In the world of spirits, there’s small-batch and then single-barrel. And in wines, beyond merely boutique distribution there is Joseph Guida of Parc Ave Distributors. One of two Las Vegas companies I know of that deal in excruciatingly small production (Guida routinely drives a truck all over creation to pick up a few cases of rare wine here and there that normally never leave their home state), Guida is decidedly anti-corporate. Or, as he puts it: “I’m a one-man show!” His stuff cannot be purchased retail. “I’ve always been a fan of wines you can’t find in grocery stores.” With a portfolio of just 45 producers, each making no more than 1,000 cases of wine per year, Guida classifies himself as ultra-boutique. (That 90 percent of that portfolio is organic or bio-dynamic makes him downright mythical.)
But then there he is, Tuesday nights, leading informal tastings at Vanguard Lounge (516 E. Fremont St.), showcasing highlights from the list he created with owner Andrew Wheatley. On the night I visited, he was tasting guests on the 2007 Basel Cellars’ “Forget Me Not,” a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend ($11 glass/$33 bottle) and a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon from Reynoso ($15/$45), a “tier 1 producer to Silver Oak.” Two years in oak and three in the bottle (unheard-of restraint by today’s standards, Guida pointed out) gives it a complexity of which Guida was happy to sing the praises. Also unheard of is Vanguard’s price point: Glasses range from $6-$22, bottles from $18-$88, and all are half-off during happy hour, daily from 4-7 p.m.
Working closely with Guida to build the Vanguard wine list—nine whites, nine reds, one port and one sparkling—Wheatley is himself getting increasingly into wines. Faves from his own list include the Canoas Malbec ($8/$24) and the Jason-Stephens Syrah ($9/$27).
My personal favorite (there may have been a squeal) is the 2007 Chianti Colli Senesi from Poderi del Paradiso ($10/$30), the second oldest winemaking family in Tuscany. Some of their vineyards date back to the 1500s, and they produce just 800 cases of this balanced, earthy Chianti, redolent of the Tuscan terroir. With a bright cherry nose and a bit of minerality on a velvet-soft finish, this Chianti is not food-dependent like most, it’s sippable. Says Guida, “I’m trying to demystify what’s really cool about wine.” I ask you: What isn’t cool about wine?!