What was once old is new again at this year’s 45th Annual UNLVino: Take a Sip for Scholarship.

This is the largest annual fundraiser for UNLV’s Harrah College of Hospitality, voted the top hospitality program in the nation (QS World University Rankings), beating out Cornell University three years running.

Along with the retrospective-themed celebration to mark UNLVino’s start in 1974, UNLVino is returning to its beloved three events format this year with Bubble-Licious (April 11), Sake Fever (April 12) and the Grand Tasting (April 13). Ticket sales for the events are quickly filling up as the word is spreading about this year’s festivities and honorees. Here is a sneak peek at what this year’s attendees can expect…

The Events: Bubble-Licious, Sake Fever and The Grand Tasting

Guests attending Bubble-Licious at The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health will enjoy a wide variety of wonderful champagnes, sparkling wines and small bites from some of Las Vegas’ favorite restaurants. 

Sake Fever at Red Rock Resort Casino & Spa boasts a fantastic selection of sake styles and producers, Japanese and other Asian spirits and cocktails, and fare from some of the very best Asian-inspired restaurants Vegas has to offer, including the carving of a 300-pound fresh tuna provided by Naked Fish’s Sushi & Grill.

The three-night fundraiser culminates with UNLVino’s signature event: The Grand Tasting. This year’s big event will be held at The Mirage Hotel & Casino, where wine and food fans will imbibe a premium selection of wine, spirits, craft beers and other beverages amid 1970s-themed entertainment. Attendees are encouraged to dress “Disco” and get their groove on. They will enjoy cuisine by Hospitality College students alongside many of the best Las Vegas chefs and restaurants. 

UNLVino, an event “for the students, by the students” of UNLV’s renowned College of Hospitality, will raise money for the school and scholarships. This now iconic Vegas institution was started in 1974 by Southern Wine and Spirits and UNLV. A complete list of participating wineries, chefs and restaurants is available at

The 2019 Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence Honorees are Announced 

This year’s Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence honorees, who have “distinguished themselves by setting an example through their inspirational leadership, character and work ethic,” are Donald Ross, Vice President of Catering, Convention & Events at Caesars Entertainment, who will be recognized at Bubble-Licious; Hae Eun Lee (Mr. Lee), owner of Lee’s Discount Liquor, at Sake Fever; and Nicole Brisson, Eataly Las Vegas Executive Chef, at The Grand Tasting.

Ross, with more than 40 years of experience in hotel, resort and casino management, is a longtime supporter of UNLVino and has been instrumental in properties in Las Vegas and outside the city and Nevada. Ross currently oversees
banquet, catering and conference and meeting services teams at 10 Caesars Entertainment properties.

Mr. Lee, as a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, is a household name in Las Vegas with 23 Lee’s Discount Liquors locations along with those hilariously cheeky billboards. Lee’s nonprofit Lee’s Helping Hand has assisted other nonprofits, including The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Opportunity Village, Blind Center of Nevada, Spread the Word Nevada and New Vista Community.

Brisson, a young pioneer among female chefs on the Las Vegas Strip and the first female to become executive chef of an Eataly in America, has lived and worked in Las Vegas for more than 15 years. Brisson (“Chopped,” “Late Night Chef Fight,” “Action Bronson Munchies,” “Beat Bobby Flay”) became the first chef appointed to Southern Nevada Health District’s board of directors and recently served on the board of Urban Seed Las Vegas.

UNLVino in 2018

Last year’s UNLVino was a fabulous, supersized and one-night-only event at The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health featuring more than 50 celebrated chefs; more than 130 world-class wine, spirits and beer vendors; and honorees Robin Leach, a longtime celebrity journalist, who was lauded with a 21-cork salute; Excalibur President and COO Ann Hoff; and Donald Carano, recipient of the inaugural Dom Perignon Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Last year’s UNLVino also included a release of 1,926 red, white and blue balloons in honor of the late Paul Bocuse’s birth year. Past Dom Perignon Award of Excellence honorees include David Hoenemeyer, Jan Jones Blackhurst, Jerry Vallen, Jon Taffer, Larry Ruvo, Renee West, Robert G. Goldstein, Romero Britto, Scott Sibella, Tony Hsieh and Chefs Brian Massie, Daniel Boulud, Guy Fieri, Masaharu Morimoto, Steve Martorano and Thomas Keller.

From humble beginnings in the Southern Wine & Spirits warehouse, UNLVino has grown into a premier wine, spirits and food event and serves as the year’s largest fundraiser for UNLV’s College of Hospitality. Founded in 1974 by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits Senior Managing Director Larry Ruvo and former College of Hospitality dean Jerry Vallen, UNLVino has raised millions of dollars in scholarships and become one of the city’s must-attend events of the year.

UNLV’s College of Hospitality is consistently ranked as one of the top hospitality programs in the world. Just blocks away from the epicenter of the hospitality industry, the Las Vegas Strip, UNLV hospitality students have unparalleled opportunities to gain hands-on, industry-relevant experience.

Each year the college organizes nearly 600 internships, welcomes more than 100 national hospitality brands to recruitment events, and pairs an average of 175 industry mentors with students. With the recent completion of Hospitality Hall, UNLV’s new, state-of-the-art academic building, students are helping UNLV usher in a new era of excellence in hospitality education.

“UNLVino shines the spotlight on UNLV’s world-class and award-winning William
F. Harrah College of Hospitality and its talented students, who are tomorrow’s leaders,” summed up Michael Severino, Senior Director of Special Events & Marketing at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, a longtime headliner sponsor of UNLVino.

UNLV College of Hospitality

Justin Leung, 22, is a student in UNLV’s College of Hospitality from Atlanta and graduates in May (Leung also is a featured writer in this issue of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional). His primary duty for 2019 UNLVino is overseeing volunteers alongside
three others.

“We are called Volunteer Coordinators and are in charge of recruiting students eligible to participate and assist us with event operations. We will have volunteers at all three UNLVino events: Bubble-Licious, Sake Fever and The Grand Tasting.”

Taking the UNLVino class at UNLV, a course dedicated to planning and executing the annual scholarship fundraiser, has kept Leung busy, as well as inspired him. “My experience has been quite a journey. We have been working hard and taking part in meetings with faculty members. Speakers from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and previous UNLVino student managers have presented to us.

“My journey has been packed and enjoyable. I’m learning how to connect with professionals and the proper way to pitch to all kinds of potential partners. I can’t express how exciting it is being a part of the planning, preparation and execution of UNLVino. My experience in the UNLVino class has been a joyride with diverse and skilled peers. There is much to experience in this year’s event!”

When Leung graduates from UNLV, he plans to participate in The Management Associate Program with MGM Resorts in Food & Beverage. After the program, his goal is to continue learning as a manager in F&B and eventually become an executive in the field.

Tickets for all three events are on sale now and available at UNLVTickets.com:


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Keep Memory Alive Event Center

The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

7 to 10 p.m.; $125 advance/$150 door


Sake Fever

Friday, April 12, 2019

Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa

7 to 10 p.m.; $75 advance/$100 door


The Grand Tasting

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Mirage Hotel & Casino

7 to 10 p.m.; $125 advance/$150 door