Monday, January 16, 2017

shawndrinkswine goes to Vegas

Always travel with your own wine.  Repeat:  Always travel with your own wine.

Recently my husband had to attend a 4 day Leadership Seminar in Vegas.  The company booked him a room at The Venetian and paid his air fare.  I was not about to pass up the chance to tag along for the price of one ticket to Vegas and an albeit unnecessary but highly desirable room upgrade.

The Venetian boasted a "Wine Lover's Experience" with the many restaurants by celebrity chefs offering an impressive selection of wine by the glass.  I was stoked.  I was giddy at the anticipation of eating and drinking my way through the resort.

Shawn was trapped in meetings and lectures during the days but had evenings free to spend with me.

At check-in we upgraded to a room on the 33rd floor with a beautiful view of the strip.  I was feeling the excitement and began looking for a glass of wine.  

Don't judge.

Shawn suggested we take our bags up to the room, refresh from the flight, and then grab a drink and a bite. I agreed.

We tried a couple bars close to the casino floor and realized the best wine by the glass I was going to find at a bar was Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon, not a wine I would buy a bottle of, but given the other options, it really was the drinkable choice. We grabbed a glass of wine and set out in search of a quick meal. By the time we were getting hangry (hungry+angry) we were standing in front of Buddy V's Ristorante.  I had a pretty good cheese and charcuterie plate.

 A long first evening of wine and gambling followed.

Day 2:

Today started out with coffee and shopping.  A brisk walk through the Venetian, through the Grand Canal Shoppes, through The Palazzo, out onto the street, and over the skybridge in front of The Wynn to grab Starbucks and hit the mall.

I love a good sale almost as much as a great wine!  Almost.

On my walk back Shawn called and they had a break for lunch and he wanted to meet up.  We settled on Yardbird Southern Table & Bar.  Shawn had an open faced chicken salad sandwich and I ordered a salad.  The salad was good but Shawn did not eat his chicken salad sandwich.  I had a glass of... you guessed it Layer Cake Cabernet.  A disappointing lunch in Vegas.
Lunch at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
I was determined to have a better meal and find better wine.  After watching the hotels food channel I made dinner reservations at Carnevino.

  • "world class sommeliers and 90 day dry-aged steaks.With incredible meats and beautiful wines, the name says it all for this brainchild of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich."
I was excited to get a good steak in a world class restaurant.  The excitement did not last long.  Based on my experience there, I do not understand how Carnevino consistently wins any awards whatsoever.  There was no plating or presentation of the steak.  It was burnt and extremely dried out (no natural juices or sauce) and sitting on a naked plate. The sides were delivered to the table in their own containers for us to dish ourselves and consisted of mashed potatoes with slices of what appeared to be those thin pre-cooked bacon slices you can buy in boxes in grocery stores, some charred brussels sprouts, and the most edible part of the meal, the bread.  The wine made no impression on me whatsoever as I cannot recall what I had other than it was a red.

I was so totally turned off by the steak I filled out a comment card stating my problem with the food and inviting the Chef and Mario Batali to come to Napa and have a Steak Dinner, my treat, so I could show them what a truly first class filet mignon should taste and look like.  I left them my email and phone number.  I'll keep you informed if they reach out to me.

Day 3:

A day of pampering.  I had never had an olde fashioned straight razor shave so after my morning walk, I stopped in at The Art of Shaving located in The Grand Canal Shoppes.  They talked me into their premium shave called "Royal Shave" at $65.  I'm glad I had the experience but again, not something I would do regularly, if ever again.  I loved all the treatments, creams, essential oils, hot towels, etc.  Even the conversation was fun as we talked about our shared love for guitars and wine.  I also bought some nifty things like pre-shave oil and an Alum block.  Now the real:  I get closer shaves with a disposable razor at home.  It was painful.  I don't really recommend.

