From Vine to Vino

Paolo Barbieri, Old World winemaker

An alum of Le Cirque and Osteria del Circo at Bellagio, as well as Alex at Wynn, Paolo Barbieri is now the sommelier at Scarpetta in the Cosmopolitan, where he not only pushes the tony restaurant’s bounty of Italian labels, but he’s one of the few sommeliers in town who produces his own wine.

An agricultural student in his native Italy, he learned entomology and the processes of making cheese and olive oil in addition to wine. “Working in the farms, it’s what I like,” he says.

In 2005 he started solo production in his Summerlin garage, shipping in fruit from Santa Barbara, Calif. A friend of his, Joe Tensley of Tensley Wineries, invited Barbieri to make wine on his land there, and Barbieri now tends to his own parcels on three different vineyards. He makes the trip eight or nine times a year and is as hands-on as possible. “I have my own equipment; I just rent the space and big machinery. I make the wine, clean the barrels, clean the fermenters,” he says. Then he stays on board for production. “I do the blending, I do the racking … until the wine goes into the barrels, then I leave.”

That first year, Barbieri Wines ( produced 375 cases of Old-World-style syrah, a classic Rhône varietal, and the numbers now fluctuate between 500 and 850 cases per year. Many of those end up in Las Vegas, where you can find his wine at restaurants such as Vintner Grill and Due Forni.

Although the end result is wonderful, it’s the process that is still the biggest turn-on. “I am the one that actually makes the wine,” Barbieri says. “I don’t buy wine in a bottle and put a lid on it; I am there. That is why I can’t make a lot of wine. It is all me.”