Rising Star Sommelier Sarah Valor of Commis - Biography

Oakland, CA


Like many in the restaurant business, 2010 Rising Star Sommelier Sarah Valor began working as a server to pay her way through school. While studying rhetoric at UC Berkeley, she became intrigued by the communication systems of restaurants. But it was the craft of wine and the history of the people making it that grabbed her interest for the long term.

Such innate wine curiosity led Valor to land a job at Oliveto in Oakland. Working for a chef who understands the interaction between wine and food was important to Valor, and she found that in Oliveto’s renowned chef Paul Bertolli. While working at Oliveto and over the years, Valor met top Barolo and Barbaresco producers, had drinks with one of the most eccentric producers from Friuli, and much more. Experiences like these became Valor’s classroom.

Hungry for a practical look at the business of wine, Valor also enrolled in a course at Berkeley’s Haas Business School. It was there that she met important figures in the wine business, such as Bartholomew Broadbent, Leslie Sbrocko, and Andy Peay, who have also broadened Valor’s wine know-how.

When 2007 Rising Star Chef James Syhabout hired Valor to work at Commis, he introduced her to Jeff Bareilles, the wine director at Manresa, who helped with the opening efforts. His guidance, advice, consultations, and friendship have been invaluable for her formation as a sommelier. Recently, Valor also began studying under the guidance of The Court of Master Sommeliers.