On the Trail with Nicole Curran
With the NBA season back in full swing and the Warriors on another great winning streak, I figured now would be the perfect time to talk wine with Nicole Curran. You’ll usually find her sitting next to her fiancé, Warriors owner Joe Lacob, at every Dubs game and she’s now as much a part of the scene at Oracle Arena as Mark Cuban is in Dallas. Her stylish outfits are always a must-see and her taste in wine is even more impeccable. How do I know this? Because, as neighbors to our Redwood City store, Nicole and Joe are two of our best customers and I've been personally helping Nicole with her wine selections for years. Seeing that we’re all huge Warriors fans at the store, when I saw the opportunity to do a little K&L/GSW collaboration I knew it needed to get done. Nicole is a hoot, a dedicated drinker, and I knew she would make a great subject for our On the Trail interviews.
"Are you sure you want to interview me?" Nicole asked, humble as usual. "Joe would be the bigger draw."
"Joe is great," I said, "and I know he enjoys a drink. But you're the one who really drinks. And this is an interview about drinking," I replied. Our conversation is below:
David: Before you were sitting with your fiancé, Warriors owner Joe Lacob, court-side at every Warriors game, you used to work in the booze business just like me; a fact I learned in the store one day when you came in and wowed me with your wine knowledge.
Nicole: I did.
David: What led you into that wonderful profession?
Nicole: It was an interesting path. I started off as a high school teacher and I always said that the kids were the ones who drove me to drink (laughs), but that wasn’t really the case. When I was younger I collected wine, and was always fascinated by it, so I ended up moving from Arizona to Napa. My first job was at La Jota, where I lived and worked at the winery, handling all their sales and marketing. After that I worked for LVMH and I repped Krug, Dom Perignon, and Veuve Clicquot in the Bay Area for high-end accounts.
David: LVMH has such a great portfolio. Were you drinking as much Champagne as you were selling?
Nicole: I was drinking that stuff all the time! I still think in the Champagne world that the Dom Rose is my favorite. It was a very good job and it was very suited to my love. I basically got paid to drink for a living.
David: I know exactly what that’s like! You told me once there was a funny story involving wine and meeting you Joe. Is this while you were working for LVMH?
Nicole: Yes, I met him during that time in Pebble Beach. When we first met he said to me, “Oh, you’re in the wine business? I have this favorite wine, but I can’t remember what it is. Can you give me your email because I want to hear what you have to say about it when I figure it out.” I thought that was a bit strange, and definitely one of the more interesting pick-up lines. He ended up emailing me and said his favorite wine was the 1982 Latour. I responded immediately to him, saying: “That’s too bad. The 1982 Lafite is so much better.”
David: Wow! Matching power for power!
Nicole: Yes, I thought he was a little full of himself with that (laughs), but I later realized Joe wasn’t all talk and actually has an incredible palate. I try to fool him all the time with wine, asking him what’s French and what isn’t, and he can always tell the difference. It wasn’t him trying to be pretentious; he really did just like the 1982 Latour because he thought it tasted good! But after doing a side-by-side tasting, we did eventually determine that the 1982 Lafite was the better wine. For each of our first dates he brought a bottle of Bordeaux from 1982.
David: Whoa, that’s no joke, huh?
Nicole: Yeah, that’s my kind of courting process!
David: One of my favorite things that I got to experience at a Warriors game was the wine dispenser you had installed in your private lounge. I ran into you one time as we were both walking to the exit during halftime and you pulled my friend Joel and I into your entourage, so we followed you into the owner's area. It has all of your favorite bottles on tap, which we both thought was the coolest thing ever.
Nicole: It doesn’t have my favorite wine in it, unfortunately, but it does have some very nice selections hand-picked by me!
David: How often do you switch them out?
Nicole: I probably change it on a yearly basis, although I am considering changing out one of the whites we currently have in there to something more fitted to my palate.
David: We saw professional poker star Phil Hellmuth hanging out in there as well. That was pretty crazy. But he didn’t seem to be as into the wine machine. I think he was drinking from the bar.
Nicole: Phil was indeed there drinking Scotch.
David: That’s one bitchin’ hangout room. Was that leftover from the previous owners, or did you have it installed just for you?
Nicole: When Joe took over the team there was a room there, but we spent a year redecorating it and expanding it slightly. All the furnishings were picked out by me, all the light fixtures, and we just added the wine machine this year. That’s my favorite piece, of course.
David: It is by far the coolest thing in that room. We were very impressed.
Nicole: I think for Valentine’s Day I want one of those for home use (laughs).
David: Do you think you can drink enough on your own to justify having one?
Nicole: Hmmm……I like to share with good friends a lot.
David: Do you pre-party at home before the games just to loosen up, or do you wait until you get to the arena?
Nicole: I’m very superstitious so I actually have a drinking routine.
David: Really?! What is it?
Nicole: I have one glass of wine before the game with food, in the room we just spoke about. At halftime, I bring a glass of wine out to the floor and walk by this fan who sits behind this sign—he always bangs on the sign during the game, and he’s really our number one fan. He’s never missed a game as long as I’ve been there. So I bring him a Pepsi and a shot of tequila. When we started that tradition of toasting each other we went on an incredible win streak. So now every game I bring him the tequila and the Pepsi and I toast him with the glass of wine that I drink.
David: That’s just fantastic.
Nicole: If we have a really big win we have tequila shots in the owners room for everyone.
David: We know you’re always there cheering on the team, but what’s something you do for the Warriors that maybe most casual fans don’t know?
Nicole: Well, I work very closely with the Warriors Foundation. Last year we gave away a million dollars in grants and I personally went to twenty-five of the applicants, interacted with the kids, looked at their programs, and evaluated them. Right there with winning, I think it’s one of the most valuable experiences I’ve ever had and I really enjoy doing it.
David: You and I have two things in common. We’ve both taught high school, and we’ve both worked in the booze business. But I have yet to play a part in owning an NBA franchise, so I’ll have to ask you: which of the three careers have you found most enjoyable? Kids, booze, or basketball?
Nicole: Honestly, I’ve enjoyed all of them, and they’ve all contributed to making me the person I am.
David: If anything you’ve combined them all into one super job with your work with the foundation.
Nicole: Right! I get to help children, drink, and do it while watching basketball! Although I have to say that I do spend most of my time drinking at home not watching basketball (laughs).
David: Who is someone that you got to have a drink with while working with the Warriors that you were excited to meet?
Nicole: Wow, good question. I think I take for granted all the incredible people you get to meet doing this. I’ve never been star crazy. People will see a photo with me and someone else and they’ll say, “Wow, you got to meet this person or that person.” I don’t really think twice about it, but I would definitely say that seeing Jerry West every time I’m in the owner’s room still awes me.
David: Does he ever have a drink with you at the game?
Nicole: You know, he doesn’t drink all that often, but I have to say that he really enjoyed the Radio-Coteau pinot noir I put in the wine machine. He loved it so much he couldn’t stop talking about it, so we sent him a case.
David: That’s what Joel and I drank when we were in there, too! He has good taste. Or, I guess, you have good taste.
Nicole: Or maybe that means you have good taste. Both in wine and basketball teams.