Standing as a beacon of light and excitement in the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is a destination unlike any other. The Entertainment Capital of the World is known for its gambling and casinos, but the city also is the place to be for dining, shopping, nightlife, and outdoor experiences. Visitors in search of unique things to do outdoors will love taking hot air balloon rides, learning how to drive race cars, and seeing the area’s diverse landscape and wildlife at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Attracted by the area’s natural beauty, the city is a haven for artists and creative people. Travelers will find a variety of visual art pieces on display at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, Wonderland Gallery, and Centaur Art Gallery.
Since the beginning of the 21 st Century, Las Vegas has also become known as a world culinary capital, with acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs opening flagship eateries on and off the famed Strip.
This culinary spectacle will collide with Las Vegas’ community spirit at the 44th Annual UNLVino, the premier food, wine, and spirits event taking place Saturday, April 14 at the Keep Memory Alive Event Center at the iconic Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in city’s Symphony Park. This year’s edition contains three separate events: The Grand Tasting, the presentation of the Dom Perignón Award of Excellence, and the Silent Auction. The Grand Tasting is the signature event of UNLVino, will feature wineries and spirit-makers paired with 50 renowned chefs and restaurants. UNLV hospitality students will work alongside these industry professionals, providing a variety of unique cuisine, entertainment, and beverages. Attendees will have the opportunity to sample rare food and beverage pairings while enjoying unique shows provided by the Las Vegas entertainment community. This year's Dom Perignón Award of Excellence ceremony will include tributes to Nevada icons of hospitality that have influenced others through exemplary leadership, character, and work ethic. At the annual auction, patrons can bid on some great gift packages put together by some of the city’s top hotels and restaurants. Proceeds from the auction will go to future scholarships for students attending the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. ResortsandLodges.com interviewed Assistant Director of Events and Marketing, Shaina Graham of Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits (formerly Southern Wine & Spirits), to learn more about this spectacular showcase of Las Vegas cuisine, beverages, and entertainment.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
SG: UNLVino has been an annual event since 1974 when it first took place in the Southern Wine & Spirits warehouse.
RAL: How many annual attendees do you draw?
SG: UNLVino annually draws thousands of attendees eager to support its mission of raising scholarship funds for UNLV hospitality students.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
SG: All are welcome so long as they are ages 21 and older.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
SG: The 44th Annual UNLVino elevates the concept of UNLVino beyond a wine tasting event and includes 50 internationally acclaimed chefs and restaurants, all of which will work with our wine and spirits partners to create 50 unique pairings for guests. The sheer number of culinary influencers involved makes this the largest and most impressive UNLVino in the event’s history. Chefs Brian Howard (Sparrow + Wolf), Scott Conant (Masso Osteria), Charles Phan (The Slanted Door), Hubert Keller (Burger Bar), Gustav Mauler (Spiedini), Terence Fong (Zenshin) and Paul Bartolotta (Ristorante Bartolotta) are among the regional, national and international sensations uniting behind UNLVino’s cause, and the list is growing. Among the 50-plus restaurants on tap include David Chang’s Momofuku, Rick Moonen’s rm Seafood, Mitsuo Endo’s Aburiya Raku and Sweets Raku, Lorena Garcia’s Chica, Makers & Finders Coffee, Soho Sushi Burrito, District One, Culinary Dropout, Kaiseki Yuzu, Libertine Social and Lotus of Siam.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event. What can I expect as an attendee?
SG: In addition to the unmatched number of pairing experiences, UNLVino guests will enjoy an evening of spectacle provided by the Las Vegas entertainment community.
RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?
SG: While we can’t spoil the surprise beyond our culinary guests, this year’s UNLVino will pay tribute to several well-known Nevadans, including the late Donald Carano, gaming executive Ann Hoff, and celebrity journalist Robin Leach.
RAL: Tell us about the overall atmosphere?
SG: UNLVino’s festive atmosphere is on par with the nation’s most popular foodie events, including SOBEWFF and L.A. Food & Wine.
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
SG: While UNLVino remains a fundraising event, it continues to gain in popularity and this year will surpass expectations as the place to be for foodies and wine lovers.
RAL: Does the event support a particular cause in the community?
SG: Since its inception, UNLVino has focused on raising scholarship funds for students of UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. The event serves as the college’s largest annual fundraiser, and UNLVino is an accredited course for students. Those young men and women taking part in the UNLVino class also take part in the planning and execution of the festival itself, working and learning alongside today’s smartest and most successful chefs, restaurateurs and industry leaders.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
SG: UNLVino is one memorable night of TLC – tasting, learning, and community. In addition to the unrivaled number of chefs and restaurants participating, guests will indulge in samples of the world’s finest wines, champagnes, sakes, and spirits. Las Vegas has never had a wine and culinary fundraiser on the scale of the 44th Annual UNLVino, and guests enjoying the evening will leave knowing that they are helping the next generation of hospitality students achieve their dreams of an education. These students will be the ones creating future food festivals and UNLVino-like experiences, and we are looking forward to seeing what they will do.
For more information about UNLVino, please visit the event website.