UNLVino’s Top Sip, Guest Chef Duty and Meet SBE’s Downhome Side

img5431mp.jpgI’m writing this week from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America convention in Orlando, Florida, my old stomping grounds. (Throughout college, I worked at Disney World, where we probably drank more white zinfandel than water; I called our apartment Zin City. Happily, there’s none in sight. Not yet, anyway.) The convention is a hotbed of emerging beverage industry brands, more so than consumer-focused events. So I’m up to my ears in new spirits looking for distribution. Nevada is often excluded from the first-round launches, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Teaz vodka in the not-too-distant future (the bottle is shaped like a stripper on her pole). More from the convention floor next week.

The juice was also flowing recently in Las Vegas during UNLVino 39. But the belle of this ball was the Barons de Rothschild Champagne. This is the first time the three branches of that famous family have come together on a project. The initial nonvintage release includes a brut, blanc de blancs and rosé, any of which I would happily plunk down the $100-$125 for. (The price will understandably increase when the first vintage is released in 2014.) If you didn’t get a chance to taste them at Bubble-Licious, blame the media—we were the ones all crowded around the table, greedily sucking down the goods.

I also recently attended another of UNLV’s Chef Artist Dinners, something I’ve come to count on for a feel-good jolt and a reminder of what my own hotel school’s Guest Chefs dinner did for me (remind me to tell you about the time Daniel Boulud helped us do kegstands). N9NE Steakhouse executive chef Barry Dakake did the honors at this dinner, working alongside students from prep to service. Wines donated by Southern Wine & Spirits kept the whole thing convivial. Big week for them!

Looking forward, SBE announced its plans for Double Barrel Roadhouse. As if they weren’t busy enough with SLS Hotel, SBE will put a “Vegas-style roadhouse” between Monte Carlo and New York-New York in early 2014, part of a larger revitalization effort involving a park, and an even larger arena scheme. I don’t exactly see myself participating in Double Barrel’s “bar rituals” as administered by the likely-to-be-wearing-chaps DB Girls. And Vegas has authenticity issues. (Or is that really the Eiffel Tower?) SBE is better known for its high-end efforts anyway, such as STK and Hyde. But with a menu that name-checks every industry buzzword (“comfort,” “craft,” “authentic”), I bet getting tourists in the door will be easy as falling off a bar—er, log.

For more scene stirrings and shake-ups, visit VegasSeven.com/Cocktail-Culture.