Halloween in August: Grape Expectations Annual Bacchus Awards Draws 400

On the first weekend in August, a crowd lined up at buffet tables decked with Halloween props and hundreds of glasses prefilled with red wine.

As dinner wrapped up, a red leather-clad Michael Jackson showed up to perform the dance sequence from the 1984 video “Thriller.” No zombies lined up behind the Jackson incarnation. Instead, it was a troupe of dancing grapes.

The theme was Hallo-wine at the 14th annual Bacchus Awards, a yearly celebration for members and friends of Grape Expectations, Southern Nevada’s school of winemaking. Even as the Las Vegas summer sweltered outside, the winemaking throng in the Orleans ballroom was costumed as if the Great Pumpkin himself had ordered it.

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The Grape Dancers, in a rendition of “Thriller” at the Orleans Hotel and Casino on August 7, 2021. Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

The Wine Hog T-Shirt, created for the Bacchus Awards,  August 7, 2021. Photo: @GrapeBasinNews

The mock Michael Jackson was Grace Anderson, one of the member winemakers.

“She practiced for weeks to get those moves just right,” said Grape Expectations co-founder Patty Peters.

Lifelong friendships have formed among the Grape Expectations winemakers. They’re like family, Peters said, noting that their contributions to the party included posters, decorations, and choreography for the Thriller routine.

“I love each and every one of them,” she said. “There’s a lot of heart that goes into this event, and it always shows.”

The lights dimmed so the dancers could summon Bacchus, the Roman God of Wine, recalling the primary purpose of the gathering — the school’s annual wine awards. (Scroll to the bottom of this page for a list of for medal winners.)

Fourteen categories of Grape Expectations 2020 wines had been judged in July by local chapters of the American Wine Society. About 80 people attended a judging session that was open to the public. The intention of opening up the judging was to promote winemaking and demonstrate how wine is judged, Peters said.

Photos by Grape Basin News.



Ken Lillestrand
60% Cabernet, 25% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc, 5% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot

Deanna Paquette
45% Cab Franc, 30% Malbec, 15% Cabernet, 10% Merlot, 10% Tempranill0

Melissa Campanella 85% Cabernet, 15% Merlot

Vince Cuomo, 80% Sangiovese, 20% Petite Sirah


CHILEAN WINESGold: Mark Swaffer
Silver: Linda Faulk
Bronze: Social Barrel #11
Meritorious: Ryan Bowen

Gold: Chrystee Hill
Silver: Social Barrel #12
Bronze: Don Oldenburg
Meritorious: Steve Hamlin

Adventurous Blends
Gold: Linda Faulk
Silver: Tara Traynor-Grimes
Bronze: April Larsen
Meritorious: Curtis Obi

Bordeaux Style Blends
Gold: Ken Lillestrand
Silver: Theresa Saucier
Bronze: Social Barrel #15
Meritorious: Tony Mahoney

Gold: Susan Roske
Silver: Chris Carroll #2
Bronze: Bob Path #1
Meritorious: Patty Bowman #1

Cabernet Sauvignon
Gold: Melissa Campanella
Silver: John Pellissier
Bronze: Don Pike
Meritorious: Jay Bullard

Italian Blends
Gold: LVEA
Silver: Jon Bradford
Bronze: Dave Carter
Meritorious: Candice Tung

Cabernet Sauvignon Blends
Gold: Deanna Paquette
Silver: Curt Francois
Bronze: Randy Donald #1
Meritorious: Mike Scott

Gold: Vince Cuomo
Silver: Lisa Lucchese #1
Bronze: Chris Carroll #1
Meritorious: John Silva #3

Rhone Style Blends
Gold: Jim Caviola
Silver: Jenah Victor
Bronze: Jill Tillmon
Meritorious: Kim Farkas

Gold: Darren Gillett #1
Silver: Linda Perez/Shade Tree
Bronze: Cindy George
Meritorious: Linda Spacil

Zinfandel Blends
Gold: Mary Arlint #1
Silver: Jay Sawyer
Bronze: Gena Allison
Meritorious: Andrea Johnson

Rioja Blends
Gold: Mary Arlint #2
Silver: Adam Burns
Bronze: Randy Donald #2
Meritorious: Tom Wagner

Gold: Nicole Sharp #2
Silver: Bob Path #2
Bronze: Sheila Grosse



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