The Las Vegas Strip runs red, white and bubbly with seemingly endless wine-drinking possibilities: caviar and sparklers at Fizz in Caesars Palace; chilled Spanish vino blanco served in a traditional pórron at Jaleo in Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Cosmopolitan; and the wine angels who fetch bottles from Aureole’s wine tower in Mandalay Bay. But what if you also crave seclusion, lakeside views or something a little out of the vin ordinaire? Steer clear of the touristy stroll and head straight for these under-the-radar wine spots.
Chada Thai & Wine, Chinatown
Owner-proprietor Bank Atcharawan, creator of the tremendous wine list at Lotus of Siam, has settled on a modest list of 250-300 frequently changing selections for his chic, dimly lit digs. Chinatown’s little wonder refines classic Thai dishes for a more modern eye — try the new charbroiled prawn and eggplant with spicy garlic and lime. But really, the delicious cuisine is just an excuse to go deep into “The Riesling Dude’s” collection of rare German and Austrian wines. Atcharawan says his go-to rieslings include Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett 2009 and Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Kabinett 2012. Just don’t overlook the reds, such as Sicily’s light red Occhipinti Frappato 2012, which pairs beautifully with richer or meaty Thai dishes. Can’t quite decide? Chada has a host of wine-by-the-glass selections as well.
Hostile Grape, South Strip
Don’t let the name fool you — the Four-Star M Resort Spa Casino’s wine bar is as friendly as it comes. Just load up a tasting card with cash and pop it into the Enomatic dispensing system to experience up to 160 wines by the taste, half glass and full glass, or dive into one of more than 400 bottle selections to enjoy there or take with you. This contemporary underground cellar hits all the notes: America, Italy, France, Spain, South Africa and Germany. Happy hour from 7-8 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays includes half-priced appetizers; free live acoustic performances from up-and-coming musicians from 7-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays make it difficult to say good night.
T-Bones Chophouse, Summerlin
Too much is never enough, even off-Strip, where a 7,500-bottle wine loft awaits you at T-Bones. Locals adore Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa’s sleek, modern steakhouse, which pairs filet mignon, fresh seafood with fabulous bottles against a stunning backdrop of western-facing, floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the patio, fire/fountain pit and pool complex. Stack stone, dramatic chandeliers and more fire features inside give the multilevel space a warm, romantic feel. The towering oval center bar is this resort’s social hub, offering a wildly popular happy hour that includes ample wine selections from the monstrous list, as well as cocktails, beer and appetizers, 4-7 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays. Live acoustic music makes Wednesday through Saturday evenings all the more enticing reasons to make the trek west.
Tidy as a ship’s galley, petite Scullery’s mix of brightly whitewashed brick and wood beams wax moody in flickering candlelight after sundown. The bar with the notorious 25-and-over policy was inspired by the way in-home social gatherings gravitate toward the kitchen. Here, as in one’s home, craft cocktail and beer menus are concise, with just a handful of selections, all of them solid. For more variety, by-the-glass wine’s the ticket, with a pleasantly obscure selection that includes cava, prosecco, champagne and a rosé frizant. Chile adds intrigue to the white-wine mix, while California and Washington dominate the reds. Beyond the bar, intimate curtained booths provide some cover while you tuck into heavily laden charcuterie boards: cured meats, cheeses, honeycomb, artisan bread, stoneground mustard and other wine-loving goodies from Scullery’s urban pantry. Think of it as an indoor picnic.
Marché Bacchus French Bistro & Wine Shop, Desert Shores
With 950 wines, you’ll have your work cut out for you, assuming that “work” means plucking a bottle from the shop’s bins (or one of 50-plus by-the-glass options), wandering out to the lakeside patio for lunch, brunch or dinner and throwing your crusts to the swans — a sort of ritual for locals who crave the sight of water. Lake Jacqueline provides the ideal setting for dining alfresco on a traditional and contemporary French and Mediterranean menu recently refreshed by James Beard Award-winning chef Luciano Pellegrini. The wine theme continues indoors with wine-cork art. But the real stroke of genius here is the nominal corkage fee for wines purchased from the adjacent shop. And yes, that includes Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Harlan Estate, Pétrus — you name it. Complimentary wine tastings are held between 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays, and live jazz, acoustic rock and flamenco add romance on weekends. So, to recap: lakeside wining and dining, swans, music and minimal corkage. (If you’re going to swoon now, just do it away from the lake.)
Due Forni Pizza & Wine, Summerlin
There are never less than 40 by-the-glass wines on offer at this contemporary neighborhood favorite specializing in anything that can be cooked in its twin 500- and 900-degree ovens: Neapolitan and Roman-style pizzas, roasted game meats and rustic sides. The bottle list is small, just 15 to 20 labels, many from Italy, natch. If you’re not up on your barolos, brunellos and barbarescos, wine flights showcase common characteristics between varietals, regions and vintages. The Tuscan flight, for example, highlights Super-Tuscan blends, including Tignanello from the famed Antinori family; the Northern Italian flight focuses on the Piedmont and Veneto regions. While the daily happy hour lets you enjoy glasses of a grecanico/chardonnay blend and a Nero d’Avola by Sicily’s Planeta from 4:30-6:30 p.m., the real treasure is buried in the wine list. Prior to Due Forni, owner Alex Taylor helped open the Four-Star Encore at Wynn Las Vegas as its food and beverage director, so he knows what happens to bottle prices on the Strip. Therefore, the generous operator likes to stud his list with deals, such as Napa’s highly allocated Palmaz Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 for the winery-only price of $180 per bottle. “If you even could find it on the Strip, it probably goes for between $300-$400,“ Taylor says. “And nobody pours it by the glass.”
The Wineyard, Downtown
Downtown continue its reign as the place to wine down on Fridays now that El Cortez Hotel & Casino has introduced a weekly pop-up patio, The Wineyard, in founder Jackie Gaughan’s eponymous park across from the venerable casino’s main entrance. To help start your weekend off on the right foot, wooden picnic tables, festive string lights and cedar wine racks will be trotted out from 5 p.m. to midnight to create a charming, laid-back vibe with live music, wines by the glass or bottle, craft beers and an array of charcuterie and cheeses, grilled items and olives for purchase à la carte. Now, still think the desert is dry?