I’ll get to the “oops” part later, because, all things considered, it’s a pretty big – and embarrassing – one.

I was able to go to the Wine Spectator Grand Tour last Saturday at The Mirage, and it was an event worth waiting for.

Getting There

Because the Grand Tour is ostensibly a “wine tasting” event, I thought it would be best to Lyft my way to The Mirage. I mean, why be foolish? A few bucks on Lyft is a lot cheaper than a DUI!

I walked to the area of the Ballroom near the Terry Fator Theater and stood in the “late entry” line. The VIP entry allowed those tickets holders in an hour early, and we peons had to wait our turn. I was good with that.

As I noted in an earlier post, I’m a Wine Spectator fan from way back, but this was my first Grand Tour, and I can’t believe it took me so long to finally go! What was I thinking??

The Concept

Lots of wine folk!
Lots of wine folk!

The concept of the Wine Spectator Grand Tour is pretty simple: showcase over 240 90+ point wines to ravening oenophiles. Period. That immediately tackled one problem that I’ve seen too many times at some tasting events: sorting the mediocre (or sometimes bad) wines from the good ones. Since every available wine scored AT LEAST 90 points, that issue was immediately off the table. That meant an evening of pure deliciousness, and for someone like me, an evening of education! All things considered, that makes the Grand Tour invaluable.

I talked to a few people in line and was surprised at the variety of areas that people came from, including California, the Midwest, Northwest, and more. That should not have been a surprise because the other Grand Tour locations had been on the East Coast (NYC and Washington). Vegas is closer and much more fun.

While we were waiting, we compared the floor maps in order to decide where to hit first. Although the siren songs of First Growth Bordeaux, Burgundies, and Barolos were calling to me, I figured that I’d have to start where I would normally begin anyway.

First, Champagne Row

It’s always best to start with the bubbly.

Spanish Sparkling
Spanish Sparkling

I moseyed down “Champagne Row” and was immediately presented with a variety of sparkling wines. The first wine was Raventos i Blanc Spanish sparkling – not Cava – that had all the character of a fine Champagne, but with added layers of freshness, acidity, and crispness that’s sometimes not readily discernible in even the finest Champagnes. I was immediately in love.

The row continued to showcase some of the greatest sparklers I’ve ever had, and one of the surprises was Mumm Napa. It’s made mèthode traditionnel and is a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Gris. Yummy!

Of Course There’s More!

Batasiolo Barolo
Batasiolo Barolo

I lost my mind on Barolo Row. In my wine infancy, I hated Nebbiolo in any form. How could any wine that hurt you be considered good? Years of focused learning, appreciating, and pairing with foods have advanced Nebbiolo near my favorite wine which is, to no one’s surprise, Pinot Noir. They are so similar (yet different) in so many ways that another aficionado could certainly understand how Nebbiolo has eased its way into my affections. Both are beautifully colored, and both are enticingly fragrant.

But I digress.

The concept of the Wine Spectator Grand Tour is pretty simple: showcase over 240 90+ point wines to ravening oenophiles. Period.

The most important advantage of having so many wines of high quality is that it allows those of us who are candidates for wine certifications to taste wines that taste the way that they’re supposed to taste. That helps not only to appreciate the differences in the grapes used to make the wines but also to differentiate between the terroir of different countries. For instance, tasting a high-end Napa Cabernet (hello Adobe Road!) and then sampling a high-end Cabernet from Chile will give you a full appreciation of the differences between the wines and how the expressions change from country to country, winemaker to winemaker, or even region to region.

Adam Lee of Siduri!
Adam Lee of Siduri with Pisoni Pinot!

Vosne-Romanée. Any Pinotphile will swoon at those very words. Chateau Champy’s 2011 92 pt. offering was truly delicious. What else can I say? However, the Pinots from California, Oregon, and New Zealand showcased the New World taste to one of France’s signature varietals. And, as you can guess, I loved them all, even while appreciating the differences.

My only bit of chagrin was the Ernie Els Signature Stellenbosch from South Africa. It was absolutely delectable, but it lacked the “safari” wildness I love in my SA wines. It was a gorgeous, nuanced Bordeaux blend that could have come from any New World region, but I missed that particular essence. And yes, I know that the Serengeti is not even close to Stellenbosch, but I look for the soul of the continent in South African red wines. That said, if The Budget™ would allow me, I’d stock up in a minute!

While my goal was to taste as many wines as I could, it quickly became apparent that, while the focus was admirable, it was impossible. After the Barolos, Cabernets, and Malbecs, my palate was pretty much toast. However, I did manage to effectively taste and assess at least 75 of the over 240 wines, and I feel that I was able to garner what I needed from each wine. And no, there will be no written reviews of each one! That’s partially because of the oops.

So What’s the Oops?

All of this information is being gleaned from business cards, photos, bits of video, and horror of horrors, MY MEMORY!


Because somewhere between resting after the end of the event until the time I let myself into my front door, my notebook with my carefully curated notes and the Wine Spectator Grand Tour catalog of wines program vanished. The best I can figure is that I left them on the table next to where I sat down for a rest before I found my way to the Ride-Sharing area of the casino.

That said, I love it when something’s so memorable that it’s easy to remember the good stuff! To paraphrase an old Red Skelton quip, “If people didn’t sing Happy Birthday to me once a year, I’d probably forget my own name!”

See y’all next year!

Oh – and I’ll be adding the slideshow shortly!


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