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Meet San Diego’s New Buzzworthy Sommelier

The new Bankers Hill resident with Michelin accolades makes herself at home in San Diego

Charlotte Randolph
Image Credits Charlotte Randolph: Photography by Vincent Knakal

Charlotte Randolph has fond memories of losing herself in the pages of a good book during her mid-20s. But it wasn’t some breezy beach read or turn-on-a-dime mystery. The work she read from cover to cover was the nearly 700-page educational tome, The Wine Bible. Early in the process she came across an unfamiliar term and asked her mother, “What’s a chee-anti?” Mom’s response: “I cannot believe you and your sister are trying to open a restaurant.”

Randolph wasn’t reading The Wine Bible for pleasure. The 25-year-old was on a mission, working with her sister and brother-in-law to bootstrap a self-funded restaurant into existence in San Francisco’s Mission District. With no investors and a budget far too slim to accommodate hiring a sommelier, the trio decided Randolph would handle that in addition to her duties as general manager. 

A complete novice, she got straight to work, studying day and night — basically any time she wasn’t working at the restaurant — and just six months later, she earned her certification as a sommelier. Her adaptational fast-track to the world of wine is a feelgood story all its own, but it was just the beginning of the successes for her and the family business, Californios. 

In 2015, two years after opening, the white linen was awarded its first Michelin star, and by 2017 it had the distinction of being the world’s only two-star Michelin restaurant celebrating Mexican cuisine. Randolph’s wine program, which grew from a list with 14 producers to a cellar featuring more than 800 in a span of just eight years, was integral to those accolades, as well as a Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator and a Best Wine Restaurants nod from Wine Enthusiast. And in 2021, when The Michelin Guide bestowed its first-ever Sommelier of the Year awards, she was one of just two somms to receive one.

“Wine ended up being my favorite part of working in the restaurant, and it eventually became both the love and the work of my life,” says Randolph. “I’ve learned how to work hard, but to try to enjoy the work itself. It’s not as important as where it takes you.”

Where it’s taken her is all around the world to explore wine-growing regions in her never-ending quest for knowledge. But that’s not her only motivator. Last year she followed her heart, moving to San Diego’s Bankers Hill neighborhood after a decade in San Francisco to build a life with her partner. 

Charlotte Randolph
Charlotte Randolph

Even though she only recently washed up on our shores, she’s already making waves. In January she teamed with Chef Itze Behar at North Park’s Black Radish to present a five-course, chocolate-focused wine-paired dinner. Among the evening’s pairings was a rich lobster bisque with a rosé of Grenache from Scribe Winery-led winemaker Gustavo Sotelo’s personal label, Orixe Sotelo.

“The Grenache ages under a layer of special yeast called flor, which imparts a nice, salty, rounded character to the rosé. I love the saline aspect of the wine as a nod to the lobster,” explains Randolph, who says at this point in her career she has paired roughly 2,000 courses. “My pairing philosophy is to never interfere with a dish. Having worked in a chef-driven kitchen, it’s important to me that their hard work be spotlighted, so I never try to add something or take something away from
a dish.”

Next up for Randolph is a sommelier dinner on March 25 at what has become her “wine watering hole,” Solana Beach’s Vino Carta. There, she’ll personally present several wines served alongside one-night-only dishes from in-house culinary operation Long Story Short developed to marry with her selections. She says she’s looking forward to what she does best — working the floor, touching tables, interfacing with guests, and answering their questions. It’s interaction like that which will help her achieve a new mission she’s developed since moving to America’s Finest City.

“San Diego feels like a beer-and-cocktail city, which I love, but I’d like to see wine right up there with those categories. There are so many people here doing so much good work with wine and I believe it’s just getting started,” says Randolph. “My goal is to help shift the wine culture in San Diego. I’d love to make my mark by inspiring more local enthusiasm for wine.”

Charlotte Randolph
Charlotte Randolph

Charlotte’s Local Picks  

The San Diego transplant has already found a few favorites in her new hometown

“The Rose, Mabel’s Gone Fishing, and Bodega Rosette are incredibly well-curated and collected spaces run by female industry leaders. Obviously, you can find me drinking bubbles at Vino Carta. Clos Wine Shop does a wonderful job of keeping beautiful wines at great price points. It’s also a great spot to grab a drink and maybe go on a first date. Stake Chophouse in Coronado has an epic wine list. They offer rare wines and have an expansive cellar. Little Thief in North Park is open seven days a week until 10pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends. The next sunny day I have off, I am plopping my behind on a beautiful lounge chair at Mission Bay Beach Club and enjoying their flight tasting. They have an incredible selection of California producers, not to mention the food is great and it’s a whole relaxing vibe over there.”


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