This feature is part of our 2023 Next Wave Awards.
After years of working as a sommelier in some of the world’s best restaurants, Alexandria Sarovich was looking for a change. “Serving the 1 percent exclusively fine wines wasn’t charging my battery anymore,” the Chicago native admits. So when she was given the opportunity to head up the wine program at a new restaurant in Healdsburg, Calif., Sarovich realized she needed to take the chance to shift her audience. “I knew this could be the place where I could hire and teach the next generation of wine professionals and support great producers and farmers that have a purpose,” she says.
When Sarovich joined Little Saint Healdsburg as its executive wine director in April 2022, the intentionality behind the wine list was immediately clear. The program perfectly balances showcasing the extraordinary, small producers of the surrounding Sonoma region, while maintaining a global selection that can rival any top restaurant.
When selecting wines for Little Saint, Sarovich says, they have to pass through several filters. First of all, the wine has to be delicious. Then she asks, “Is the wine grown organically? And is the wine made by a female or a minority?” While not every wine at Little Saint passes the test, if there is a wine that provides the same style at the same price point that does check these boxes, then the competing wine will get kicked off the list. “There’s so much wine made all over the world, if you don’t make a filter for yourself, it’s hard to make a list that has core values or a cohesive message,” Sarovich says.
Her interest in hospitality started early in life. As the oldest of five, being around the dinner table and cooking for her family was her favorite part of the day. She went to culinary school to pursue this feeling, but quickly realized while working behind the scenes in kitchens that what she missed most was the energy of the dining room. She shifted to studying food service management with a concentration in wine, wellness, and sustainability — landing her the opportunity to study wine in France and Germany.
“I’ve always been a real, kind of impatiently hungry person when it comes to my career,” Sarovich says. This attitude is clear in her skyrocketing trajectory to success. By the time she was 21, Sarovich was a sommelier in Chicago, and quickly earned a spot working the floor at renowned restaurants including Australia’s Attica and Healdsburg’s SingleThread.
At each restaurant, Sarovich had the opportunity to work with inspirational women in the industry, including Jane Lopes and Katina Connaughton. “Every single prominent career-changing moment in my life has always been led by a woman in power,” she says. “That has been really powerful to experience.”
Sarovich highly values the mentorship she’s received from these female leaders and hopes to pass it along to the next generation of sommeliers and wine professionals at Little Saint. She makes it a priority to give her staff members a great wine education, with weekly meetings and special exercises where each sommelier has to highlight and present a wine to another team member every day. “I hope to strengthen their articulation about wine, and through this they will also learn about wine through their colleagues,” she says.
Since starting at Little Saint, Sarovich says, she has the spark for wine and service back again. “I’m so much more excited to go to work and teach people something new and interact with a great community of guests.”