If you enjoy a particularly inspired wine pairing at Niche in the coming months, consider raising a toast to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Aaron Sherman, most recently the sommelier at Stephanie Izard’s acclaimed Chicago restaurant the Girl the Goat, has joined Gerard Craft’s restaurant group as its new beverage director. Sherman, whose career as a wine steward and sommelier has also included time at the highly regarded Chicago restaurants Avenues and NoMI, relocated from Chicago to St. Louis after his wife, Jelena Dirks, was named SLSO’s new principal oboe.
Sherman will oversee the beverage programs at Craft’s flagship, Niche, as well as at Brasserie by Niche, Pastaria and Taste.
“I have to wear a lot of different hats,” Sherman said, from Brasserie’s classic French to Pastaria’s casual Italian to Niche, where “you get to play with a bit of everything.”
Sherman also once planned for a career in music, but found his true passion while working in a small wine shop while trying to make ends meet as a percussionist. While he’d come home from a day at the shop excited about the wines he’d tasted, he’d come home from gigs, lugging his percussion equipment, “down and disgruntled.”
“I was the last person to realize I was doing the wrong thing,” Sherman said.
Sherman took a wine class from Michael Muser, who directed the wine program at Avenues, and then went to work for him at the restaurant, which featured the cuisine first of Graham Elliot, then of Curtis Duffy.
(Muser and Duffy now operate one of Chicago’s most highly acclaimed restaurants, Grace.)
“It was amazing wine list, full of all the classics, the great warhorses — a huge, huge selection, 1500-1600 labels,” Sherman said. “An opportunity to start with that kind of food and wine list was incredible.”
Sherman set out on his own by directing the wine program at NoMI, the restaurant at the Park Hyatt Chicago hotel, where his major task was to focus a sprawling list of some 1,100 wines into a more approachable 600 labels.
From there, Sherman moved to the Girl the Goat, a restaurant as busy as it is acclaimed: a “slow” Monday night, he soon learned, could still see some 400 diners. Izard’s cooking, which can feature many strong flavors and textures on a single plate, also pushed him away from pairing specific wines to dishes.
“My philosophy is very much ‘Let’s have a wine list that in general works well with food,” Sherman said. “I try not to let my ego take over the wine list. You’re not buying for you, [but] what a guest is really looking for.”