D2D Interview: Nicole Curran

With the NBA All-Star weekend having just finished, the Warrior's own Steph Curry having taken home the 3-Point shooting crown, and the Bay Area ballers sitting atop the standings with the league's best record, I figured now would be the perfect time to post the D2D interview I did recently with Nicole Curran. Sitting next to Warriors owner Joe Lacob at every game is his faithful fiancée and loyal W's fan, the charismatic Nicole, who is 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 impeccible. How do I know this? Because, as neighbors to our Redwood City store, Nicole and Joe have been shopping at K&L for years and I've been personally helping Nicole with wine selections since we met at a game last season. Seeing that I'm a HUGE Dubs fan, 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 the D2D series.

"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. So we agreed to do it. With six D2D interviews already in the bag, it was definitely time for a female perspective!

Right before Joe and Nicole zipped off to New York for the all-star festivities, we sat down and chatted about Nicole's own experience in the booze industry, her unforgettable showdown with James Harden, and the alcohol advancements she's personally made at Oracle since Joe took over the team in 2010. Previous editions of the D2D Interviews can be found in the archive here, or by clicking on the link in the right-hand margin. 

David: Before you were sitting with your fiancée, 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: So when did all that go down?

Nicole: Almost ten years ago.

David: So that was pre-Warriors. What did you think later on when Joe told you he planned on purchasing an NBA basketball franchise?

Nicole: Honestly, I have to admit I was looking forward to the retired life and traveling with Joe. I thought we would be going to destinations like Bordeaux, Italy, and foreign countries all over the world. Instead I’m going to Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Orlando. It’s been an amazing process though, so I wouldn’t trade it.

David: (laughs) That’s such a great answer. How big of a basketball fan were you before this?

Nicole: I’m still a football girl first, but I am a huge basketball fan now. I watched primarily college basketball originally, but as you know it’s been incredibly exciting this year and—I have to say—basketball is slowly inching up on football.

David: It has to win out when you’re involved with it like you are. Plus, you have the best seat in the house! And you always look like you’re enjoying yourself when you’re there. I’ve sat right behind you once or twice—thanks to some very generous connections I have—and you always seem to have a smile on your face. You’re obviously not just there out of a financial commitment. I’ve seen you get very passionate first-hand!

Nicole: I’m very passionate about the team, and—as you’ve seen—sometimes too passionate (laughs). Like the night I first met you when you were sitting behind me.

David: You mean the night when James Harden came over and scolded you after he thought you’d given him the middle finger?

Nicole: I unfortunately gave the referee the finger, received a warning, and then James came over and used a few colorful words. To which I responded, and you know the rest from there.

David: But you guys made up after that right? You’re buddies now?

Nicole: Yes, I went over to the visitor’s locker room that evening and tried to clear up the misunderstanding. I told him I had been upset with two calls made by the referees that evening, calls that actually endangered the safety of some of our players, and I was standing up on their behalf. He said to me, “I really like that you’re willing to do that for your guys. I wish we had you on our team.” So now every time he comes I talk with him.

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: Wow, so if you’re that superstitious then you must have been an OCD mess during that long win streak earlier this season.

Nicole: Absolutely. I ended up wearing the same pair of pants to every game and making sure I cuffed them the exact same way. And I made Joe wear the same blazer every night, and he said, “I can’t wear it again. People will think I don’t have any clothes! But at the same time we can’t afford to lose.” (laughs)

David: So what happens when you go on the road? Do you bring booze with you, or do you make do with what’s at the various arenas?

Nicole: I usually have to settle and that’s not always a good thing. I recall being in Houston earlier this year and my only option was Sutter Home chardonnay. So then I thought maybe I could get a tequila with fresh lime juice, but all they had was Rose’s sweetened. I went with the Sutter Home.

David: When in Texas! 

Nicole: It reminded me of high school.

David: That’s part of the fun! You tailor the drinking occasion to the town you’re visiting. What’s the best town to visit on the road when it comes to drinking?

Nicole: Anywhere in California. How can you beat it? 

David: Let’s say you have to leave the state. Where then?

Nicole: If we’re talking about an arena, then I’d have to say Miami. They’ve done a really good job there. If we’re talking cities, then I’d have to say New York.

David: Ahh…of course. What’s your favorite place to go drinking in New York?

Nicole: Well since I’m going soon I’ll have to take note and get back to you.

David: For the All-Star game, that’s right! How does Klay Thompson feel about getting chosen? Is he excited, or is he just super humble about it like I think he must be?

Nicole: I think Klay is indeed a very humble guy, but he’s definitely excited and grateful to be going. As is Steph.

David: Steph Curry, the number one vote getter, we should add. How crazy is that?

Nicole: He deserves it. He works very hard and has earned everything that has come to him.

David: Is he as nice in person as he seems on TV? He seems like the nicest guy ever.

