San Francisco, CA


Lulu McAllister Churchill jump-started her relationship with serious wine earlier than most. When she was 18, the Massachusetts native moved north from her adopted home of San Diego to attend a yearlong California Culinary Academy program. She stayed with an uncle in Tiburon. With their opposite schedules, they’d rarely connect, but she would leave him the leftover pastries and treats she made at school, and in turn, he’d leave her the leftover wine from the bottles he was drinking, complete with a log of his impressions. Lucky for McAllister, his tastes tended toward white Burgundy and Champagne.

Still, McAllister decided to pursue a career outside of the food world. She majored in media studies at the University of San Francisco, and later moved to Austin, where she wrote about music for Performer Magazine and XLR8R. In 2010, though, she landed a part-time tasting room job at Bending Branch Winery in the Texas Hill Country, and pretty soon she was focusing more on wine than music. She decided to move back to California to study wine at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

After graduating from wine school, she found herself directing the wine program at Nopa following longtime wine director Chris Deegan's departure. She quickly made it her own, instituting, for example, festive Magnum Mondays, often featuring local winemakers pouring their own juice out of large formats, while keeping the wine list stocked with the kinds of bottles that tend to make Nopa a darling of fellow sommeliers: grower Champagne, Jura, great Sherry, plenty of cru Beaujolais and up-and-coming California producers like Onward, Jolie-Laide and Arbe Garbe. A few years later she helped the Nopa team open Liholiho Yacht Club, chef Ravi Kapur’s standout solo effort, one of our 2015 New & Notable Restaurants. It was there that she honed her love of sake alongside an exciting concise wine list.