A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 755: Las Vegas Here We Come… and Go


The ultimate American experience

Friday, March 13th: Up at 4:30 am to walk Rosie before leaving for the airport at 5:30 for our trip to Las Vegas. An excellent Air Canada Rouge flight (half empty). As soon as you step off the plane into the airport you are greeted by banks of slot machines.

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Taxied to the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where our room was not ready, so we went to lunch at The Blues Room. On the wall, framed behind glass, was a guitar, owned by Santana, with an embroidered body. Deborah ordered Voodoo Shrimp and I, a BBQ brisket nacho disc. Both were listed under appetizers although they were a full meal in themselves. The wine: Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay 2017.

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After lunch we returned to the front desk to find we had been upgraded to a magnificent suite on the 62nd floor overlooking the pool complex.

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A two-hour nap and then left the hotel to the Zappos Theatre at Planet Hollywood. We had booked tickets for Shania Twayne’s “Let’s Go” concert, the opening night. Not the easiest journey, which involved taking two trams that were not simple to access. To reach the theatre we had to walk through the casino. That seems to be the architectural imperative here – to get anywhere you have to walk through walls of slot machines and card desks in Planet Hollywood.

The show started 40 minutes late. Apparently, Shania had injured her right foot playing football with her dog and couldn’t move freely around the stage. But it was a great show; the production with back projections was fabulous, as were the male dancers. Shania was in great form and the sold-out audience loved her. Took a taxi back to the hotel.

Saturday, March 14th: Hearing from friends back in Canada that anyone who has left Canada and is returning from another county should go into to self-isolation for two weeks!!

Had breakfast in the Penthouse Lounge on our floor. Since we’re in Vegas, decided to gamble. Played the 1 cent slot machines (big gambler). Won $26.45 US (which is about $500 Canadian). Cashed out – not a bad investment for $2.

Then took the tram to the Luxor-Excalibur stop to walk the strip. We were approached by two women in S&M gear toting handcuffs and crops. One of them said to Deborah, “Is he bothering you? We could give him the treatment.” Deborah declined. (Later on the walk we saw them administering punishment to some poor sad sack while his girlfriend? wife? filmed him being administered to.

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Dropped in at Illy for a coffee before proceeding to the Bellagio for lunch at Noodles (deep-fried octopus and very spicy noodle soup, Deborah’s with shrimp, mine with duck).

Dropped into the Bellagio to see the extraordinary Chihuly glass sculpture ceiling in the reception area, and the Chinese Year of the Rat installation in the hotel’s atrium.

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Then off by bus to find the Total Wine store in Town Square. First dropped into Whole Foods, where I purchased bottles of Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($17.99 US), Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay Sonoma Coast $2018 ($19.99) and Jadot Combe aux Jacques Beaujolais-Villages 2015 ($19.99).

Total had a magnificent collection of single malts but not the one I was hoping to find: Edradour in Pitlochry, which used to be the smallest distillery in Scotland – a title now claimed by Strathearn, also in Perthshire. To make me feel better, I picked up a bottle of Le Haut-Módoc de Haut-Bages Libéral 2015 ($29.95 US).

Bussed back to the Mandalay Bay and sat down to a glass of the Whitehaven Sauvignon. Note to self: do not try to drink Sauvignon Blanc immediately after crunching up a Pepto-Bismol tablet. (Trying to settle my stomach in anticipation of dinner at Picasso in the Bellagio hotel. Should have relied on the Sauvignon Blanc.)


Dinner at Picasso restaurant in the Bellagio, which has the best list of Spanish wines in North America. A truly memorable tasting menu. We began with an amuse-bouche of butternut squash soup in an egg-cup-sized dish with a pheasant croquette on the side. Then the tasting menu:


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The wines: half bottle of Domaine Weinbach Riesling Schlossberg 2016 followed by a bottle of Torres Mas La Plana Gran Coronas 1994. My dessert was a pistachio lime soufflé with raspberry sorbet. Deborah’s was a lemon concoction but I was too busy enjoying mine to record it.

Sunday, March 15th: Receiving emails from home telling us to come back immediately, otherwise we might get stuck in Las Vegas. Sounds like warnings out of Dante’s Inferno. Contacted our wonderful travel agent, Sandra Pauwels of Pauwels Travel, who immediately got in touch with Air Canada to try and get us on the red-eye flight tonight. To assuage our troubled souls, Deborah went dress shopping and I to donate cash to the slot machines across from the store from which Deborah emerged with four dresses (Deborah corrected me saying they weren’t dresses, they were tops. Looked like dresses to me).

Then we went out for lunch at Eataly (where we lunched on great pizza slices) before wandering around The Shops at Crystals (a magnificent building designed by Daniel Libeskind, who did the addition to the ROM). Dropped into a store that sold William Carr photography and was tempted to buy a shot of a waterfall that looked like a torrent of flames (see his work at www.artbrokerage.com/William-Carr).

Walked back to the hotel through a haze of weed smoke (the Las Vegas air is rancid with the smell of marijuana). Got the welcome news that our travel agent was able to book us on the 12:50 pm flight tomorrow to Toronto. So we have one last dinner in Vegas: at Guy Savoy in Caesar’s Palace.


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And what a meal! As the amuse-bouches arrived so did a trolley of breads, a mountain of butter and the best olive oil I’ve tasted. Then a chopped oyster with chives, lemon oi and oyster juice set on a bed of seaweed. Deborah ordered the chef’s speciality, artichoke and black truffle soup, followed by wagyu beef; and I the chicken, foie gras and artichoke terrine, followed by roasted quail. The wines, half bottles of Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2016 and Flaiveley Mercurey 2003.

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No room for dessert so we ordered digestifs – Green Chartreuse and Trimbach Grande Rèserve Poire William. But along came a trolley and we couldn’t resist a small pot of crème caramel and a tiny slice of cheesecake. To cleanse the palate, Earl Grey sorbet with black pepper. A truly memorable meal.

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Monday, March 16th: Awoke to see a flashing red light on the phone: a message from the management that everyone had to check out of the hotel by noon. All MGM properties were closing down. Took the shuttle to the airport and boarded our Air Canada flight to Toronto.

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