Nicole: Even more so. He’s one of the nicest, most-committed, and lovely people you will ever interact with.

David: When Monta Ellis was traded, you made the headlines at that time due to your vocal disappointment with that move. Looking back on that now, are you now happy with the way things have gone?

Nicole: I’m very happy with the way things have gone, but one thing that got lost in translation during that period was the fact that we were new to owning a team. That was the first real trade we had ever done, and it was very hard for Joe as well. Trading somebody has this disposable aspect to it and that was a very hard emotional thing for me to deal with. You get to know these guys and their families. You become a part of that, so trades are difficult and I think it was a result of that being our first one. 

David: When we were walking together through the tunnel to the owners suite, one of the workers at the arena asked me if I was part of your group, to which I said yes. “She’s awfully nice to let me tag along,” I told him as we were moving. “That’s because Nicole is the nicest person I know—almost to a fault,” was his response. “She’s always doing nice things for everyone,” he said smiling before we split ways. I thought that was quite telling. When the workers at the arena freely say something like that about ownership, it’s clear they really like you. Are you one of those people who is always hosting, worrying about everyone else having a good time when you’re at the game?

Nicole: I am, but I think it’s innate in everyone who works there. All of the arena staff are fully dedicated to making sure everyone has a great time—including myself—and they work really hard. I enjoy just being with them and being a part of what they do there.

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.

-David Driscoll



European culture is a popular topic in the wine business with both the people who work in the industry and the many customers who support it. The differences between American and European wines often reflect the differences between the lifestyles themselves on each continent—the ways in which we eat, imbibe, and think about what we put into our bodies—and there’s an endless amount of debate on our sales floor about the merits of each side. One of the great things about traveling to Europe, however, besides all of the wonderful experiences and the memories that will hopefully last a lifetime, is getting the chance to see for yourself the way things actually work and create your own impressions. When you’re constantly listening to producers, merchants, importers, and customers tell you about life across the Atlantic, it’s nice to actually discover on your own what’s true and what isn’t. Personally, I’ve found that—more often than not—Americans tend to miss the point when it comes to the tenants of foreign culture. They generalize, cut and paste, or misinterpret the ideas behind certain practices (especially when it comes to incorporating those lessons into their own life back at home) and that misinformation tends to get passed from ear to ear.

I’ve been reading a wonderful book called The Shadow of the Wind during my vacation in France and Spain. It’s a fitting novel for this trip because all of the action takes place either in Paris or Barcelona: the two cities I’ve focused on during my stay. I won’t go into the whole plot right now (it’s a Di Vinci Code-style thriller that I would highly recommend to just about anyone), but I did want to use one of the story’s many classic lines to illustrate a point. While trying to uncover the truth about the novel’s central mystery, one of the characters named Barceló says: “When everyone is determined to present someone as a monster, there are two possibilities: either he's a saint or they themselves are not telling the whole story.” I find that generalizations about foreign cultures tend to fall into the same category of truth. When someone tells me that Parisians are rude, or that the waiters and waitresses in France won’t give you the time of day, it reminds me of being a kid and telling on my cousin after he and I would get in a fight. “He hit me!” I would cry at my mother, conveniently leaving out the part where I hit him first. There’s usually a backstory, or a reason the events turned out the way they did, but people often can’t help but tell you their own fantastical version. The first time I went to Eastern Europe in 2003, I wore a money belt around my waist because so many Americans had warned me about pick pockets. After four days of complete safety on the road, watching the other kids in the youth hostel stare at me, I took it off and threw it away. 

The American importation of European cuisine often provides the same disservice. Charcuterie has been all the rage in San Francisco bars and restaurants for the last couple of years. Not cold cuts, mind you (like Icky Woods would say), but “serious” meats like Iberico ham or Spanish chorizo. All of a sudden it became cool to eat like an Oscar Meyer kid again. Channeling the great tapas bars of Spain or the rustic French country brasserie, the Bay Area’s many wonderful establishments began serving olive plates, small bowls of oil-drenched sea fare, and sampler trays of the finest European cured meats. There was just one gaping hole—one gigantic, glaring mistake—in their execution of this plan: there was no bread on the table. I’ve spent the last eleven days in Europe and I haven’t had one meal without any bread, even when I didn’t ask for it. You order olives, you get bread. You order cheese, you get bread. You order salami, you get bread. Leave it to the Americans and their current gluten obsession to completely fuck that whole concept up. You know why you get bread with those dishes? Because you’re usually drinking beer, wine, or spirits simultaneously and alcohol doesn’t pair all that well with an empty stomach. “This is what you would typically eat in __________,” a bartender would tell me. No it isn’t. If I were in __________ there would be a gigantic basket of bread with this.

