“Dogfish Head? What on earth is Dogfish Head?” I eyed the bottles of beer in ice when I finally found Booth 35. I’d wandered through the maze of white tents in the sprawling parking lot for nearly 10 minutes before I spotted it.
When I got the e-mail asking if I wanted to work the UNLVino wine tasting, I was thrilled. It’s one of my favorite things to do — pour wine and talk to people. And this wasn’t just any old wine tasting, this was the one honoring the founders of UNLVino on its 40th anniversary. “Big doin’s” as my grandmother used to say.
I first went to UNLVino some 30 years ago when the tickets were $25 and it was a 3 hour event at the Thomas & Mack arena. The tickets now start at $125 for each event and there are 4 nights of events.
Because the tasting was at the Lou Ruvo Brain Clinic I was anticipating a pretty small group of VIPs. I mean, it’s not a large building. I polished my old black shoes to within an inch of their lives, filed and buffed my fingernails, checked my clean white shirt to make sure the cuffs were immaculate and ironed it smooth as silk. The black pants are cat-hair-magnets. I hung them on the clothes line and for nearly 20 minutes went over them with the lint-mitt and Scotch tape to get every last cat hair off.
In the past couple of years I’ve learned that when the report time is 5:30 that means “between 5:30 and 6:00.” In the past I’ve been ultra-punctual, reporting in at precisely the right time only to find I was the first person and had to wait for another 30 minutes for everyone to finally arrive. Still, I figured if I left home at 5:15 I would be there in plenty of time. And I was. Sort of.
The parking lot at the Ruvo Brain Clinic was full of white tents. The long line of cars was being directed past the institute to the parking lot behind the Smith Center. Ugh. A long walk. In the wind. The wind totally rearranged my hair; I probably looked like a witch. AND I had actually spent time on my makeup instead of the quick brush of the blush and a swipe of eye shadow. At least the wind couldn’t rearrange my eyeliner!
So by the time I got there, I was “fashionably late,” with at least 8 servers clustered around and I realized this was not going to be the elegant, intimate event I had imagined. I looked around at the 100 or so tents, smelled the food cooking, watched the porters carting bags of ice and trundling cases of wine and said, “this looks like The Grand Tasting.” “It is,” one of the others answered. Swell.
The rest of the evening went pretty much downhill from there. Not that I didn’t have a good time — I did. Just not what I expected.
This year they had beer and sake, too. They shuffled me through 4 booths before I landed at “Dogfish Head.” The saving grace was that the young man from UNLV who was working the booth really did know about beer. He knew beer like I know wine. So I held the plastic cups as he poured whatever people asked for.
“We have thre IPAs, a wheat beer and a dark beer,” I parroted after listening to Jack a few times. Each time someone asked a question, I just smiled and looked at Jack who knew all the answers.
And between customers, I sampled some of the wares. I decided I liked the Aprihop which really did have a nice apricot flavor on the finish. And wonder of wonders, their “61” was infused with Syrah. Oh, yum! So I got to do a little wine tasting after all.
And judging from the hundreds — maybe even a couple of thousand — of people strolling around, there should be a lot of UNLV students getting scholarships. I’ll drink to that any day!