UNLVino Takes Over Las Vegas with Three Nights of Exquisite Food & Wine

UNLVino Takes Over Las Vegas with Three Nights of Exquisite Food & Wine, April 16-18
This past weekend, the 41st annual UNLVino took over Las Vegas with three evenings of hospitality excellence, featuring fabulous wine, beer, spirits and sake; and cuisine from dozens of the city’s top restaurants and chefs, as well as UNLV’s talented culinary students (Pictured: Birthday cake is presented to Daniel Boulud by Buddy V – Photo credit: UNLVino)

Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada and UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration once again partnered to raise scholarship funds through three dynamic events, Bubble-Licious at The Venetian Las Vegas’ Sake Fever at Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa and the Grand Tasting at Paris Las Vegas. New to the UNLVino tradition, each soiree was further elevated with world-class entertainment, celebrity chefs and exclusive VIP experiences, making 2015 the most outstanding edition of Nevada’s oldest and largest wine tasting festival to date.


On Thursday, April 16, UNLVino kicked off with its inaugural event, Bubble-Licious, in The Venetian Las Vegas’® beautiful Doge’s Palace Plaza. Guests imbibed on exclusive champagne and sparkling wine selections from the industry’s top suppliers and feasted on selections from a collection of The Venetian and Palazzo’s restaurants.

Champagne and Wine selections
Champagne and Wine selections

Photo credit: UNLVino.

The Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence was given to James Beard Award-winning Chef Daniel Boulud, recognizing him as one of America’s leading culinary authorities as well as for his commitment to encouraging aspiring chefs in the hospitality industry. The award was presented by Larry Ruvo, Senior Managing Director of Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada; Michael Severino, Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada’s Director of Marketing & Special Events; Stowe Shoemaker, Dean of UNLV’s Hotel College; Len Jessup, President of UNLV; and UNLV scholarship recipient, Emma James. The evening was filled with memorable moments for Chef Boulud, including a birthday cake presented by Buddy V Las Vegas, a signed chef jacket from UNLV’s Hotel College senior class and an unforgettable rendition of “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” performed by award-winning singer and songwriter, Chadwick Johnson.

A UNLVino staple for several years, Bubble-Licious commenced with the traditional “21 Cork Salute” as local sommeliers and restaurateurs popped 21 bottles of Dom Pérignon. Fantastic champagne and sparkling wine flowed to accompany small plates from The Venetian and Palazzo’s collection of restaurants, including B&B Ristorante’s Coteachino with Insalata Primavera and Aceto; Mango Crunch Ice Cream Pops Dipped in Dulce Chocolate from SushiSamba; Garlic Sausage “En Croute” from Bouchon and Lobster Boudin Blanc by Chef Boulud’s db Brasserie. Other culinary highlights included Farro Verde with Spring Vegetables from Otto by Mario Battali; Carlo’s Bakery’s Cake Bites, Cannolis and Italian Cookies; and Smoked Pork Terrine with Pickled Watermelon Rind and Root Beer Syrup by Delmonico.

Bubble-Licious was brought to life by Chadwick Johnson, who had guests singing along to his soulful set. Additionally, The Venetian’s Streetmosphere performers rounded out the entertainment lineup with festive actors, acrobats, dancers and living statues, adding the jubilation of the evening.

Sake Fever

UNLVino continued with Sake Fever, an outdoor soiree spanning Red Rock Resort Casino & Spa’s scenic pool on Friday, April 17. The night was filled with incredible sakes and Asian spirits, as well as cuisine from Las Vegas’ hottest restaurants.

Naked Fish carves up a 240lb tuna
Naked Fish carves up a 240lb tuna

Photo credit: UNLVino.

During a special presentation, Don Snyder, Presidential Advisor of UNLV, was given the Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence for his contributions to Las Vegas’ community, including landmarks such as Fremont Street Experience and The Smith Center. Larry Ruvo also took a moment during the ceremony to honor Don’s wife, Dee Snyder, for her leadership in the community and as a partner in Don Snyder’s Las Vegas endeavors. Ruvo and the Snyders were joined on stage by Len Jessup, Stowe Shoemaker, Michael Severino and Abby Pancoast, a UNLV senior who is a recipient of the scholarships that UNLVino generates for students in the Hotel College.

Len Jessup, Michael Severino, Hey Reb, Larry Ruvo, Don Snyder, Stowe Shoemaker, Dee Snyder
Len Jessup, Michael Severino, Hey Reb, Larry Ruvo, Don Snyder, Stowe Shoemaker, Dee Snyder

Photo credit: UNLVino.

To kick off the festivities, Mr. and Mrs. Snyder, Ruvo and Severino took part in the ceremonial sake barrel cracking. After opening the barrels with traditional mallets, guests were treated to an exciting performance by a Japanese Taiko drum troupe, featuring Rob DeTie, Ryan Sampson, Jordan Hoss, Mike “Pip” Ullemeyer, while they lined up for a sip of sake to toast.

