Drinking Alone, Together: Mark Guillaudeu

of Commis in Oakland


photo by Cayce Clifford

“Drinking Alone, Together” is our series allowing somms to chime in on how they’re staying busy, safe and sane during the COVID-19 Restaurant Closures. Here is Mark Guillaudeu of Oakland’s Commis:

It certainly is surreal. I’m very fortunate to have another somm (Jienna Basaldu of The Morris in SF) as my partner in life and shelter-in-place, so we can drink well if we want, and have a well-stocked cellar—although we have to ration the whites and bubblies a touch.

As for what we’re doing—we’re again very fortunate to be part of one of the greatest sommelier communities in the country, so plans are already underway to coordinate shut-in study groups via Skype and other services—to keep people motivated, moving and connected during these trying times. We have a study group at the restaurant [Commis in Oakland]—I have one member of my team gearing up for the Advanced exam, and three who had been planning to take the Certified exam over the summer before all of this madness—that will be meeting remotely as well.

We’ve pulled all the liquor off the bar and locked the cellar just in case, but otherwise the name of the game is wait. If you want some “what I’m drinking” tidbits, I’m happy to give a shout out to some of my favorite producers domestic and otherwise I stock at home: James Frey’s rieslings out of Willamette, Mimi Casteel’s pinot noirs, the Hirsches in Fort Ross, Julien Frémont’s Calvados. I’ve even discovered that Blanche Armagnac and tonic is quite lovely—and brings out the floral side of the spirit a lot more than I would have guessed—but for now the focus I think should be on keeping people together, calm, and in the game.

If there was anybody who was on the fence about going for their next test (in my case the Master’s exam in July—provided all of this has resolved by then), three mandatory weeks of government-imposed study is one heck of a silver lining. Hopefully, when this all rolls past we’ll all be a little better rested, a little more appreciative, and at least a touch more studied.

Wishing you health, safety and security,

Mark Guillaudeu


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