Thousands of UNLVino attendees enjoyed wine, beer, spirits and food tastings from some of Vegas' finest eateries at the Founder's Grand Tasting on April 12, 2014 at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. The event was the grand finale of four days of thirst quenching and delicious sampling at the 40th annual UNLVino Wine Festival.
This year, the Festival was expanded to four days of events for wine, beer and spirit enthusiasts. Nevada's original wine festival showcased an array of international beverages and continued Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada's mission to raise millions of scholarship dollars for students of UNLV's William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration.
UNLVino’s first event took place on April 9 at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesars. The second day event at Caesar’s Garden of The Gods pool consisted of barbeque dishes provided by five restaurants and handcrafted cocktails prepared by over 30 different bars. The popular Bubble-Licious event at the Venetian on Friday night featured a variety of champagne and champagne concoctions as well as small plates from the Venetian and Palazzo restaurants.
We had the pleasure of attending Day Four - the grand finale - the Founder’s Grand Tasting. Much of this event was held in the parking lot where visitors could stop at many dozens of booths offering wine, beer, spirits, and food samples. A performance and additional booths inside the building provided more sampling and entertainment. Wow what a feast it was.
There seemed to be a seemingly endless array of booths dispensing beverages Food vendors were everywhere, some in white tents, some open air, and some in food trucks serving up small plates with big flavors.
Food for The Founders Grand Tasting was provided by 16 different restaurants as well as the University of Nevada Las Vegas - UNLV - students.
UNLV culinary students manned six booths and two buffet stations which dished up Margherita pizza, crawfish tarts, cerviche, pulled pork sandwiches, crab cakes, crawfish tarts, éclairs, Napoleons, and even grilled cheese on a stick.
Attendees also got to sample oysters, freshly shucked and Rockefeller-style, and shrimp cocktail chilled around ice sculptures.
A SausageFest food truck offered samples of mild Italian, Polish, and bratwurst slices. Popped Popcorn distributed its gourmet caramel version.
Pizza from a truck with an oven!
We ventured indoors and found vendors, more food, and entertainment. There was a bartending demonstration with liquor bottles tossed high.
A student sharing his musical talents on the guitar.
Musical entertainment was supplied by several groups including the Yellow Brick Road Band. The Main Stage was flanked by the neon lights of resurrected vintage Vegas hotel signs.
The Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence was presented to the event's creators, Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada's Senior Managing Director, Larry Ruvo, and Dean Emeritus of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration (HCHA) Dr. Jerry Vallen.
The pair started the event back in 1974 to address the lack of wine knowledge in the Valley. UNLV President Don Snyder presented the award to Ruvo and HCHA Dean Rowe Shoemaker, who accepted the award on behalf of the absent Vallen.
Larry Ruvo was at the top of his game as he announced the beginning of a scholarship drive for a medical school at UNLV.
A live and sometimes very lively auction conducted by local personality 98.5 KLUC's Chet Buchanan featured offerings ranging including a staycation at Wynn Las Vegas; luxury suite at a UNLV Runnin' Rebels basketball game; two-night stay at a winery in napa Valley; and pop artist Romero Britto's original UNLVino 40th anniversary painting.
A Silent Auction included two tickets to Disneyland Resorts, A cabana at Azure pool at Palazzo, a Glider-Sailplane ride for two, golf and lunch at Southern Highlands Golf Club for four, 15 minutes of indoor skydiving (2-5 people), and a boudoir photo shoot.
The Founders Grand Tasting lived up to its hype. The assortment of beverages was endless. The food was plentiful and tasty. The attendees ranged from barely legal to senior citizens. And bravo to the organizers - designated drivers had a booth at the exit.
UNLVino and the Founders Grand Tasting are on my list for a return visit next year. Cheers!