There are many things to look forward to during springtime in Las Vegas: the beautiful, 80 degree days, St. Patrick’s Day, spring break, blooming flora and fauna, and I’m sure you can think of many more. However, in the hospitality world, there are a few more items to add to the list, such as the Bellagio Conservatory decorations for the spring and the openings of hotel pools. One event in particular, which is a partnership between education and the hospitality industry, would be that of UNLVino, which also happens to be every spring.

UNLVino was founded in 1974 and continues to be as a partnership between UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration and Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada. Last year was a big year for them, marking the 40th year of this monumental event dedicated to “sipping for scholarship,” as they say. For over forty years now, both organizations have raised an enormous amount of money dedicated to the academic improvement of the Harrah Hotel College and its students, along with student scholarships. The event works in conjunction with a senior capstone course which allows students the opportunity to apply their academic careers in a hands-on culminating experience. Students participate in everything from start to finish, from planning and promotion, to management and execution of the event, including the recruitment and training of the hundreds of student volunteers recruited for the three-day event. This year, festivities will take place April 16th, 17th and 18th, with Bubble-Licious sparkling wine, Sake Fever sake, and UNLVino wine and other miscellaneous beverages.

Each year, the events showcase and honor a special guest based on his/her contributions to the F&B/hospitality industry. This year, we honor three very influential people: Daniel Boulud, Don Snyder and Steve Martorano. Below is a brief introduction to the honored guests, as well as their responses to being recognized at UNLVino.


Daniel Boulud Bubble-Licious Honoree

Daniel Boulud is a world-acclaimed chef who made his name in New York City with his many signature Boulud restaurants such as Café Boulud, Épicerie Boulud, Maison Boulud and DANIEL, just to name a few. In Las Vegas, Boulud opened db Brasserie at The Venetian, which serves contemporary French cuisine, and he has additional restaurants all around the world, from the east to west coast of the United States, and throughout Europe and Asia.

In addition to restaurants, Boulud has authored a number of books, his most recent being My Best: Daniel Boulud, and one of my favorites, Letters to a Young Chef, in which he gives advice to aspiring chefs.

As if he weren’t busy enough, Boulud is also an avid supporter of Citymeals-on-Wheels, serving as the co-president, and is the chairman of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation. His many accolades include James Beard awards for Outstanding Chef and Outstanding Restaurateur.

Boulud shares his joy in giving back to Las Vegas with LVFNB Professional: “This award is truly special to me, as I’m grateful to play a role in Las Vegas’ culinary community. The students of UNLV’s Hotel College are inspiring, and their hard work and dedication to the industry is a promising sign for the future of the city and beyond.”

Don Snyder Sake Fever Honoree

What do you say about the man whose resume reads like the bio of a philanthropic genius with a good head for business and a natural instinct as a leader? Having personally met the man when he was the dean of the Harrah Hotel College, I can honestly say that Don Snyder is an extremely down to earth person who genuinely cares for his numerous foundations and causes, many of which have direct impact to Las Vegas and greater Nevada.

Snyder has worked in multiple industries in senior and executive roles, from commercial banking, to gaming, to education, and who knows what else? He was formerly the president of UNLV, and currently serves as the presidential advisor for strategic initiatives for UNLV. His strategic plans involve projects such as the proposed Harrah Hotel College academic building, UNLV’s School of Medicine and the proposed on-campus stadium.

Prior to his major involvement with UNLV however, Snyder already had many achievements and accolades to his name. Perhaps one of his greatest contributions to the arts was serving as the chairman and fundraiser for The Smith Center for Performing Arts, which has proven to be a great addition to Las Vegas. In addition, Snyder has also served on the boards of numerous companies, non-profit organizations, legislative commissions, etc.

Additional contributions to the state include his service as CEO and Chairman of the Board of the First Interstate Bank of Nevada, co-founding the Bank of Nevada, President of Boyd Gaming, and— yet another huge contribution to the community and city—head of development for the Fremont Street Experience project, just to name a few.

