Q&A w/ Local Sommelier Corey Zamora

Local sommelier answers questions to help elevate your palate and become a connoisseur of wine yourself.

Portrait by Lillian Reitz

Inside our May 2022 issue, we chat with local sommelier Corey Zamora, CWS about all things wine. From his top three indicators of a good bottle to his must-have summer wines and what to pair them with, Zamora provides insight into the wonderful world of wine.

The Bend: If I am completely new to the world of wine and looking to develop my palate, where do I start?

Corey Zamora: Find a great local wine shop. There should be someone on staff who buys the wine for the location and gets to try many different selections a week. I started in retail, and this is how I really fine-tuned my palate.

TB: When tasting wines, what are your top three indicators for a well-made bottle?

CZ: Balance, complexity and structure — everything should be in harmony. I look for different things depending on which varietal I’m having. Cabernet should have intense aromatics, color and richness, but enough tannin and acid to bring it all together. Whereas when I’m having Pinot Noir, I’m looking for more elegance and purity of the fruit.

TB: Is it true that there are good years for grapes and bad years for grapes? If so, can you elaborate on this idea?

CZ: Absolutely. But it’s very region-specific. For example, the 2000 vintage was a very challenging year for California, but it was an absolute classic vintage for Bordeaux in France. There are lots of good vintage charts available online; a quick Google search will give you vintage charts for just about any region you’re looking for.

TB: Sometimes when I finish a glass of wine, there is crystalline sediment at the bottom of my glass. What does this mean?

CZ: In red wine, you will often find sediment, especially in unfiltered wines. It can often be a sign of minimal intervention during the winemaking process. The sediment is particles left in the wine after fermentation (normally spent yeast), but they are completely harmless, and most winemakers will tell you it adds body and more flavor to the wine. In white wine, the sediment more resembles crystals or diamonds. This is normally a result of cold stabilization. Again, completely harmless — but if they truly bother you, try decanting your wine; pouring your wine through a cheesecloth or coffee filter to quickly remove them.

TB: Walk us through the tasting process of a bottle of wine. If I am drinking a new bottle at home, what should I do?

CZ: Eyes, nose, then palate. First, I look at the wine’s color to see how intense and vibrant the color is. Aromatics are next: Give the wine a healthy swirl in the glass to open up aromas, and make sure to stick your nose well into the glass and really get the essence of the aromas. Then, of course, the best part: drinking it! Always remember to take in a little bit of air as you drink your wine, as it naturally aerates the wine before you consume it.

TB: Thoughts on wine spritzers or cocktails that dilute wine?

CZ: I really don’t have a problem with a wine cocktail; they can be very tasty ways to jazz up a wine that maybe, let’s say, is lesser fare than others. I definitely wouldn’t use a high-quality wine for a wine cocktail, but in the right mixologist’s hands, an ordinary wine can turn into a fantastic cocktail.

TB: Are there any wine-related trends we should be on the lookout for?

CZ: Earth-friendly wines are a big trend right now, as people are definitely searching for more sustainable, mindfully farmed, organic selections. Just remember to do a little research on a wine before you buy it — because many times a producer may be using sustainable organic practices but unnoted on the label, as they aren’t doing it to market it in a certain way. They are using those methods because they feel it’s just the right thing to do for their wine.

TB: What is your must-have summer wine, and what kind of food would you pair with it?

CZ: My go-to summer wine is a white wine from Spain called Albariño. The best come from an area called Rias Baixas. The wines have beautiful acidity and bright, refreshing citrus notes, and for the price (most are under $25) are just an incredible value. Go-to food pairing is any dish that’s just begging for citrus and acid to be in the dish, such as ceviche, oysters or fish tacos.