Sake Selections at UNLVino's Sake Fever
Sake Selections at UNLVino’s Sake Fever

Photo credit: UNLVino.

The East and West were united as guests sampled dishes from a variety of Asian eateries, as well as Sin City’s hottest barbecue joints to pair with a variety of sakes, cocktails and spirits. As per tradition, Naked Fish’s Sushi and Grill treated guests to the rare experience of tasting impossibly fresh sashimi skillfully carved from a 240-pound bluefin tuna; and Katsuji Tanabe, a Food Network “Chopped” champion, served up his famous Dirty Tacos.

Guests also nibbled on bites from 8 Noodle Bar; Aburiya Raku, District One, Double Barrel Roadhouse, Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, Chef Heather Zheng of Shibuya, J Karaoke Bistro, Kabuki Japanese Restaurant, Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ, Lucky Foo’s Restaurant & Bar, Mercadito, Monta Ramen, Pot Liquor Contemporary American Smokehouse, T-Bones Chophouse, Tonkatsu Kiyoshi, Yusho Japanese Grill & Noodle House and Zenshin Asian Restaurant. Also on-hand was “Top Chef: Season 12” winner, Mei Lin, who created a private dining experience for guests in one of Red Rock’s cabanas.

Emcee Chet Buchanan kept the energy high throughout the night, while local musical group Franks & Deans energized the crowd with a live performance. The party continued late into the night with the Official Sake Fever After Party at Hearthstone, where guests enjoyed complimentary beverages as thanks for their support of the event.

Grand Tasting

UNLVino’s grandiose weekend concluded with its flagship event, the Grand Tasting, on Saturday, April 18 at Paris Las Vegas’ ballroom with celebrity chefs, endless libations, excellent food and live entertainment.

Frankie Moreno performs at UNLVino's Grand Tasting
Frankie Moreno performs at UNLVino’s Grand Tasting

Photo credit: UNLVino.

Italian-American cook and restaurateur Steve Martorano was the night’s guest of honor as Larry Ruvo, Michael Severino and Stowe Shoemaker presented Martorano with the Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence. After receiving the award, complete with a cased bottle of Dom Pérignon and a chef’s jacket signed by UNLV Hotel College seniors, Martorano gathered students around the stage and told them to “never say no” when reaching for their dreams. Following Martorano’s encouraging acceptance speech, acclaimed musician Frankie Moreno sang Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” to congratulate the honoree.

Steve Martorano accepts his Dom Perignon Award of Excellence from Michael Severino at UNLVino's Grand Tasting
Steve Martorano accepts his Dom Perignon Award of Excellence from Michael Severino at UNLVino’s Grand Tasting

Photo credit: UNLVino.

“Top Chef Season 12: Boston” winner Mei Lin showcased her winning snapper dish and “Chopped” champion Katsuji Tanabe joined UNLV Hotel College culinary students to create delicious small plates and passed appetizers, such as bacon-wrapped dates, ahi tuna poke and Oysters Rockefeller. Additionally, Vegas’ favorite restaurants provided bite-sized portions of their signature dishes, including meatball skewers from DW Bistro; foie gras mousse from Andre’s; meatballs and chorizo by Herbs & Rye’s; JinJu Chocolate’s chocolate truffles and candies; cold-pressed coffee and ceviche shooters from Makers & Finders Coffee; short rib and bone marrow agnolotti by Scarpetta/D.O.C.G; a variety of treats made by O Face Doughnuts; MTO Café’s mini bacon dippers; yellow tail tiradito and a signature bloody mary from Fleur by Hubert Keller and Burger Bar, personally served by Chef Hubert Keller himself; and snacks from The Goodwich. “Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise” contestant Marquel Martin showcased scrumptious confections from his newly opened business Social Cookie, including the exclusive UNLVino Strawberry cookie.

Frankie Moreno serenaded the crowd with his modern jazz hits while guests danced the night away in between drinks and bites. During his performance, Moreno made guests swoon with his piano playing and smooth vocal talents. Chet Buchanan emceed the final night of UNLVino and hosted the event’s live auction, which brought in thousands of dollars for UNLV’s Hotel College.

UNLVino was cofounded in 1974 by the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration and Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, the two organizations which continue to sponsor it today. Over the past four decades, UNLVino has raised several million dollars for scholarships and other academic developmental needs of UNLV students. UNLVino is differentiated through unparalleled, hands-on student experiences at all levels of event planning, execution and promotion, as well as the impactful funds raised each year – all testaments to the celebratory weekend’s broader purpose – scholarship. For more information, please visit www.UNLVino.com and follow UNLVino on Twitter @UNLVino_Vegas.