But that’s current American culture for you. It’s better to have an opinion about Paris than to say you've never been there (even if you have to make it up). It’s good to have a collection of European cookbooks and follow all those wonderful rustic recipes back at home, just without the butter, the eggs, the gluten, and the sugar (essentially, without the skill or the flavor either). It’s cool to show you understand the European lifestyle by drinking Bordeaux instead of Napa Cabernet, but then wasting a bottle of that tannic, earthy, high-acid red as a patio sipper on a hot summer’s day. In cosmopolitan American society (or maybe just the Bay Area), it’s become the norm to transpose the best parts of Europe into our own daily life, but then completely lose the context of those components while doing so. The result? A total misinterpretation of what Europe is about and a hysterically false impression for the people around us observing who haven’t actually been there. When you finally get to go yourself and you realize that all the salami does come with bread, the pastries actually have real butter, the wine is actually simple to understand and is always paired with the right foods, and pretty much everything else you were excited about is just as wonderful as you had originally hoped, it’s a total and utter relief. 

I don’t want to be one of those guys who goes to Europe for ten days then comes back with a whole new expertise about life that he absolutely has to share with every single person he runs into, but someone has to at least offer a counterpoint to all this California foolishness. Don't be swayed by the American interpretation of Europe. Don’t be afraid to go to Paris—the people are wonderful, kind, and incredibly helpful even if you don’t speak French. Don’t be afraid of stuffy French restaurants—you can order whatever you want a la carte and no one will care. Don’t obsessively study your wine labels before going, fearing you may appear naive—no one gives a shit about the details over there. Don’t make a list of the ten best places to eat and obsessively go down the checklist—the ten best places we ate at on this trip were all complete accidents. 

Of course, this is just a summation of my experience. It wasn’t anyone else’s but my own. The best thing you can possibly do at this point is ignore everything I'm saying, and everything else you hear about European culture, and just go do it on your own. 

-David Driscoll



One thing to keep in mind about Barcelona is that Spanish (or Castellano, as it's called here) will only carry you so far. The local population's native Catalán, which sounds and looks like a combination of Latin, Spanish, Italian, and French, is the dominant tongue here and there's an ever-present dedication towards making sure that tradition never dies. You can be a fluent Spanish speaker and not be able to read a menu.

Another thing to know about Barcelona is that Antoni Gaudí's amazing architecture is the star of the show. His style cannot be classified. It's not modern, or post-modern, or gothic, or anything really. We've had such a good time tracking down all the various structures he designed back at the turn of the 20th century. Grab a drink, tour a Gaudí. Grab some tapas, catch a cab to the next location. You can't see anything like this anywhere else.

Most of my time here, however, has been spent at La Taverna del Suculent: a Catalán tapas bar just a block down from our hotel. I am absolutely obsessed with this place. The same three girls are there day and night and at this point they seem like acquaintances.

The atmosphere is just what you expect, the booze never stops flowing, the food is fantastic, and the mood is completely relaxed.

I've been here five times in three days and I feel like I'm still just scratching the surface. We just had a cheese plate that completely blew our minds. My wife thought it was easily the best she's ever had. Two dollar beers on tap. Three dollar glasses of cava. You could spend two hours eating and drinking here and walk out paying less than fifty bucks. You almost feel guilty.

-David Driscoll


La Vida MediterrĂ¡nea

No time for words today, and nothing much new to report. Life is good in Barcelona.




Just hang out at the counter and order some more.

-David Driscoll


No Hay Listas

Going from the frigid Paris streets to the Mediterranean coast makes for quite a transition. Both the weather and the attitude of Barcelona are much more temperate. After arriving late yesterday evening, we asked our hotel concierge if he knew of a good restaurant close by. He said, "Yes, go outside, make a left, then go into the first place that looks good." I almost laughed out loud. He wasn't being a jerk, but he wasn't kidding either. The idea of listing the best restaurants in the neighborhood isn't something the locals are interested in doing. Yelp? Please. Don't embarrass yourself in Spain.

We walked through the narrow and brooding alleyways of the Gothic Quarter until we happened upon a wonderful tapas spot and squeezed our way into the bar. "Hay una lista de las bebidas?" asked my wife, hoping to glance at a drink menu. "No," said the waitress. "What kind of beer do you have?" I asked, speaking Spanish with a French accent and tripping over all my words. My brain had yet to make the switch. "The kind that comes out of the tap," she answered. Again, no trace of sarcasm, but really making it clear she had no interest in the details either. My wife ordered a glass of cava. What kind? The kind they had in the fridge. I ended up with a glass of vermouth. Which vermouth? The dry one. "We have a sweet one, too," our bartender said, giving me the choice. "Esta bien," I said.

This is my kind of place. Barcelona is drinking to drink. Pretense with your food and alcohol is absolutely not allowed and will be dealt with quickly and curtly.

-David Driscoll