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UNLVino Review -Celebrating 40 Years Of Sipping For Charity

By Dianne R. Davis and Burt Davis Photos by Dianne Davis or Burt Davis

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UNLV Students pointed the way to the 40th UNLVino Founders Event


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.


Artwork by Romero Britto greeted the attendees at the entrance to the Founders Grand Tasting

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.

Guests were greeted by UNLV and hotel administration students and hundreds of empy wine glasses waiting to be filled


Despite the large number of attendees there was room to move around

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.


There were oysters galore from the Big Sur Restaurant

Food for The Founders Grand Tasting was provided by 16 different restaurants as well as the University of Nevada Las Vegas - UNLV - students.

Sample size sliders

 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. 


The Beer Garden was a busy placed

Attendees also got to sample oysters, freshly shucked and Rockefeller-style, and shrimp cocktail chilled around ice sculptures.


Samples of wine were everywhere

A SausageFest food truck offered samples of mild Italian, Polish, and bratwurst slices.  Popped Popcorn distributed its gourmet caramel version.

Pizza goes well with beer

Pizza from a truck with an oven! 


The Ahi tuna was delicious

We ventured indoors and found vendors, more food, and entertainment. There was a bartending demonstration with liquor bottles tossed high.

Music outdoors and indoors

A student sharing his musical talents on the guitar.


Another section behind the lobby featured sake and additional food from the BellagioSouth Point and other hotels.


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.


(l_R) Dean Stowe Shoemaker, UNLV President Don Snyder, and Larry Ruvo look on as a UNLV student introduces them

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.


and yet more to sample

Larry Ruvo was at the top of his game as he announced the beginning of a scholarship drive for a medical school at UNLV.


Lots of happy people

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.

And yet more to drink

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. 

Desserts as well

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.


Here's to next year

UNLVino and the Founders Grand Tasting are on my list for a return visit next year. Cheers!

The beautiful artwork done by Romero Britto went to a lucky auction bidder

We even saw some of our neighbors at the event

See you next year at the UNLVINO events

Published on Apr 26, 2014

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