Restaurant Review: Wine.dive

New Bar Wine.dive Has Great Food And Diverse Wine List

Robin Babb
5 min read
Downtown Wine Bar: Redux
Wine.Dive’s impressive wine wall. (Eric Williams Photography)
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The first thing you should know about Wine.Dive before you walk in is that it’s not what you’re expecting. The low-key wine bar recently took over the corner spot at Second and Gold Street that used to house Art Bar, and not much has changed about the dramatic, dance club space except for a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling wine shelf and a big wall mural by local artist Reyes Padilla. But with a tailored, reasonably priced food menu and an approachable wine list, they’re slowly changing the place into a casual hangout and a unique addition to the Downtown dining and drinking scene.

The wine list is, justifiably, one of the big draws at this place. I appreciate that it’s not stacked with hundreds of different wines—the “more is better” approach to a wine list only serves to give customers decision paralysis, in my experience. Their diverse but curated wine list makes for an easier experience, as does the staff that’s happy to make recommendations and let you taste wines before you order a glass.

The list is also divided into three price points, which is an immensely realistic way to do it. Flip to the first page in their spiral notebook menus and you’ll see the first price point: a list of wines they offer by either the glass or bottle. These exceptionally well-priced wines are nonetheless well thought-out: There’s two different Albariño whites, a red and a white from Côtes du Rhône, and a good mix of old and new world wines represented. There’s even a rosé that’s on draft. Like, there’s literally a draft handle for it behind the bar, next to the beers. And you know what? It’s not even half bad.

The white Côtes du Rhône ($7 glass, $26 bottle) from Famille Perrin is light and lemongrassy, buttery and not too sweet. It’s very easy to drink on its own or with any of the lighter dishes on the menu. I also tried the Martin Codax Albariño ($8 glass/ $30 bottle; and listen, I’ve been very excited about the warmer weather and I’m only drinking white wines to prove it), which proved a mellow and minerally example of the genre that I quite liked.

The food menu is equally well considered. The small selection of entrées is interesting and also priced well. There are a couple standards like a green chile stew that doesn’t pull punches on heat ($6) and a steak with frites that, unusually, comes with free second helpings if you clean your plate ($22). There’s also some solid B-sides, like a super satisfying “bitter salad” with radicchio and red kale that’s simply dressed in a citrus vinaigrette and tossed with toasted cashews ($9). This diversity in dishes makes it good for a sit-down, date night dinner or for a small plate at the bar experience. The food list is small at the moment, but I suspect more dishes may get added in the coming months—Wine.Dive has only been open about three weeks as of now, so they’re still solidly in the A/B testing range.

The cauliflower steak ($16) is another dish that shows some forethought. Intended as a vegetarian version of the steak frites, this charred cauliflower steak with chimichurri and green chile reduction is a classy dish that packs big flavor. The chile reduction is especially genius as an alternative to ketchup or mayo for the fries, with a whole lot of concentrated savory flavor and just enough heat to keep things interesting. Like the steak frites, you can order a second helping of this dish for free—a concept I’ve not really seen, outside of the Texas “eat this whole 72-ounce steak in one sitting and you get it for free” situations.

There’s one other part of the menu, too: the charcuterie. Lots more places in Albuquerque are starting to catch onto the popularity of the very European “put some meat and cheese on a board” style of dining. Wine.Dive does it a little differently than most, because they let you choose individual components from a list to build into a plate—a small plate of Humboldt fog cheese, a small plate of Serrano ham, plus a little dish of pickled veggies or olives. This build-your-own approach is ideal because it means you can skip the stuff you don’t want, but, like tapas, it also makes it incredibly easy to run away with yourself and over-order. Caution is advised.

While Wine.Dive has some kinks to hammer out in terms of its appearance and branding—most notably, they need to get a real sign that’s visible from the street—they have plenty of time to do so. Their night club look is kind of at odds with the intimate, unfussy vibe that they’re trying to impart—especially during the daytime, when the high, dark ceilings and the DJ table in the corner feel a little silly. But however it looks, the unique, well-priced food menu and the varied wine list win me over big time. I’ll be back pretty regularly this summer to drink my way through their wine list.
Downtown Wine Bar: Redux

The cavernous dining room with waterfall chandelier.

Eric Williams Photography

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