chic bar for the three 2-oz tastings ($14), often followed by a few very full glasses of wine.
Drink this: D’Vine has you covered on the Old World front with some real French gems. New to the menu on our visit was a crisp and floral Chateau De Fontenille Grand Vin De Bordeaux ($12). Reminiscent of a Viognier, with notes of pear skin and not a tinge of acidity, this refreshing white is an easy sipper. The elegant, dark fruit-forward Domaine Cabirau Côtes du Roussillon, hailing from the Southern Rhone, was our winner for a glass of red ($14, $59 for a bottle). Bright and juicy thanks to the large percentage of Grenache, the finish is smoky due to just a bit of Syrah and Carignan grapes. And while wine is the name of the game here, it’s worth ending the night on Calvados neat ($10)—Och’s favorite. Normandy’s famous apple brandy is best reserved for cold winter nights, but if you need a little pick-me-up, Calvados will light a nice fire in your tummy. It’s potent, but tastes like apple and goes down like honey.
Our tip: Don’t hesitate to try as much vino as you’d like. The staff knows their grapes and is keen on expanding your horizons, so let them. Your best bet is getting a customized flight of three 2-oz pours for $14. Then see where the night takes you.