April 16, 2007

Rant Time!

After paying $75.00 for a ticket to UNLVino, I feel in retrospect that I should have been given a cigarette and a towel. While quite nice, it wasn’t $25.00 more nice than last year when the price was $50.00. Maybe I’m being picky, silly, and petty, but there were several things that occurred this year that I’d never seen before.

1. The Auction. In previous years the auction had a variety of things at potentially different price points for attendees. This year was radically different. It seemed that every item was a high-ticket, multiple-wine, golf-package-included item, and that left many of us out of the running, especially at bid prices starting at $400. The packages were well worth what they went for – and then some! – but if you don’t play golf ….!!!

2. Riedel. I love Riedel glasses. So much so that I bought a dozen of them at UNLVino last year at a great price. One of the reasons I barely flinched at the $75 entry fee was because of the anticipation of being able to get another dozen or two Riedels. Well, that did not happen. What they had was a set of Vinums, four for $95.00. Or you could buy two “O” glasses for $20.00. Because each glass in the Vinum set was different, you’d have to buy two sets in order to have something decent for two, let alone with friends. And I hate (really hate) the “O” glasses. They are, in my opinion, a high-end Scotch glass. Except without the Scotch. Single malt, of course.

3. “Nevada Wine Partners.” Never heard of them before and was shocked once I looked through the souvenir book to see many of the wineries that I’d been hoping to find, but because I associated the name with a particular winery with mediocre wines, I didn’t explore the options. My bad.

4. The Bags. Handing out the bags that were loaded with valuable information as everyone *left* made no sense at all. There was information in those bags – including the latest edition of Wine Spectator with tasting reports and scores of some of the wines at UNLVino – that would have been nice to have during the event.

OF COURSE there were good things!

1. Thomas Arvid prints. ‘Nuff said.

2. The food. Phenomenal, as always. Does anyone know what the green cheese was?

3. Chocolate Row. A long table of strictly chocolate vendors. Heaven.

4. The People. Seeing friends having a great time and seeing those who were pouring whom I hadn’t seen in months was a pleasure. It’s funny how people make up for any rants one might have.

5. The Wines, of course! So many wines. Only one of me! By the way, if you haven’t explored New Zealand Pinot Noirs, brace yourself. I see a huge Pinot wave coming in from the Land of Oz, and it will be terrific. I was only able to taste a few, and there are a few characteristics in those wines that stand out to me. First, they are more similar to the Pinots of Oregon or the Burgundies of France than they are the big California Pinots. However, they aren’t quite as earthy as the former, and carry California-style fruit without losing Burgundian character. And phenomenal with food! Buy now, ‘cause I’m sure the prices are going to skyrocket once they’re discovered!

Okay, that’s all for UNLVino. Overall opinion, nice, but not as great as previous years. And a lot smaller. I remember a couple of years ago when I had to walk from one venue to another, overwhelmed by the sheer size of it. It’s smaller now, and I haven’t quite decided if that’s good or bad.

Now for the next rant. A few weeks ago, Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Heidi Knapp Rinella wrote a column about the prices of meals at restaurants in Vegas and how the quality doesn’t always measure up to the premium prices. I read that and said “Hallelujah Sister!” There are a few restaurants that I will go to no matter what, and they always have good food and excellent prices. So I’m a repeat customer! Marché Bacchus in Desert Shores and King’s Fish House in The District come immediately to mind.

There are others, however, where one visit was enough. To say that I felt violated would be an understatement. Once again, looking at the bill made me wonder why I wasn’t given a cigarette and a towel. To read Heidi’s column, just click here. Let me know what you think of my letter to her!

Hi Heidi,

I love reading your columns and truly appreciate your insights. I’d like to give my two cents’ worth on the prices of restaurant food.

I love wine. One of the latest trends in wine has been new winery owners releasing their first vintage at “are you kidding?!?” prices, for no other reason than they happen to be located in Napa.

I see the same mentality here in Vegas. Open a restaurant and charge “celebrity chef” prices just because you’re in Vegas. I don’t think so.

What these phenomena have done is to send me in other directions. Because I refuse to be a Napa slut (although I have several very nice Napa wines in my coolers), I have branched out to other, less well known areas. That means really good – if not great – wines at affordable prices. I love Gil because of his practical column and recommendations of enjoyable, affordable wines.

For food, the ridiculous prices/mediocre quality has sent me happily into my own kitchen, where I prepare my own miraculous dishes, usually higher quality than the hoity restaurants (I’m often in learning mode with some dishes), and always at a better price. And my friends love having the opportunity to enjoy good food and drink a bottle of wine that would cost extortion prices in a restaurant, without having to worry about what hissy fit “Chef” may throw.

I realize that my little bit of money here and there in a restaurant will not change the minds of the overinflated egos that open these altars to self-worship. They are after the big wallets and, frankly, I’m not one. Unfortunately, what that means is that I have to do a lot of word-of-mouthing before I’m willing to go the extra $$$ for an enjoyable evening out. For the most part, that leaves out the greedy restaurants – no good QPR (Quality Price Ratio) there!

Don’t get me wrong. There are some places where the high prices are justifiable. For instance, having a dinner at Panevino, while somewhat pricey, is so worth it with the food, the service, and the fantastic view.

But I’m just as happy having a lunch at Marché Bacchus by the water and sharing a bottle of wine with friends. Where a lunch for four will cost about the same as a dinner for one at any of the mega-ego restaurants. And enjoying a meal with friends is what makes dining out special.

Irene King
Vini, Vidi, Velcro
I came, I saw, I stuck around

Let me know what you think of my little blog. I’ve been having a lot of fun working on it and love sharing my insights with everyone. Please share it with your wine buddies! And time for an announcement! Along with the Blog, I think that a website for Vegaswineaux is in order and have been working on it. The website will be http://www.vegaswineaux.com. It’s not up yet, and all you’ll get now is a generic page.

More next week on what will be on the website and stuff about wine club allocations.

Stay tuned …

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