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A taste of UNLVino: Previewing the Founder’s Grand Tasting menu

2013 UNLVino’s Grand Tasting honoring Elizabeth Blau with the Dom Perignon Award of Excellence at Paris Las Vegas on Saturday, April 20, 2013.
Photo: Tom Donoghue/

Culinary students stand over the burner’s heat, preparing soups and lettuce wraps, ceviche and more. It’s a pressure test, a preview of what’s to come the night of the UNLVino Founder’s Grand Tasting, when they’re stormed by thousands of guests. But for now, they’re keeping cool.

UNLV’s 24 UNLVino Management students and six culinary students presented an assortment of dishes in a banquet-style setting in mid-March, allowing a lucky few to preview the food before it’s served at April 12’s Grand Tasting. Among the dishes were gourmet pizzas (including fig and pear, spinach and artichoke), sliders, crab cakes, pork belly crostini, bahn mi and oysters Rockefeller.

“Last year, they asked me to help them with this course specifically,” says Mark Sandoval, executive chef of Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio at the Venetian. “They wanted a chef from the industry to really freshen it up. We were really successful.”

Now in its 40th year, UNLVino has grown from a small wine tasting event to one of the biggest scholarship fundraisers for the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration. So much so, that students are handpicked to enroll in the college-level course dedicated to the event, the UNLVino Management class.

“They help us with planning, organizing and securing all four events,” says Mohsen Azizsoltani, a UNLV professor, director of UNLVino and a UNLVino Management Instructor. “Students are responsible for calling all of the donors and they secure the donations.” Then the students create the Grand Tasting menu using the foods they secured through donors. “It’s going to be a food and beverage festival instead of just a wine festival,” Azizsoltani says. In addition to the 24 management students and six culinary students, nearly 600 student volunteers will work throughout the four UNLVino events from April 9-12.

This year’s Grand Tasting will welcome restaurants like Raku and Poppy Den in addition to the extensive menu created by UNLV students, including two buffet stations, six booths, hors d'oeuvres and more.

The Grand Tasting will be held at Downtown’s Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health on April 12 and will honor UNLVino co-founders Dean Jerry Vallen and Larry Ruvo.

UNLVino Founder’s Grand Tasting April 12, 7 p.m., $125-$150.

Tags: Dining, Nightlife
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