Top 10 North American Wine Destinations
#3 – Las Vegas
Yes, you read that correctly.
A city that’s in the middle of a desert… where temperatures regularly soar well above 100 degrees during the summer months… where no commercial grapevines are planted… is one of the most noteworthy wine destinations – not only in North America, but anywhere in the world.
The reason for this is simple: As Las Vegas imploded old-school casinos and replaced them with mega-resorts over the past decade, it was able to attract some of the world’s most acclaimed chefs. Those chefs created destination restaurants, and a big part of their focus is wine.
A case in point: Aureole restaurant at the Mandalay Bay Resort, the namesake of Charlie Palmer’s exclusive New York eatery. As one approaches Aureole’s entrance from the vast lobby area of the resort’s “restaurant row,” the eyes immediately focus on a 42-foot-high tower of glass and steel, within which are stored some 10,000 bottles of wine.
That’s quite a sight in itself. But the real show stopper involves how those bottles are accessed: by wine “angels,” who scale the tower not unlike Spider-Man. As an official and registered DOM (dirty old man), I could sit and watch the angels fetch wine bottles all night long. (Sigh…)
Numerous other Vegas restaurants take wine seriously, including an outpost of the nationally known Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. You’ll find all of the “usual suspects” on the wine list, but for a special treat, check out the Reserve list – just make sure you hit a big jackpot first.
Even before the building and re-building boom got into full swing, the Rio All-Suite Hotel was kick-starting Vegas’ vinous explosion with its space known as the Wine Cellar. It was (and continues to be) stocked with some of the world’s most sought-after wines, and the by-the-glass list is the most impressive (from a quality perspective) we’ve ever seen.
Out Lake Las Vegas way, The Vineyard Restaurant and Bar looks like a rustic winery, even if it really isn’t. (Hey, this is Vegas… where just about anything you see could be an illusion.) There is, however, a nice selection of wines to accompany the European comfort food.
Las Vegas hosts one of the top annual wine tastings in the country, a fundraising event for the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) known as UNLVino. It’s held each April, tickets cost $100, and close to 3,000 different bottlings are uncorked for sampling.
And where else but in Las Vegas could one experience a rock-n-roll wine tasting in a European-style (uh, that means topless) pool area?
Las Vegas was once known for cheap buffets and 99-cent shrimp cocktails. Today, it’s a culinary capital, and amazing wine experiences await around every row of slots.
Or so it seems.