Saturday, August 20, 2011

Divino Barbaresco

If I haven't already declared my profound love and excitement for all things Dolce Amore Gelato on Commercial Drive, I need to correct my neglect. The shop may not have anything to do with wine, but Boo & I have enjoyed our fair share of their gelato over the years. When we heard that they were going to be involved with the opening of a wine bar and restaurant next door, my hopes ran rampant that I'd have a new favourite stop on The Drive.

Ever since Divino Wine Bar opened, I've wanted to see it succeed and to seduce me. Somewhat controversial from its opening in 2008, I don't know if it's ever lived up to those hopes - but we stopped by for another visit and to see if there was anything new or exciting. I have to admit that I've always enjoyed it more than Boo has, but I don't know if it's the concept of having a "wine bar" in the neighbourhood or the actual restaurant that I've enjoyed. Boo's found it pricey since day one and he's never really gotten over that - whether he's enjoyed the food or not.

For me, the most glaring issue is that, for a wine bar, I've never found that they cater much to the discovery of wine - whether by flights or wines by the glass. I've definitely seen other wine bars do it better.

In any event, we've found ourselves here and we're ready to be won over. Now, this isn't meant to be a blog about finding the best restaurants in town or critiquing a menu; so, I won't ramble endlessly about the state of the restaurant. I will say though that I rather enjoyed the original concept that was more of a tasting bar with salumi, cheeses and condiments (a là Salt in Gastown). Divino seems, however, to have morphed into more of a full scale restaurant.

We thought about going with the tasting menu but decided to stay simple and just have a couple of dishes for sharing. Considering the fact that we ordered mostly fish, fowl and pork, the choice of wine became a little more difficult. Preferring to go red, we probably needed to stay on the lighter end of the spectrum. Naturally, reason didn't necessarily win out and we went for a "Baby Barolo" - hardly a light or simple red.

902. 2005 Ricossa Antica Casa Barbaresco (DOCG Barbaresco - Piedmont - Italy)

I don't exactly know my way around Piedmontese wines or wineries. We're far from being regulars with $60 weeknight Barolos and I'm not sure there are even all that many of the more reasonably priced Barbarescos in our market. The Ricossa name is one that more than occasionally comes up as being a great bargain for its $22 price tag.

My suspicions that the bottle was going to be a bit over the top for our lighter fare were probably truer than I'd hoped they would be, but we managed to "force" our way through the bottle - without too much coaxing I might add. The word "rustic" is often seen in reviews of the wine and I think that's a pretty apt descriptor. There's a definite Old World bent to the wine - it won't grab you with its subtlety, but it also doesn't force the fruit to the forefront at all. It might have gone better with stronger fare on the menu but our game hen and a bit of pork belly lent themselves nicely to the final sips.

I've read on a couple of occasions that Divino has monthly wine dinners but I've yet to follow up enough on the details but I think that might have to be the impetus for my next visit. If need be, wine dinners can always be pulled off without Boo (so long as he's working that night).

Knowing that Dolce Amore was only steps away, we passed on the restaurant dessert and went next door for cones to go. After all, I think it's all still in the family and we'll use almost any excuse for some of their gelato. If only we could discover a way to help them find the candy they need to start making their Merenga gelato again. That was our undisputed favourite and we rue the day that the candy manufacturer or distributor closed up shop.

I don't know if this visit to Divino helped convert Boo into a believer, but I know I'll make it back at some time down the road. Until then, we'll keep counting the wines for The List and the gelatos that we've enjoyed.

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