Downtown's D'Vine Serves Up Romance Flair With Global List Of Wines

Perhaps you've passed by D'Vine. It starts at a door situated by 8th and Flower in downtown L.A., tucked in between a parking garage and a hotel. The door leads down a short flight of stairs, at the end of which there's a big, rustic-looking second door that you'd expect to find at the entrance of, oh, I don't know, Hogwarts?

We were invited, clued-in that this might be a nice Valentine's Day spot, and were not misled. It is, indeed, decidedly romantic. There are flowing velvet curtains, a hanging chandelier, and a small piano that may have featured in a Renoir painting of a classic French cafe. The space is advertised as a "French-style lounge," but it also takes pains to be unplaceable—both in terms of time and place. The setting, with its wooden tables and sanded walls, may put you in the mindset of a former Morocco where expatriates like Paul Bowles and William Burroughs camped out. But there's also an immaculate orderliness that brings you back to the present. "We don't just want to be a French bar. We don't want to be too specific," said co-owner Killian Trehoux. "We want to open the senses to everything."

This claim is reflected in the extensive wine list, which runs the gamut from Austria to Argentina, then rounding back home to the Golden State. Trehoux tells us that they're also hoping to bring in selections from locales that are more under-the-radar (as far as wine goes); he's possibly eyeing Chile and Australia.

Another way to describe several wines on the list is "bold," as in how all the notes come to the forefront. For the uninitiated, descriptors like "oaky" and "structured" may illicit some eye-rolling, but there's nothing vague or too high-minded about the selections at D'Vine. For instance, when Trehoux presents the Laetitia Estate pinot noir as having a cider waft, you're actually treated to the saccharine aroma of apples. And when the Argiano Brunello di Montalcino is touted as being "earthy," you taste that sturdy kick of something woodsy and weather-worn. There is nothing coy about the selections at D'Vine; the wines are distinct and lively.

You'll likely want something to snack on as you sip that glass. And, indeed, D'Vine's menu centers around tartines and other finger-sized bites. For the plates of charcuterie and artisanal cheeses, you may find the usual spread of bresaola, soppressata, brie, and gouda. The servings (very satisfying in their own right) are interspersed with revealing surprises, including a Saint Agur cheese that is cut with a spicy note, as well as a Humboldt fog that is exceptionally buttery.

The tartines include the "Provencale," which is topped with olive tapenade, goat cheese, walnuts, and an assortment of herbs. Our favorite, however, is the "Sucrée Salée." Dressed in brie, walnuts, balsamic reduction, and slices of pear, the flavors meld into a singular fragrance that resembles honey.

Falling in line with the bar's global aspirations, the menu makes a handful of excursions. There's a shareable tataki plate, for instance, which sits on top of an avocado puree that's dappled with pineapples—a fairly straight-forward but ingenious pairing. There's also a gluten-free duck rillette, as well as baby artichokes that include capers and a hit of that Mediterranean tanginess. And you can end the night with a dessert; the offerings aim for instant gratitude, and feature hazelnut chocolate truffles and a maple pecan bread pudding.

D'Vine, which opened a couple years ago, seems to be moving away from the "wine cellar" designation that came attached. "We do not want to be too arrogant," said Trehoux. And indeed the space strives to be a spot where you can just kick back and meditate on good conversation (there's also a regular lineup of live jazz and lounge music). A French wine bar that aims to be your new neighborhood hangout? Why not? And, yes, there's plenty of romance to go around here for you to swing by with your Valentine's date.

D'Vine is at 821 S Flower St, downtown Los Angeles, (213) 262-8517.