Dinner for whales: Inside the epic, exclusive Vegas dining series the Wynn is hosting this autumn

Harlan Estate x Wynn wine dinner

Harlan Estate is pulling out some rare vintages to pair at these US$10,000 (S$13,700)-per-person wine dinners

A single seat at one of three Las Vegas wine pairing dinners this autumn will cost US$10,000 (S$13,700), attendance is capped at 20 and only half the seats are for sale.

But for the wine connoisseurs languishing on a years-long waiting list for bottles from Domain H. William Harlan, and Wynn Las Vegas devotees trying to milk their special connections for tough-to-get reservations at venues like Delilah, US$10,000 is a bargain.

Wynn and Harlan are joining forces to create three multi-course wine pairing dinners around the resort starting 10 September. The dinners will each be hosted by a Harlan expert and cooked by a Wynn executive chef in settings few guests get to see, like a palatial two-storey Encore duplex suite. But the kicker for oenophiles is that their attendance bumps them to the top of Harlan’s waiting list.

After the release of 1994 Harlan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend, the 100-point wine that Robert Parker called both “immortality in a glass” and “the single most profound red wine not just in California, but the world,” Harlan wines, already produced in small quantities, became awfully hard to find. All the wines from Harlan Estate, including Harlan, Bond and Promontory, have waiting lists, says Harlan’s founding director Don Weaver. “You can sometimes find specific cases at auction, but the wait can be up to six years.” Long-time buyers can work their way up, over years, to buying the winery’s per-buyer max—six bottles.

Harlan Estate x Wynn wine dinner
Harlan Estate will look across its portfolio for pairings at the dinners

Getting into the dinners is another matter altogether. Half of the dinners’ 20 maximum attendees will be “invited guests,” which in the parlance of casino resorts usually means high rollers. “With resorts at the top, like Wynn, what it takes to be a high roller is a moving target,” says gaming expert Anthony Curtis, who runs LasVegasAdvisor.com. “It will depend on what your credit line is, whether you’re playing slots or table games, how often you’re playing, and a whole host of other factors,” he says. “But for something like this, or Super Bowl tickets or another major event, you’re talking about a US$250,000 (S$345,000) credit line.” There’s no specific threshold for so-called whales, but Curtis defines them as “people who can win or lose a million dollars” without losing sleep.

Even the biggest whales might not be invited to these dinners, though. Wynn CEO Craig Billings, who devised the dinner idea with the resort’s executive wine director Brian Weitzman, says the Wynn’s relationships with its guests are personal and the aim is to pull together likeminded people. Read: There’s no way to game your way into this dinner. “We consider their interest in fine wines and the people who make them as much if not more than their history of playing at Wynn Resorts,” he says.

Billings says the series is most relevant now because “people spent 2020 and 2021 cooped up and they want to make up for lost time. What we’re talking about here is the experience you would get in the tasting room, significantly amplified. For people who love wine, this is another level.”

Harlan Estate x Wynn wine dinner
Chef Joshua Smith of Delilah will helm one of the feasts

The dinners are also expected to be another level. The first, hosted by SW Steakhouse executive chef Mark LoRusso and Harlan owner and family member Amanda Harlan, starts with a Krug Champagne reception, and the six-course meal will include a Japanese Kobe beef tasting (Wynn is one of only a handful of resorts in the country certified to serve real Kobe) and a profusion of truffle dishes. The estate’s Bond label holds its dinner in October on the 18th hole of Wynn Golf Club, which you can generally only get to if you’re willing to play the US$750 (S$1,033) greens fee. Delilah executive chef Joshua Smith hosts that dinner with Cory Empting, Harlan’s managing director of winegrowing. The final dinner, featuring Harlan’s Promontory blends, will be hosted by Mizumi executive chef Min Kim and owner and Harlan managing director Will Harlan in a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

As for the bottles Harlan will be serving, Weaver says, “We’ll be drawing wines from the family archives and reaching back to our earliest vintages.” And no, you can’t pay to get to the top of the waiting list (we asked). “It’s been suggested and offered, but it’s a meritorious kind of thing,” Weaver says. “This is the one place we’re choosing to play favourites.”

Harlan Estate

This story was first published on Robb Report USA