This is a special time of year for wine lovers. With the harvest underway, the season is ripe with possibility and anticipation of finding new favorites. That’s especially true for Las Vegas valley oenophiles this year, with the arrival of new tasting rooms, stores and restaurants specializing in a wide variety of varietals. From recently relocated winemakers who plan to make and sell specialty offerings to aficionados curating small-batch selections imported from around the world, here’s a look at some of the latest additions to the wine scene.
A fruitful enterprise
For Barbara and John DiVirgilio, the wine business started accidentally. Before Christmas 2011, they made 30 bottles of Kiwi Pearana, a pear wine, for family and friends. Requests for more came pouring in.
“It was getting kind of expensive,” Barbara said. They were living near Pittsburgh then, and enjoyed touring wineries. An Ohio tour included some mom-and-pop operations, and on the way home, John said: “We can do this.”
Pine Hollow Winery was born in 2015. The couple produced about 500 gallons a year, but the competition was stiff.
“Breweries, distilleries and wineries were popping up like 7-Elevens,” Barbara said.
While visiting relatives in Las Vegas, the DiVirgilios toured some wineries and discovered there were only a handful in the state.
They relocated to Las Vegas in January 2019, and now are re-establishing Pine Hollow in an office complex near Rainbow and Charleston boulevards. There they plan to produce 15 wines, most based on fruits such as blueberries, strawberries and oranges, along with a merlot. They will use Niagara and noiret grapes shipped from a vineyard in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“Not a lot of wineries are doing it,” Barbara said of the fruit wines.
A tasting room is planned, with wine at $7 or $8 a glass and $16 to $26 per bottle. They hope to open by late fall, in time for the Christmas rush.
“I want to cater to local people,” John said, “give them a place to go.”
7018 W. Charleston Blvd.
Sip and survey the scene
If this just isn’t the year for a tour of France timed to the grape harvest, a visit to The Local in Henderson may be the next best thing. Li Hsun Sun and Chris Connors, owners of nearby Mi Gusta Tacos, opened it last summer after realizing Henderson needed a place for grape lovers to gather, sample and learn. Like beverage director Rafael Garcia, the two are veterans of Strip resorts.
The Local’s focus is on labels not normally found in the area, such as Henri Bourgeois Sancerre or Domaine Charbonniere Chateauneuf-du-Pape by the glass.
Garcia’s affinity for French vintners has landed quite a number of them on the wine list. Wines by the glass cost $9 to $24; bottles go for $36 to $575, with most costing $40 to $59. Bottles are 50 percent off from 5 p.m. to closing Mondays through Wednesdays. Cocktails, beer and non-alcoholic choices also are available.
Meat and cheese trays, a caprese salad and a panini with Calabrese salami, prosciutto, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and rosemary aioli are among menu offerings.
Design elements include an Instagram-worthy wall and wine chillers made from Fountains of Bellagio lighting canisters, which they discovered at their welder’s, who powder-coated them for reuse. The bar area is in the rear, while the front room has a narrow table behind a slide-up door that can be opened to evening breezes. It’s the perfect spot to unwind after work or shopping.
“It’s a great place to people-watch,” Garcia said.
2240 Village Walk Drive, Henderson, drinkeatlocal.com
Drink outside the box
The wine world is overflowing with tiny regions that make great wines.
So says Mario Enriquez, who with fellow Strip veteran Eric Prato opened Garagiste Wine Room & Merchant in November in the Arts District.
The two certified sommeliers wanted to offer locals wines by small producers that don’t get the attention they deserve on the Strip because of the volume required by big resorts.
“We shared a goal of wanting to bring wines to the city that were outside the box,” Prato said. They also were intent on offering wines at lower cost than is common on the Strip. Most bottles range from $60 to $80. Their most inexpensive bottle is $38, with by-the-glass prices as low as $17. Retail pricing is half that of on-site sales, with discounts for six and 12 bottles.
To complement the wine, they serve platters of cured meats and cheeses.
Garagiste’s name originated as a term for iconoclastic winemakers who didn’t adhere to regional regulations and produced wine in their garages, but it later acquired a positive connotation.
“Some made great wine,” Enriquez said.
Their Arts District location is finished in sleek expanses of soothing grays with brick columns, echoing those on the exterior. A wall of wines behind the bar is the focal point.
“We wanted to make it comfortable. Wine can be intimidating,” Prato said. “That’s why we wear T-shirts and jeans.”
Their casual approach includes talking to customers about the wines and why they like them. One of their recent favorites is Fabien Jouves, from southeastern Bordeaux.
“That’s a perfect example,” Prato said, of wines that further the mission.
197 E. California Ave., garagistelv.com
‘Killer wines,’ savory dishes
A new wine and tapas spot landing this fall in Tivoli Village at the former Ada’s will spotlight small-batch wines and customer preferences noted at James Trees’ other restaurants.
Trees is the James Beard-nominated chef/owner of Esther’s Kitchen and upcoming Tivoli Village restaurant Scuola Vecchia, “old school” in Italian, set for the spot vacated by Brio. At Ada’s Wine Bar, he plans to bring in wines in lots as small as two or three cases.
“There will be a rotating list and rotating cellar, which will be totally different than the big shops,” Trees said. “Only certified sommeliers will be on the floor. We feel there’s a massive gap in that market.”
Most bottles will fall in the $15 to $300 range, with an emphasis on value. “You might be used to a certain Alexander Valley cabernet, but we might have one from across the street at a fraction of the price.”
He expects to serve about 10 different tapas. Ada’s also will offer concierge service for those seeking a curated experience — perhaps for a dinner party.
“It’s all really fun stuff,” Trees said. “The one thing that wine geeks love more than anything is knowing something that their wine geek friend doesn’t. There are wines from India and China that are coming out that are killer, but they don’t find a place in our market.”
Trees is working to change that.
Tivoli Village, 400 S Rampart Blvd, Las Vegas