A burgeoning town that grew up on classic cocktails, buffets and steakhouses alongside slightly soused crooners and high-stakes games, Las Vegas has had a bibulous reputation. Comparatively, it’s centuries younger than other culturally rich US cities built on bricks and brownstone that have spent decades upon decades curating their wine selections. But today, the city is maturing, and its wine culture is evolving. The Las Vegas wine scene is raising a glass to grow up.
On the Strip
Also known as Las Vegas Boulevard, this four mile stretch of glittering lights and casino resorts inherits its reputation from and caters to its 40- plus million annual visitors with vastly diverse tastes in food and wine. Well-crafted wine lists continue to charm guests, particularly inside fine dining rooms and chic French spots bearing the names of internationally famous chefs. Celebrity chef restaurants anteed up the culinary space, and together with other hospitality offerings, by 1999, non-gaming revenue exceeded gaming revenue, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
With visitors from all over the world, Las Vegas has the verve and energy to fulfill every enophile’s desires.
“Each property and restaurant has its own identity,” says Master Sommelier and MGM Resorts Wine Director Douglas Kim. He oversees the company’s 350,000-bottle collection spanning hundreds of restaurants and bars at 13 destination properties, including Bellagio, Aria and Park MGM.
“At Carbone, you’ll see Italian selections; Rivea is contemporary with some hidden gems; and Picasso has a great French selection and Spanish focus,” he says. “We are increasing and diversifying our selections, but we keep the quality consistent. Ultimately as a city, we provide great experiences for everyone.”
While some restaurants, such as NoMad Library and SW Steakhouse, offer weighty tomes that span the globe, others specialize in one country or region for those looking to take “sip trips” to their favorite wine-growing regions.
The collection of French wines at Michael Mina’s Bardot Brasserie inside Aria can take guests from Champagne and the Côte d’Or to Alsace and the Loire Valley over a meal. With wines spanning from Santorini to the Peloponnese, Estiatorio Milos inside Venetian Las Vegas is all about Greece. Jaleo by José Andrés inside Cosmopolitan Las Vegas brings the spirit and flavors of Spain with an impressive collection of Sherry. And for Italian wine lovers, Brezza inside Resorts World Las Vegas offers wines from Piedmont to Puglia.
The opening of Wally’s Wine & Spirits in 2021 modernized the town’s vinous reputation, adding to acclaimed establishments that have elevated the wine culture for decades, such as Le Cirque, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Restaurant Guy Savoy and Delmonico Steakhouse.
But Las Vegas is still quick to adapt as guests’ expectations evolve.
“There is a shift in awareness,” says Kat Thomas, a sommelier who has worked on and off the Strip since 2011. “Social media has made it easier for people to become more knowledgeable about wine.”
“I am always looking for special and unique gems for our educated guests,” says Cristie Norman, lead sommelier at Delilah, a glamorous, 1920s-inspired supper club inside Wynn Las Vegas. “Since we opened [in July 2021]we’ve run out of every selection on the wine list at least twice.”
Norman, Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 Educator of the Year Wine Star Award winner and also a 40 Under 40 Tastemaker from that same year, moved from Los Angeles to open Delilah. “I see Las Vegas as one of the nation’s top wine destinations, right there with New York City and San Francisco,” she says.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
Published on June 7, 2022