Believe it or not, there was a time, not that long ago, when winemakers were reluctant to ply their wares in Las Vegas. Oh how times have changed.
In 1997 I took a trip to Napa Valley with my good friends Bob-the Wine Guy
and his beautiful-yet-low-maintenance- wife Jennifer. I was looking to drown
my sorrows over another busted relationship in a sea of cabernet.
What I got was a tour of some of the most prestigious wineries of California. Instead of gulping glass after glass of California's best, I found myself treading through fields of vines and discussing things like the brix at harvest, new
versus old oak, and when to punch down the cap with winemakers...ya
know...edge of your seat stuff like that.
But what I remember most of the trip was a conversation with Doug Shafer of
Shafer Vineyards. It seemed that Shafer, being oh so protective of his
prestigious label, thought than an association with our tacky town might
damage the precious reputation of his precious wine. Bob the wine guy kept
saying prescient things like: ''Ya know Doug, Vegas will soon to be where it's at in the wine world.
Between our tourism, money and top-flight restaurants, it will have the best wine lists in the country, if not the world, and you should hop on board.''
With typical northern California
provincialism, Shafer was unconvinced. With my typical style of not
suffering fools gladly, I couldn't wait to get out of there.
To such things did my mind wander recently when I contemplated how, in less
than 10 years, Las Vegas has become the center of the retail wine universe.
Every Spring we are now besieged with wine tasting events that everyone, who
is anyone, in the wine world attends. Because more fine wine is consumed in
our town than anywhere in America, the Wine Spectator's Grand Tour now stops
here every year, right after the Wine and Spirits Wholesaler's Convention.
At both, the most prestigious wineries on earth try to elbow each other
aside to attract the attention of buyers from our big hotels.
Vegas wine lists are now arguably the best in the world---if you judge such
things by the scope, breadth and depth of such things. You'll find deeper lists of French wines in Paris, or Italian barolos in Bologna, but nowhere on earth can you find vintage bottles of Australian Zinfandel or Lebanese Syrahs, alongside great Gajas from Piedmont, or bling bling burgundies from
As for Shafer's wines, you'll now find them in dozens of restaurants. Money
has a way of doing that to people. In fact, I had his over-priced Cabernet
at Smith and Wollensky, just the other day. For my money though, I preferred
the Mount Veeder for ten bucks less.
As Sam Goldwyn once said, it had more warmth and more charmth.
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