I wanted a good glass of wine and a nice lunch so I walked over to Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro.   They boasted 60 wines by the glass.  Wow!  I ordered a beet salad and it was absolutely delicious!  The wine list:  I first looked for wines I knew and to my surprise they did have some wines that I personally know to be exquisite.  However, and this is a gigantic "however", they were ridiculously overpriced, and I don't mean restaurant mark-up overpriced I mean ridiculously overpriced.  Example, Silver Oak Alexander Valley 2012 was on the list.  Silver Oak is one of my favorite wineries.  Their 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet was my absolute favorite wine until it ran out (if you have some, contact me).  It was $110 a bottle from the winery.  This, however, was the Alexander Valley, a bottle can be purchased from the winery at a cost of $70 and if you buy it at Wholefoods it runs about $60-$65.  Morels had Silver Oak Alexander Valley 2012 on the menu for $115 per 5 ounce glass.  That is over $500 profit per bottle and it was served via Coravin, so bottle waste and oxidation shouldn't figure prominently into the cost not to mention Morel's most likely bought it at an industry discount.  Shameful.

Lunch at Morels. The beet & apple salad was delicious. There is an excellent wine list however it is incredibly overpriced for what it is. Example: Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet 2012 was $115 per 5 ounce glass. A whole bottle from the winery or purchased from Whole Foods will run you less than $75. (If it was the Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet the price would have been Justified) sell a coravin glass of wine from a $70 bottle for $115 a 5-ounce glass is just robbery. The $18 a glass of merlot that I felt comfortable enough paying for was gross by my standards. Again so this doesn't feel like so much negativity, the salad was amazing. But this isn't shawneatsfood this is shawndrinkswine. #winelover #wine #napalife #vegas #shawndrinkswine #wineblogger #itsaroughlife #wineadvicebyshawn #cheers #foodlover #foodie
A photo posted by Shawn Christopher Mooney (@shawndrinkswine) on
After lunch I walked back through the Grand Canal Shoppes and stopped in for a massage along the way. Once relaxed and feeling better I stopped at Casanova Tapas Bar for a glass of.... you guessed it again, Layer Cake.

This was going to be our last night in Vegas and Shawn had an Awards Banquet to attend which did not include tag-along spouses so I made reservations at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro.  A familiar restaurant and a familiar name.  Thomas has two restaurants in Napa Valley, The French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro.  I love Bouchon Bistro in Napa and eat there anytime I am in the area.  I had a little trepidation about eating there in Vegas given my dining experiences so far.

Bouchon Bistro at The Venetian was every bit as delicious as I have come to expect from a Thomas Keller restaurant.  It was the only saving grace to Vegas' dining life inside the Palazzo and the Venetian resort complex.  The steak (not a filet) was fork tender and juicy. The wine a Frank Family Zinfandel was drinkable.  The ambiance, setting, and service were top notch.  The coffee was perfection.
I wish I had eaten every meal there.

Melted housemade herbed butter

Steak at Bouchon Bistro

I love that there is plenty to do in Vegas besides gambling.  I had to limit my time on the Casino floor because of the cigarette smoke.  Second hand smoke is no bueno for someone that has had 4 heart attacks.  We did gamble a little though.  Luckily the placement of the Silver Strike machine was by the food court so, it seemed less smoky.

If you've never heard of these increasingly rare machines, there is plenty on Google about them, clubs, chatrooms, websites, etc.
This was my takeaway from my first night at The Silver Strike machine.  The coin cases come in blue, red, and clear.  Blue and red are special coins.  While you can save 30 coins and get a 6 troy ounce silver coin from the cashier, I prefer to keep trading them in at $10 per coin.  In 3 days I cashed in 40 coins.

Reading back over this post it seems a tad negative and that wasn't my intention.  Overall it was my best trip to Vegas in my lifetime.  I've come to learn that when you live in Napa, fine dining and exquisite wine are a part of everyday life and it makes it hard to find satisfaction while traveling.  I will make it a point in the future to plan accordingly and try less rigid adherence to my preconceptions of good wine and fine dining.



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