Ten “Medium-Intensity” Questions with: Kyle Nadeau, General Manager at The Bank of Wine & Spirits

Since Kyle Nadeau’s first taste of Port Ellen Single Malt Scotch just over ten years ago, the “whisky guru” and General Manager of The Bank of Wine & Spirits at Wingtip has devoted countless energy and hours to scouring the best distilled elixirs the world has to offer. Thousands of whiskies later, Nadeau is considered one of the emerging authoritative  palates in the country. He’s come a long way from a part-time gig at a liquor store in his hometown, moving to San Francisco as a young adult and seizing the opportunity to grow D&M Wine & Liquor in San Francisco’s Lower Pacific Heights into a citywide destination for specialty wine and spirits.  In November of 2014, he opened shop in the elegant men’s store Wingtip in the shadow of the Transamerica tower.  A prime location on the ground floor of the historic Financial District Bank of America building, the store houses Nadeau’s impressive collection of 850-plus spirits and 500-plus wines, an imbiber’s “candy store” of treasures. 

CCA: 1. As a child, you collected ____________________ ?  

Kyle: I’ve always collected things: baseball and football cards, pint glasses for a little while, beer, and then whiskey. No Pokémon cards or Pogs for me.  Collecting has come in handy when I’m seeking out that special order bottle for a client. 

2. Name a book that has had the most impact on your life? 

I've got a busy life and I tend to experience it "real time" vs. reading, but I’ve read a lot of books on the subject of spirits. Chuck Cowdery’s “Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey” was the one that stuck out for me. I was pretty new to whiskey at that point and it’s very straightforward and matter-of-fact, and took a lot of the fluff out of the bourbon industry.

3. Recall the biggest and best mistake you ever made and what you learned from it. 

They are two separate mistakes. My biggest mistake was never graduating from college. I don’t know that it was necessarily a bad thing, but it kind of forced me into the work world at a young age. But doing that gave me a good work ethic and understanding of money. I always paved my own way and paid for myself. Only number one takes care of number one!

I applied to Johnson & Wales’ Culinary Program to be a chef and once again chose to not finish college. Ironically, not going to college and becoming a chef was also the best mistake I ever made. I got my first semester’s tuition bill and it was like $36,000. I started researching what a chef made annually and it was not… that. Not unless you were an executive chef and opening your own restaurants. I didn’t want to go a couple hundred thousand dollars into debt for a $60,000 a year position.

4. Cabin in the woods or penthouse in the city and why? 

I do love living in the city but I definitely do love to get away and go camping. Being a dog-lover, I love having space for my dog Matilda to run free and not have to be on leash. She loves being outside. Yeah I would definitely take a retreat in the woods over a penthouse in the city. That’s something I’ve always said: I’d love to have a farm in Sonoma where rescue dogs could have a home.  

5. What do you think about a future with driverless cars?  

I am not so keen on the idea. I think it would be great as far as road safety goes, but I personally enjoy driving. But we have to wonder, wouldn’t it still be drunk driving if you’re in the driver’s seat? (Editor's note: Great point!)

6. In 10 years how do you predict technology will change winemaking or spirits production?   

We’ve seen a lot of advances in winemaking technology over the last couple decades. Spirits production, however, has remained largely the same. There’s some new technology that is coming out now surrounding accelerated aging and those types of things, but I don’t know if they’re going to stick. People do tend to be a bit traditionalist in spirits production, especially in Scotland, so it’ll be interesting to see how its plays out. I don’t personally think it will catch on as much as they’re hoping it will. I think a lot of people are really bound to age statements on bottles and things like that.

7. Bacon or sausage? 

 Bacon, always bacon.  Thick cut bacon.

8. Most memorable bottle you’ve ever had? What hard to find bottle are you still seeking?   

When thinking about this question the bottle that jumped out at me right away was a 1979 Krug Collection Brut. I’ve had lots of fantastic whiskeys, but that was definitely a bottle that kind of changed champagne for me in my mind. And a bottle that I’m still seeking out is definitely Yamazaki 1984 vintage. The whiskey is absolutely phenomenal and it’s also my birth year. I’ve been looking for one for a while and there’s definitely not many of them out there. 

9. If you weren't in wine & spirits, what career path might you have followed? 

I probably would have ended up being an accountant like both my father and my brother ended up being. We’re a very numbers-oriented family. Here at the Bank I’m still an accountant, at some level.

10. Name one thing every person should try at least once.  

I think everybody should have some type of fine dining experience, like an 8 to 10 course meal with wine pairing. That sort of thing. Obviously it’s a very expensive endeavor to do something like that, but the experience is absolutely something to gain. Especially when doing it with the right people and creating those memories. I love big dinner parties and cooking for people and entertaining. That’s one of the things that led me into the wine and spirits industry was the romantic aspect of eating and drinking and sharing with people. That’s what I really love about this business and that’s why I do it. That’s one thing I remember when moving to San Francisco from Massachusetts, where we have very, very great food. But I grew up on more home-style, comfort food. I remember being in San Francisco for the first year and I everything I ate was a mind-blowing culinary experience for me.

All the Swirl is a collections of thoughts and opinions assembled by the staff and industry friends of Charles Communications Associates, a marketing communications firm with its headquarters in San Francisco, California. We invite you to explore more about our company and clients by visiting www.charlescomm.com.