Bellagio art gallery pairs sommelier picks with paintings

Las Vegan Marsha Horwath is no wine expert but she could see, clear as day, that Bellagio’s master sommelier was wrong.

Maybe it was a random choice or a reason she didn’t even consider, but whatever led him to pair sparkling wine with an abstract painting instead of one depicting snow was a mistake. And she let him know.

“I think the two pictures over there are a better match,” Horwath said to sommelier Jason Smith, pointing to artwork that wasn’t part of the discussion during the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art’s monthly Art and Wine event. “One is of snow and water, and champagne is cool to the mouth and refreshing.”

The 29 other attendees laughed; some murmured agreement with Horwath, the moment illustrating that art and wine are perfect mates, both completely subjective and great conversation starters.

The gallery has hosted Art and Wine: A Perfect Pairing since October, says Bellagio art gallery director Tarissa Tiberti. The idea for the event came from an exhibit opening for VIPs, when the sommelier was asked to pair wines with the art. The response was so positive, organizers decided to make it a regular thing.

Wednesdays are locals nights; the gallery is open later and admission is reduced, from $15 to $8 for valley residents. Tiberti hoped that, by hosting Art and Wine on the second Wednesday of each month, it would attract more locals while helping to make art, and wine, more accessible. Tickets cost $30 for gallery members and $38 for nonmembers and include admission and all the wine you want to drink, as well as the chance to meet kindred spirits.

“It’s very easy and open for an individual or group,” Tiberti says. “There’s no pressure or any of that kind of stuff … no dress code. If you don’t want to do art and wine, you can just go in and do the gallery, too.”

People often think wine is stuck up, says Smith, who has been the hotel’s master sommelier since 2005. Art gets a bad rap, too. The goal is to try to change that.

“I always say wine is fun but now I say wine and art are even more fun,” Smith says.

For May’s event, Smith chose three wines — sparkling, white and red – to go with three paintings from the newly installed exhibit “A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney.”

His method for the pairings?

“It’s completely subjective,” he explains. “Whatever moves me.”

He thought the sparkling wine, Jordan Cuvee 20, a California brut, went well with Martha Diamond’s “Black, White & Gray Cityscape No. 2.” The white space in the abstract painting looked to him like an upside-down champagne flute.

Though Horwath, a nurse, didn’t agree, local Amber Geiman did.

“The painting suggests a building up, leading to something,” Geiman says. “I think it’s a great pairing because champagne always leads to something.”

Starved for culture since she moved here from Italy in 2007, Geiman gravitated to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. She has attended almost every Art and Wine event. While her military husband was stationed in Italy for six years, Geiman “did the art and wine thing, which was all the time.”

Though the gallery isn’t nearly as impressive as anything she encountered in Italy, the monthly events give her an opportunity to do three of her favorite things: drink wine, look at art and share her thoughts.

“I have a passion for art but I have a deep love of wine,” says the mother of three.

The next Art and Wine event is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 8. For tickets or more information, contact the Bellagio gallery at 693-7871.

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at or 702-380-4564.

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