Many diners would like to know more about wine but can't find the right setting to bolster their oenological education. Trying a glass of a new vintage at dinner is fine, but if you'd prefer to compare and contrast different grapes and wine makers, the class can get expensive fast.
One of the virtues of d'Vine Wine Bar on Main Street in Lockport, is the relatively low-impact route it offers for patrons to expand their personal wine catalogs. For $12, d'Vine offers four 2-ounce pours from its by-the-glass list.
To be sure, d'Vine isn't the only Western New York restaurant that offers "flights" of wine to individual diners. But its extensive collection of wines by the glass - 75 during our visit - and reasonable pricing made it a good candidate for Wine U.
When I visited with my friend Kevin, our server couldn't offer us much help when asked for assistance in matching wine selections to food. She did helpfully provide a slip of paper with the wine names inscribed to help us keep the glasses straight. (Besides the extensive wine selection, the beer list is well curated, Kevin noted, ranging from local to national, India Pale Ales to dark brews.)
Kevin went with red wines, including two Australians: a bold blend from Tait Wines, a Nugan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, French Chateau Hyot Bordeaux and a South African Black Pearl. I went white, picking a Konstantin Frank Rkatsiteli from the Finger Lakes, a Folix à Deux blend from Napa Valley, Italian Tre Fili Pinot Grigio and Spanish Albariño Rías Baixas.
It was an enriching way to spend an evening: Sipping and thinking, tasting and talking. And eating, of course. d'Vine's menu is compact: four salads, eight small plates, traditional and inventive sushi rolls, and a half-dozen entrees, besides specials.
We asked for potato croquettes ($5), on the menu "by popular demand"; New England calamari ($6); a Caprese salad ($9.50); beef Wellington ($28) with a side Caesar salad; and citrus-panko-crusted salmon ($13).
When the croquettes arrived, I could see why they were in demand. Six fried orbs of mashed potato had interiors of an admirable lightness, almost fluffy. A crispier crust would have been welcome, but we gladly dispatched them with the accompanying sour cream and scallion dip.
The calamari was decent, not greasy, though slightly chewy. The accompanying "tangy lemon-garlic dip" was mayonnaise-based, resembling tartar sauce, though its bits of capers were an upgrade over relish.
Our Caprese salad had been carefully built from sliced, beautifully fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and shredded basil, all on a bed of field greens. It was drizzled with balsamic dressing and accompanied by a handful of briny olives. (If only there was an excellent plate of crusty bread, you'd have a satisfying summer supper.)
The Caesar was lemony and crisp, elevated by a Parmesan tuile. The field green salad continued d'Vine's strong showing in the salad category, with bits of goat cheese, orange segments, pecans and cranberries, under a crown of delightful frizzled onions.
My citrus-panko salmon was well cooked but not dry, with a mild buttery sauce. I wished for more citrus flavor and a crustier crust.
Kevin's beef Wellington was a pastry dome that arrived bathed in brown gravy, over asparagus spears. When the server asked how he wanted the filet inside, he said medium. It was rare, but "I'm not up to sending it back," he said, because it was tasty otherwise. The layer of bacon-fortified mushroom duxelles atop the filet added savory depth.
The mashed potatoes that came with both entrees were homey, in a good way, and the asparagus was firm, not mushy.
D'Vine Wine Bar is a fine place to expand your wine knowledge, with a menu that will satisfy most people, even if it can't match the brilliance in the glass.