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SD’s Secret Sommelier Weapon is at North Park’s Black Radish

Celebrated sommelier Coco Randolph joins the podcast to talk wine, Michelin, and finding love
Michelin Wine Sommelier of the year 2021 Winner Coco Randolph who runs the Black Radish wine program
Courtesy of Michelin Guide

Did you know one of the country’s most celebrated sommeliers lives and works in San Diego? This week, we welcomed Coco Randolph of Black Radish and San Francisco’s Californios to the Happy Half Hour podcast.

Randolph is new-ish to town, having moved here about a year and a half ago from San Francisco, where she helped her family run two Michelin-starred Californios. Her sister is married to its decorated chef, Val Cantu, and the whole Randolph clan (plus Cantu) started the restaurant in 2013. Since then, Californios has been granted many awards and accolades from various organizations (like Michelin), including for its wine program, which is under Randolph’s direction.

Michelin Sommelier of the Year winner Coco Randolph who runs Black Radish's wine program with Chelsea Coleman of Mabel's Gone Fishing
Photo Credit: Matt Furman
Coco Randolph(L) and Chelsea Coleman(R)

When her Texas-born-and-raised family first embarked upon opening a restaurant, the clan tasked Randolph with being its sommelier as well as the general manager. No idle hands in this crew. The only problem, Randolph knew little about wine, though she knew she loved Mexican food after having lived there for years following homeschooling and graduating from Texas Tech. 

But she’s an autodidact, sharp as a whip, and incredibly ambitious. She picked up a copy of The Wine Bible, studying obsessively every second she wasn’t working Californios’ front-of-house.

In 2015, just two years after opening, Michelin awarded Californios its first star. By 2017, the restaurant had the distinction of being the world’s only two-star Michelin spot focused on Mexican cuisine. And Randolph’s wine program—which started as a list with a dozen producers and had expanded to a cellar boasting hundreds of the world’s finest vintages and rarest allocations in less than a decade—was awarded the Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator and the Best Wine Restaurants nod from Wine Enthusiast. In 2021, Randolph was awarded Michelin’s first-ever Sommelier of the Year designation; she was just one of two somms to receive the nod.

Black Raddish food and wine curated by Michelin Sommelier of the Year winner Coco Randolph
Photo Credit: James Tran

While she’s still involved with Californios and the family from afar, her heart and body are very much in San Diego. She’s growing Black Radish’s wine program exponentially by regularly bringing top producers to town for special wine dinners and other events

And there’s more good news. “I moved here for my lover boy!” Coco excitedly exclaims any time anyone gives her the chance. She didn’t come here for food or wine, but for love, which to me signals she’s planting deep roots. “It’s true, we are fully staying here, building a life,” Randolph confirms. Expect to hear a lot more from Coco wherever anyone’s pouring grape juice in town. 

In addition to trying some of Coco’s wine selections, of which you can hear more about in the episode, we also talk about the news. Crack Shack is opening its fifth location in Pacific Beach; even more Korean fried chicken called Season Ave is arriving in Clairemont Mesa; Eleven Madison Park and Herb & Wood alum Sebastian Becerra are opening Peruvian spot Pepino in La Jolla to much fanfare; Gator by the Bay is in town once again beginning May 9; and Oddish Wine turns 1 on May 11.


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By Jackie Bryant

Jackie is San Diego Magazine's content strategist. Prior to that, she was its managing editor. Before her SDM career, she was a long-time freelance journalist covering cannabis, food/restaurants, travel, labor, wine, spirits, arts & culture, design, and other topics. Her work has been selected twice for Best American Travel Writing, and she has won a variety of national and local awards for her writing and reporting.

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