Wine Director Nicolas Giraud oversees the cellars of Gavin Kaysen’s Spoon and Stable and Bellecour in Minneapolis, MN. Born in Burgundy and raised in Champagne and Provence, France, Giraud is a proficient in French language, wine, and Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurants as he is in American culture, cuisine, and wine, making him a well-rounded sommelier and multifaceted front-of-house maven. “I always joke that I have wine flowing through my veins – Pinot Noir in my right arm and Chardonnay in the left,” he says.
Giraud enjoys learning his guests’ flavor preferences and offering them unexpected varietals that test preconceived notions and introduces them to a new region or label. “People think all French wines are obscure and esoteric, or that fish should always go with white wine – I want to change that.” To do so, Giraud stocks the wine cellar at Spoon and Stable with more than 200 international and domestic labels.
Giraud’s wine journey began in his native Burgundy, France, accompanying his father to day trip to Chablis and eventually catching a drop or two of wine. His “aha” moment happened in Marseille, when the Sommelier recommended a bottle of Domaine Vernay Condrieu “At this moment, I realized I needed to learn about wine and its production,” he says. With an insatiable thirst for knowledge and access to some of the world’s most renowned production regions, he did what any aspiring oenophile would do: “I visited all the wineries I could, trying to understand the entire region of Provence and beyond,” meanwhile attending the region’s Aix-Marseille University, studying economics and management.
Upon entering the hospitality industry, he rapidly ascended the fine-dining ranks and, in 2002, landed at the three Michelin-starred Taillevent in Paris, at which he assisted the maitre d’hotel, chef de rang, and sommelier. Then, seeking to relocate to Provence, he caught the attention of Alain Ducasse, who brought Giraud to the charming L’Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de La Celle in 2003, to tend to clientele from across the globe while continuing to cultivate his sommelier and hospitality acumen.
Opportunity then knocked from across the Atlantic, drawing Giraud to Minnesota’s Twin Cities to create and oversee wine programs for various French restaurants, beginning with Vincent A Restaurant in 2006. He then became manager and wine director in charge of three concepts, Meritage A Brasserie, Brasserie Zentral, and Foreign Legion, a position he held for almost a decade while receiving countless awards and recognitions, including Best Sommelier in Minnesota and Restaurant of the Year from the Star Tribune, and a Charlie Award for Best New Restaurant.
A chance meeting in 2007 left Gavin with a lasting impression of Giraud’s sommelier skill-set, and they reconnected when he returned to Minneapolis. Giraud now runs the wine program for Spoon and Stable and Bellecour.
When he is not recommending wines to his guests, Giraud enjoys expanding his own collection of labels and hosting events to share them with friends and family. In times of leisure, the sommelier explores nature trails, traverses local farms, and attends ice hockey games, often accompanied by his wife and their young son, with the puppy in tow.