With his exhaustive list of community service and outreach efforts to improve Las Vegas in the past three decades, it is no wonder that he has received numerous accolades, such as Distinguished Nevadan 2003, Nevada Business Hall of Fame inductee, President’s Medal recipient 2003, and the 2013 Philanthropist of the Year by presented by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

And yet, despite his tireless work throughout the community, Snyder still finds time to support the university. “I am truly proud of what Larry Ruvo and Jerry Vallen did when they created UNLVino more than 40 years ago. I am equally amazed at the growth and impact I have watched during my 27 years in Las Vegas. The effort which the students put into this event is incredibly inspiring. UNLVino has raised over $2 million for scholarships over the years. The combination of student engagement in this remarkable program and the scholarships it has provided means that UNLVino has played an integral role in UNLV’s Hotel College becoming one of the strongest in the world.”

Steve Martorano Grand Tasting Honoree

Steve Martorano is an example of a man who beat the odds and proved that persistence and hard work truly pays off. He grew up in South Philadelphia, raised by family members who were either barely making a living or involved in the mob. Martorano decided back then he didn’t want to follow in his family’s footsteps, and began his path towards celebrity chef status. In the 70s he tried his hand at deejaying, but ended up running a successful sandwich shop that eventually transitioned into a freestanding restaurant.

After running into some rough times during the economic downturn in the early 90s, Martorano decided to move and open up a restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, FL called Café Martorano. This one decision spurred on the revolution that is Steve Martorano. Since his first restaurant opening on Oakland Park Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale, Martorano has opened up an additional four locations, with two in Las Vegas Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino and Paris Hotel & Casino.

Martorano has supplemented his restaurant business with a long list of other products, such as wine, pasta sauces, jewelry, apparel and books. Known as the “Godfather of Italian-American cooking,” Martorano is known for creating a unique atmosphere that caters to a diverse consumer base, from regular folks to famous celebrities. The restaurants have even been showcased on TV shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Real Housewives of Miami. Martorano has really come a long way from his entrepreneurial sandwich business to his Martorano brand today.


Now that you know all about the honorees, it’s time to introduce the events! This year, in addition to the three events being held, there are VIP Experiences available for each night, with two tickets to each respective event. These lavish experiences will feature everything from celebrity chef introductions to personal butler service. Below is a listing of each evening’s event and festivities, along with a description of the VIP Experiences available for sale:


Where: The Venetian Las Vegas’ Doge’s Palace Plaza

When: Thursday, April 16, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

What: Champagne and sparkling wine focus, with small bites from The Venetian and Palazzo’s restaurant venues

How Much: $125 in advance, $150 at the door

Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence Honoree: Chef Daniel Boulud

VIP Experience Package $1000: Meet and greet with Chef Daniel Boulud, Bubble-Licious event tickets for two, multi-course dinner at db Brasserie with an autographed cookbook, followed by a one-night stay at The Venetian Las Vegas.

Sake Fever

Where: Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa

When: April 17, 7-10 p.m.

What: Sake, Japanese spirits and cocktails, featuring Master Mixologists Francesco Lafranconi and J.R. Starkus from SWS, along with delectables from the city’s top restaurants and a live performance by Frank & Deans Rat Pack tribute band

How Much: $100 in advance, $125 at the door

Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence Honoree: Don Snyder

VIP Experience Package $750: Dinner at Hearthstone Kitchen and Cellar at Red Rock Casino Resort, Sake Fever tickets for two in a private pool cabana with VIP butler service, and a one-night stay at Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa.

Grand Tasting

Where: Paris Las Vegas

When: Saturday, April 18th, 7-10 p.m.

What: Premium beverages wines, spirits and beers, live entertainment with a performance by Frankie Moreno and an assortment of cuisine made by UNLV’s Hotel College Students and participating Las Vegas restaurants

How Much: $125 in advance, $150 at the door

Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence Honoree: Steve Martorano

VIP Experience Package $1000: Dinner at Martorano’s, meet and greet with Steve Martorano, photos and cookbook signing, Grand Tasting tickets for two and a one-night stay at Paris Las Vegas

For more information or to purchase tickets for this star-studded, lavish F&B filled event, visit or call 877 413-VINO 8466.

With so many great themes, locations, eats, and drinks, how can you resist? Even better, the event benefits students of our very own Harrah Hotel College. Plus, with Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada as sponsors, we know it will be good party. There’s still time to purchase tickets for the event coming up April 16-18… I hope to see you there!

Until next month’s return of Wine Talk…


Alice Swift

*Content sourced from:, and Kirvin Doak Communications