Las Vegas is a city of strange bedfellows: Forbes Travel Guide star-rated chefs and all-you-can-eat buffets; water park and desert; mayor and mob. But if you think the right pairing for that smoky pinot noir is a demure concerto, then you haven’t experienced Las Vegas’ best idea since, well, Las Vegas.
Rock ’n Roll Wine’s eighth annual Wine Amplified Weekend pops its cork September 6 with Bubbles & Chocolate at Mandalay Bay’s Moorea Beach Club, pairing Moët & Chandon champagnes with outrageously chocolaty desserts as well as live performances by Collective Soul and Vertical Horizon. The main event moves to Mandalay Bay Beach on September 7 for the Wine Amplified Festival, a headliner with more than 190 wines, a small-plates zone and, of course, the beach, where you can wade in the water while catching live sets by Gavin DeGraw, Michael Jackson’s nephew Austin Brown, The X Factor’s Josh Krajcik and Lady Reiko & The Sin City Prophets.
With a mission of making vino more accessible, Rock ’n Roll Wine started in 2003 around a dining room table, where software-execs-turned-wine-enthusiasts Chris Hammond and Sonny Barton would uncork a few bottles, share what they knew and enjoy some fine iPod tunes — and it caught on. When Rock ’n Roll Wine outgrew the house, Hammond and Barton took it to an art studio, then to lounges and nightclubs, and now, their calendar boasts roving weekly happy hours as well as massive annual events, such as the Wine Amplified Weekend, which attracts more than 6,500 wine and rock fans over two nights.
“Limited to only 500 guests, this event has quickly become a favorite among weekend festival goers,” Barton says about Bubbles & Chocolate. This year, the pair has partnered with Mandalay Bay executive pastry chef Christophe Feyt for the desserts portion of the evening. Barton adds, “Most guests won’t know that not only is he the former pastry chef for the prime minister of France, he was recently named one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America by Dessert Professional magazine.”
New this year is the launch of Rock ’n Roll Wine’s smartphone app, which will allow attendees to highlight their favorite wines, rate them and make personal notes for later. “It also allows us to see how users are ranking wines, so we can get a feel for what is popular and what’s not,” Hammond says.
Something that will not change, however, is the pressure on this duo to pull off an affair that combines the intricacies of a two-day multi-headliner concert with the potential logjam that is a two-day wine event.
“One of the things that people don’t understand is how hard it is to turn over an 11-acre beach from a partying oasis of 3,000 sunbathers to a wine-and-music aficionado’s paradise in less than two hours,” Hammond says. “It’s by far the most stressful part of the festival for us. We have to clear the beach, put planks down on the sand, set up over 50 winery tables, deliver 275 cases of wine, ice down the white wines, hang signage and sound-check five bands — all in less than two hours. Sonny and I are wound tighter than a drum, and only when the headliner finally takes the stage can we breathe a little easier.”
Photos Courtesy of Rock ‘n Roll Wine