When it’s time for wine, head to Valentino
By Kiko Miyasato
You want to know about wine? Want to pick the brain of someone who could share with you everything there is to know? Then a must-visit in Vegas is Gretchen Allen, the wine director at Valentino at The Venetian. She has been a champion of the grape for about 25 years now.
The L.A.-born Allen has been with the Italian
restaurant nearly seven months, and is responsible for procuring all the wine, managing the inventory, teaching the staff and making sure
the wine program is productive and profitable.
On a personal level, she said, “I love taking care of people who are already celebrating. I love making happy people even happier and so (being a wine director) really is my calling. It’s not just my job; without a doubt it’s a calling,” she said. Her dedication is so much so that “sometimes I even dream about (it) … A lot of people ask me ‘What is your favorite wine?’ and my answer to that is, ‘It’s whatever’s in my glass. Live in the moment. Enjoy what you have in front of you.’”
At Valentino, the focus is mainly on Italian wine, to complement the cuisine, but diners can also find wines that were thought to be long gone. Allen assures they have some stellar vintages in stock. “We have these gems that are just cherries waiting to be picked,” she said. “Good wine should take you places. It’s liquid history.”
“People are going to walk away having had a great meal, but, perhaps most importantly, (having) tried a new wine,” she said.
This white, natural wine—low intervention, low in sulfites, very little filtering and fining—has intense flavor. “It has this terrific acidity but with amazing complexity. Every time I taste this one against another, it’s just amazing. There is something to say about letting a wine stand on its own,” Allen said. In the mood for red? Allen recommends the Terredi Balbia Balbium, Calabria Magliocco. “They raisinate the grapes before they make the wine. … In the mouth it has this long, black tea, baked-plum finish.”