Sampler's Paradise

Wine culture in Las Vegas got its start in the early ’90s when Tony Marnell II opened Las Vegas’ first all-suite hotel, The Rio. Complete with one of the West Coast’s most comprehensive and expensive wine inventories, the property boasted verticals reaching deep into the pages of history. So it’s not surprising that a generation later, his son, Anthony Marnell III, is leading the current charge with the Hostile Grape Wine Lounge, the modern and technologically advanced wine and tasting bar that opened at his new billion-dollar casino, the M Resort.

To satisfy the oenophile urges of a changing customer profile, the Hostile Grape offers 26 automated Enomatic wine serving systems, from which guests can self-pour any of 160 different wines by the glass in an upscale lounge environment.

For Marnell, the Hostile Grape achieves several things: bringing the wine cellar its most modern adaptation yet, creating a fun and approachable lounge venue for the property and offering customers an amazing range of flexibility and value. “It is really an enhancement to the property,” says the younger Marnell. “We wanted to make it a fun and trendy spot where people interact with each other but are not packed in shoulder to shoulder like at a nightclub.”

Customers purchase a wine card (in $25 units) when they enter the venue and roam the lounge space sampling 1-, 3- or 5-ounce glasses of the dozens of varietals from around the globe. To simplify finding a wine, the automated machines are grouped together by color and region. Each wine and sample size are individually priced — from $2 to $50 per pour — and wines range from mainstream offerings to those of the highly allocated and first-growth variety. Head sommelier Adam Curling rotates through various labels based on popularity and even features a two-station, 32-label Sommelier Selection that showcases lesser-known treasures alongside cult classics from winemakers such as Andy Erickson and Angelo Gaja.

While customers receive discounts for both bottle and case purchases and the lounge offers a full bar, Marnell says it is the a la carte wine menu that drives the concept. According to Curling, customers are buying into it, helping themselves to less common varietals such as Rieslings and California Pinots, experimenting with wine regions including the Southern Hemisphere and tasting lesser-known labels 1 ounce at a time. “People get the opportunity to try wines they might not usually get their hands on,” Marnell says, “and they are able to do it at a great price with great value.”

“This is not a power-drinker’s bar,” he concludes with a laugh. “It’s about making the wine cellar into a lounge experience where people can get together with friends and have a good time.”

Well, maybe the Hostile Grape isn’t so angry after all.  NCB