Vegas Vibes: Highlights from Wine Spectator’s 2022 Grand Tour Kick-Off


More than 1,000 wine lovers gathered June 4 for Wine Spectator’s first 2022 Grand Tour stop, in Las Vegas, to taste more than 200 outstanding wines from around the world. Crowds were gathered around Orin Swift Cellars‘ booth, tasting the winery’s Eight Years in the Desert red blend. The excitement was further fueled by Wine Spectator’s June 30 issue cover story on Orin Swift founder Dave Phinney.

“Wine lovers are so intrigued by Dave’s story, and this event is an opportunity to connect with them and have conversations about Orin Swift, and tell the stories about all of our wineries,” said Ebony Hurwitz of E. & J. Gallo, which purchased the brand in 2016. “There are so many different levels of wine knowledge here, but everyone is so curious to learn and so eager to ask questions.”

 Portrait of Christian Wylie of Bodega Garzón pouring an Albariño from Uruguay

Coming from Uruguay, Christian Wylie of Bodega Garzón poured the 2021 Albariño Reserva, a wine new to Grand Tour guests. (Jacob Kepler)

The stunning new venue was also a big hit with guests and producers. The first major resort to be built on the Las Vegas Strip in over a decade, Resorts World is a 117,000-square-foot casino with 70,000 feet of shopping and more than 40 restaurants and bars, including a Las Vegas branch of Wally’s, the Beverly Hills wine shop and restaurant that holds a Wine Spectator Grand Award.

“It’s fantastic to be back in Vegas—and such a new spectacular venue—to reconnect with so many friends and meet new ones,” said Christian Wylie, managing director at Bodega Garzón in Uruguay. “We are featuring our 2021 Albariño Reserva for the first time, and it’s amazing to see people’s reactions when they taste it and get to hear from the people who are from this place they may be unfamiliar with.”

 Kevin Buckler holding magnums of Adobe Road

Letting loose in Vegas: Adobe Road winemaker Garrett Martin and CEO Kevin Buckler came ready to party with a 2018 Napa Cabernet from the renowed Beckstoffer Georges III vineyard. (Jacob Kepler)

For Port lover Gerry Basselo of Las Vegas, the highlight of the Grand Tour was the impressive number of Vintage Ports, including Taylor Fladgate 2018, Graham 2016 and Croft 2007. He headed next to the Australian section to taste the 2019 Penfolds RWT Bin 798 and then to South America for the 2018 Catena Zapata Malbec Altamira. “This is our third Grand Tour,” said Basselo’s wife, Marilyn. “My favorite thing about this event is the ability to taste different wines side by side so I can figure out what I like.”

Some returning attendees came with real purpose, discovered Wine Spectator senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec. “I spoke with two guests who were using this as an opportunity to check on wines they have in their own cellars to see how they are aging,” Worobiec said. “One had also brought his new son-in-law to introduce him to his favorite wines; it’s wonderful to see families use the Grand Tour as an opportunity to share their passion with the next generation.”

 Two Grand Tour guests check a map of the tasting floor

Plotting out a strategy: Guests consulted a map of the tasting areas to decide where to head next. (Jacob Kepler)

Others were there just to enjoy and learn. “What I like about this tasting is that I’m not obligated to buy anything. I came to have fun,” said Jan Kowski, a dealer in rare coins from Las Vegas who was there with his friend, Frank Falgiani, also of Las Vegas. “I get to taste great wines and meet people from around the world,” Falgiani agreed. “I generally prefer Italian wines but I was pleasantly surprised by the Torres Priorat Salmos 2017. When you drank it, it tasted like Spain.”

Winery owners were as impressed as attendees with the vast array of wines to experience. “There is an extraordinary range of wines here. It’s amazing and so much fun,” said Rebecca Birdsall, co-founder of Sonoma’s Black Kite Cellars, who was pouring the 2018 Black Kite Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard. “The diversity of styles and regions here is unlike what you will find anywhere else.”

 Portrait of Kendall-Jackson winemaker Randy Ullom

Longtime Kendall-Jackson winemaster Randy Ullon returned to the Grand Tour with a 2019 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from the winery’s Estates Collection. (Jacob Kepler)

“It’s such a great feeling to be back,” said Guarachi Family Wines founder Alex Guarachi. “After a couple of very hard years, people are really excited to taste with us and discover the wines we make.” Gaurachi was pouring his 2018 Meadowrock Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. “As a newer winery, many people are discovering us for the first time at this event, and forming new relationships with wine lovers in person is what I love doing.”

The 2022 Grand Tour makes two more stops, in Washington, D.C., at the Ronald Reagan Building on June 10 and Hollywood, Fla., at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 18. Get your tickets now at

 Portrait of The Vice co-founder and winemaker Malek Amrani pouring a 2019 Napa Cab

A relative newcomer to Wine Spectator events, The Vice co-founder and winemaker Malek Amrani poured a 2019 Napa Cab. (Jacob Kepler)

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