What to Drink at UNLVino

A local wine pro shares his must-taste list for each event at the oenophile extravaganza, which runs April 9-12

The Founders Grand Tasting will feature hundreds of gems from all over the world, including from some countries that you didn’t know even produced wines. Here are some of my personal favorites:

  • Hatsumago Junmai Daiginjo “Shozui.” I can’t even pronounce it, but this ultra-premium sake is killer. It’s loaded with flavors but balanced, and it works with many different food types. Booth No. 1.
  • Ty Ku Coconut Nigori Sake. I tried this recently and was really surprised by how good it is. It’s very mixable as well—suitable for a great summer cocktail! Booth No. 3.
  • Graham’s 20-year Tawny Port. I am a port fan, and 20-year Tawny is my favorites. I’ve had 30- and 40-year but keep going back to the 20. Give me one of these with a cheese plate and a cigar, and I’m a happy guy. Booth No. 7.
  • Trinchero Cabernet Sauvignon “Mario’s Vineyard.” From the people who brought you Sutter Home white zinfandel in 1972, the Trinchero family has been producing wine since 1948. Mario’s is a 13-acre vineyard in St. Helena, California, that produces only 1,000 cases of this benchmark Napa cabernet. Booth No. 13.
  • Penfolds Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon. This brand-new wine from Peter Gago, chief winemaker for the Penfolds group, is 100 percent cabernet with dark color, great concentration and depth. Booth No. 14.
  • Brancott Flight Song Sauvignon Blanc. If you like New Zealand sauvignon blancs and are watching your weight, this is one to try. It is a bit different in that it is 20 percent lower in calories—about 85 per serving. They also make a delicious pinot grigio. VIP Booth No. 1.
  • Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay. I’m not a huge California chardonnay fan, but I really like this one! It’s un-oaked, which means you actually taste the grapes, not butter and popcorn. I’m not saying that those chardonnays are bad, just not my style. This one comes in a very cool ceramic bottle, as well. Booth No. 20.
  • Cuvaison Pinot Noir. This rich, full-bodied pinot is another winner. With food or without, it is a mouthful—but so delicious! Booth No. 24.
  • Ruffino Prosecco, and the Segura Viudas Brut. I’m a huge fans of bubbles, these two in particular. The Prosecco, made from 100 percent Glera grapes, is one of those that you don’t have to analyze, just sip and enjoy. The Segura Viudas is a cava, which is what they call sparkling wine in Spain. It is reasonably priced, and it is very good. If that’s not a winning combination, I don’t know what is! VIP Booth No. 2 and Booth No. 18, respectively

7 p.m. April 12, $125 in advance; $150 at the door

Sip & Savor is a new event this year, offering premium wines and signature cuisine by Wolfgang Puck. Don’t miss these wines:

  • Holdredge Pinot Noir “Rolling Thunder.” A small winery in the Russian River Valley, Holdredge specializes in handcrafted wines. The Rolling Thunder is a small-production Pinot (only 2,000 cases). This wine has it all—beautifully balanced, great flavors and a generous body. Yum (technical term!).
  • Marimar Torres Acero Chardonnay. If you like California chardonnay, give this one a try. Acero means “steel” in Spanish, and refers to the fact that the wine sees no oak, which is the style that I like best. Stainless-steel fermented, it’s more like a white Burgundy than a California chardonnay in that you don’t get the buttery finish that many have. Marimar is from the Torres wine family from the Penedes region of Spain, which produces some of that country’s finest wines.

7 p.m. April 9, Spago in the Forum Shops at Caesars, $225 for general admission; $275 for VIP.

BAR-B-Q, held poolside at Caesars Palace, focuses on spirits and beer rather than wine, and has been a hit since its inception. Some of the event’s best beverages:

  • Absolut Elyx is produced from single-estate wheat and is extremely pure, with a silky texture and taste profile. Not to mention the really cool bottle!
  • Bulldog Gin is handcrafted at an English distillery that has been producing gin for 250 years. Made from Norfolk wheat, using the purest water from Wales, it blends 12 botanicals from eight countries and is certified kosher. Oh, and by the way, as good as it gets!
  • The Talisker Storm Malt Scotch recently won Whiskey of the Year. If you like peaty malt scotches, it doesn’t get much better than this one!
  • The Brooklyn Lager is amber/gold in color, displays a firm malt center, and is flavorful, smooth and refreshing.
  • La Fin du Monde, a triple style golden ale with Champagne, from Chambly Quebec, has a yeasty, complex palate.
  • Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA was called “perhaps the best IPA in America” by Esquire. Need I say more? Try it!

7 p.m. April 10, Garden of the Gods pool at Caesars Palace, $100 in advance; $125 at the door

Bubble- Licious is one of the most popular tastings. Who doesn’t like bubbles? The ones at this tasting give us a combination of old favorites, and a few that you probably haven’t even heard of.

  • Perrier Jouët Blason Rosé comes from a winery that recently celebrated its 200th anniversary, producing Champagnes that are known worldwide. Don’t be fooled by the pink color: No, it’s not sweet! This wine is quite dry and has a wonderful blend of rose petals and orange flowers on the nose. It is absolutely delicious!
  • The Luc Belaire Rosé blends Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, and unlike the Perrier Jouët, it has some sweetness to it. I keep forgetting that not everyone likes their wines bone-dry, but imagine drinking this while you’re in Cannes!
  • Henriot Brut Souverain is 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay, not an unusual blend by any means. Most of the grapes come from Mesnil sur Oger and Cramant, and the result is a well-balanced and refined champagne—two of my favorite qualities!
  • Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux is possibly the best wine for the money at the tasting. This is not Champagne because it is not from the Champagne region of France, but rather, from the south of France. Poured by the glass at both Andre’s and Alizé in Las Vegas, it is wonderfully crisp, well rounded, and dry without making you pucker after you taste it. I met Mssr Bertrand a few years ago, and he is very passionate about his wines. It shows in the glass—priced so you can have it without having to take out a loan, and good enough to make you want to have another one after you finish it.

7 p.m. April 11, Doge’s Palace in front of the Venetian, $125 in advance; $150 at the door.

Tony Goitia is Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada’s territory manager. For tickets and details for all these events, visit UNLVino.com.

Back to 2014 Spring Epicurean Guide.