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UNLVino set to kick off four days of tastings April 18

Helping out struggling college kids is seldom so savory.

The 39th annual UNLVino is expanding this year to four days of tasting events, scheduled for April 18-21. Tickets are available at unlvtickets.com. A discounted passport package is $350 and offers entry to all four tastings.

Proceeds from the events will benefit the scholarship fund for the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. For more information, visit unlvino.com.

Planned tastings are:

–– Bubble-Licious, scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. April 18 at The Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South. It will feature champagnes, sparkling wines, champagne cocktails and food from several of The Venetian’s restaurants. Tickets are $125 in advance or $150 at the door.

–– Sake Fever, scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. April 19 at the pool at The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. South. It will feature imported and domestic sakes and beers with Asian cuisine. Tickets are $100 in advance or $125 at the door.

–– The Grand Tasting, the main event, scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. April 20 at Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South. It is UNLVino’s only student-run event and will feature international wines, specialty beers, cocktails and food prepared by UNLV culinary students. Tickets are $125 in advance or $150 at the door.

–– BAR-b-q, this year’s new addition, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21 at the event center at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health, 888 W. Bonneville Ave. It will feature cocktails from mixologist Francesco Lafranconi and food from celebrity chefs Charlie Palmer, Scott Conant and Gustav Mauler. Tickets are $100 in advance or $125 at the door.

UNLVino also will recognize four leaders in the hospitality industry with its Dom Perignon Award of Excellence during the four events. Recipients are celebrity chef Thomas Keller, chef and TV personality Masaharu Morimoto, Culinary Institute of America Trustee Elizabeth Blau and MGM Grand Chief Operating Officer Scott Sibella.

The events are made possible by hundreds of volunteers and donations of food and alcohol by local businesses, including Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada.

A class of about 25 UNLV students is responsible for the Grand Tasting, which is expected to draw more than 5,000 people. Students are split into teams that cover the food, marketing, event management and more. For the first time, the class partnered with an outside public relations firm, Kirvin Doak Communications, to help teach students and promote the event.

One of those students, senior Charra Montenegro, worked for years as a bartender, server and hotel administrator but had not worked on the marketing side.

“The whole entire experience seems to encompass different aspects of the hospitality industry,” she said. “We don’t look at (public relations) and marketing as a central focus of hospitality, but it definitely contributes to it. … It’s something I wouldn’t be able to experience anywhere. It’s a great learning experience.”

Students also spend much of the semester recruiting between 300 and 400 volunteers –– mostly UNLV students –– to help run the event.

Jean Hertzman, UNLVino culinary director and assistant dean of operations for the hotel college, has been teaching the class for about 15 years. She said the food has been significantly upgraded in the past five years because donations have increased.

“In the past, we pretty much just did the cheese and meat and fruit trays,” she said. “… We have zero budget for the food, basically. Our culinary donors and sponsors, we depend on them.”

Culinary students hosted a recipe tasting event March 14 for their peers and professors to preview the Grand Tasting cuisine. Students prepared about 30 dishes, including seafood, sliders, sandwiches and Asian cuisine.

Senior Adrien Camposano is a chef at Le Thai, 523 Fremont St., and said he hopes to open his own restaurant eventually. He elected to take the class because “it seemed to be one of the ones where you can really have a lot of hands-on and real-life experience.”

“I’ve worked at restaurants for a few years, but having to prepare for at least 5,000 people, that’s a challenge, and it’s a good experience,” he said.

Some of Camposano’s dishes available at the Grand Tasting will be a Peruvian ceviche in the seafood station and a “spiced up” cucumber salad at the Asian station. He also recommends the Southwestern tuna tartare.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 702-224-5524.

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