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[Bar Exam]

Wine man walking

Bringing the tasting to the streets

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Good to the last drop.
Photo: Iris Dumuk

When wine connoisseurs think of great places for their beverage of choice in the western United States, several locales come to mind. There’s the Santa Ynez Valley in central California. There’s Napa Valley in northern California. There’s Green Valley in … Henderson, Nevada?

Well, Henderson may not have any massive vineyards or world-renowned wineries, but for its fourth consecutive summer, the Wine Walk has returned to Vegas, and has come for the first time to The District at Green Valley Ranch. At each monthly event, you can sample 20 wines for $30—with all proceeds going to New Vista Community, a charity providing support to the disabled. So whether you’re an aspiring sommelier looking to practice, or you just want to get drunk for a good cause, the Wine Walk offers something for everyone.

It’s a lovely if somewhat scorching Friday evening in Henderson when I pull into Green Valley Ranch. I find a spot near the parking garage, only a short stroll away from Main Street, where the event is held. After receiving my tasting glass and a tasting card decorated with 20 little wine-glass images to be hole-punched at each tasting station, I’m ready to punch in and go to work.

Already underway, the event has drawn a respectable crowd. The casually well-dressed tasters appear to be broken down into two camps. There are the older couples, lined up two by two at each tasting station, and then there’s the younger crowd, who tend to hunt their grape nectar in packs of four or six. I’m paired off with my girlfriend, which makes us the youngest members of the older crowd. We begin at Station 1 on the eastern end of the street with an ounce of Jekel Pinot Noir. It’s sharp, very tannic, with sort of a fruity finish. (Can you tell I’ve been reading Wine for Dummies?)

With glasses of Jekel Cabernet from the adjoining table, we move on to the line for Station 3’s Sangiovese. Everyone quickly settles into a routine. We get our wine sample, move on to the next station and sip our glasses until we reach the head of the line for the next pour. It’s the wino equivalent of chain smoking.

My girlfriend draws my attention to the gorgeous hues in the sky, commenting that beautiful sunsets are one of the perks of living in Las Vegas. Then she immediately takes refuge from the heat by standing directly under one of the misters that are fastened to every tree. The sunsets may be a perk, but the sun itself is definitely a drawback.

By the time we’ve made it halfway down the street, the sun has set, the live cover band is belting out their reinvention of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and we’ve got respectable buzzes going. We’ve already had 10 one-ounce tastings of wine. The full 20 adds up to about four-fifths of a bottle, and since that’s a lot to drink on an empty stomach, we decide to swing by Elephant Bar on Main Street’s western end for a quick bite. The local retailers and eateries must love the captive audience the Wine Walk draws in.

After sushi and salad, we return to a much cooler street and all of its nocturnal animals. Wine lovers also seem to be dog lovers, and dozens of small to medium-sized canines weave their way through the crowd, tasking their owners to keep up. We debate about which pooch is the cutest.

Sampling only a few of the remaining wines, we decide to call it a night and leave the other tasters to their revelry—and at this point, it has certainly become that. So my last glass is a sweet tooth-appeasing Incognito Viognier. The rest of my card’s wine glasses will go un-hole-punched, but there’s no need to overdo it. The next Wine Walk will be held on August 16, with a whole new roster of wines to sample. And even though it’s a far shorter drive home from Green Valley wine country than from the Santa Ynez Valley, it’s still best to make it a safe one.

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Matthew Scott Hunter

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