LAS VEGAS – To celebrate its 40th anniversary and pioneering visionaries, UNLVino, Nevada’s original wine festival, will host the largest Grand Tasting celebration in its history. The event will introduce a completely re-imagined, immersive culinary experience that brings together the best of the Las Vegas community.

The Founders’ Grand Tasting will take place Saturday, April 12 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., concluding four evenings of festivities surrounding UNLVino’s milestone anniversary. The indoor-outdoor festival will be held in its new home downtown at the Keep Memory Alive Events Center at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and spill out into the breezeway, art garden and under the stars to accommodate thousands of guests, hundreds of premium beverages, 20 local restaurants, two live entertainment stages, a beer garden, sake village and interactive community art project.

Founded in 1974, UNLVino has continued Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada’s (SWS of NV) mission to raise millions of scholarship dollars for UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration. The time-honored tradition has brought in $1.1-million dollars in the last 13 years alone, creating more than 600 scholarships for deserving young individuals.

Top 8 Reasons You Should Attend the Founders’ Grand Tasting:

1. THE MEN OF THE HOUR. UNLVino’s founders – Dean Emeritus of UNLV's Hotel College, Dr. Jerry Vallen and SWS of NV Senior Managing Director Larry Ruvo  will be honored by university students with the Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence for their commitment to education and Las Vegas’ hospitality industry at 8:20 p.m. on the Main Stage. 

2. FOUNDERS’ FEAST. With a continued focus on creating a fabulous experience for locals by locals, the Grand Tasting will feature cuisine from favorite venues throughout Las Vegas including Big Sur Oyster Bar, Binion’s Ranch Steakhouse, Mercadito Las Vegas, Oscar’s Steakhouse, Portofino, Sambalatte, Spiedini & Chef Gustav Mauler, Tacos & Tequila, The Siegel Group & Rumor Boutique Hotel andWestin Lake Las Vegas.UNLV culinary students will showcase eight outdoor food offerings and two indoor buffet stations plus passed canapés in the KMA Event Center. These delicious specialties will include a seafood station, skewers, pizza, charcuterie and pastries.

3. SAKE VILLAGE. Among the immersive themed experiences that characterize the re-invented Grand Tasting, UNLVino will introduce a Sake Village featuring Japanese spirits and sake including TY KU, Hatsumago Junmai Daiginjo, KIRI, and Shimizu-no-mai and several more; food from multiple Asian-inspired restaurants including Aburiya Raku, Jasmine, Shibuya and Zenshin; and beats by DJ TATIANA from FNOM Worldwide within the setting of a Zen Garden. 

4. BEER GARDEN. A beer garden will feature the best breweries from around the country including Brooklyn Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head and Anchor Brewing, among others. Local food trucks such as Engine 1 Pizza and SausageFest will delight hungry guests as they mingle with SWS of NV’s renowned team of Cicerones – the beer world’s answer to a sommelier. 

5. VINO & GOOD SPIRITS. Hundreds of selections from more than 80 premium beverage suppliers will be offered at the event from the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Freixenet, Inglenook, C. Mondavi & Family, Far Niente, Riboli Family Wines, Banfi Vintners, Ferrari-Carano, Gerard Bertrand, Delicato Family Vineyards, Sazerac, Sauza, Avion and many more. In addition to serving wine, beer, spirits and sake, the Founders’ Grand Tasting will feature a cocktail presentation from SWS of NV’s Executive Director of Mixology Francesco Lafranconi.

6. ECLECTIC ENTERTAINMENT. An exciting and diverse lineup of top local entertainment will take place on two stages this year. The Main Stage, under the stars, will be flanked by the neon lights of resurrected vintage Vegas hotel signs and will feature a set by hometown favorite Franky Perez with his band The Dirty, as well as music from popular classic rock tribute act Yellow Brick Road and the UNLV Symphonic Winds. Performances on the stage inside the KMA Event Center will include the UNLV Jazz Quartet and UNLV Acoustic Guitar Trio. A flair bartender duo – including world champion Christian Delpech from D Bar at the D Las Vegas and his brother Rodrigo – will entertain guests on both stages.  

7. IMMERSIVE ARTS. Immersing guests in Las Vegas’ culture, the Founders’ Grand Tasting will include booths by local artists Jessica Galindo, Joseph Watts, Lil’ Art Bodega, Niki J Sands andWorking Girls Design, Inc., with proceeds of sales going to the scholarship fund. Additionally, an interactive community project – The Wishing Tree an immortalized tree from International Treescapeswill be adorned with guests’ personalized wine corks to commemorate the 40th UNLVino. 

8. A SIP FOR SCHOLARSHIP. In addition to funds raised through ticket sales, two auctions will support the UNLVino Scholarship. The live auction, emceed by 98.5 KLUC’s Chet Buchanan, will be held on the Main Stage, with exciting packages including a staycation at Wynn Las Vegas; luxury suite at a UNLV Runnin’ Rebels basketball game; two-night stay at a winery in Napa Valley; and pop artist Romero Britto’s original UNLVino 40th anniversary painting. A silent auction will take place throughout all four days via mobile bidding app GiveSmart; guests can register for GiveSmart when they purchase tickets at or at any of the events. 

Tickets for the 40th UNLVino Founders’ Grand Tasting are available for $125 in advance, $150 at the door. Guests also can take advantage of UNLVino’s incredible ‘Pick Two’ package, which invites them to purchase tickets to their two favorite UNLVino events for a total of $199 (plus tax + processing). Use promo code GRAPES at to purchase a ‘Pick Two’ package.  

Complimentary valet or self-parking will be available at the neighboring World Market Center. Designated Drivers, Inc. will be stationed within the WMC parking lot at no additional cost for attendees.  

UNLVino is differentiated through unparalleled, hands-on student experiences at all levels of event planning, execution and promotion, as well as the impactful funds raised each year – all testaments to the celebratory weekend’s broader purpose – scholarship. 

For more information, visit or call 877.413.VINO (8466).

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Media Contacts

Rachel Feinberg / Natalie Mounier

Kirvin Doak Communications

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