More than just "cork dorks:" Local sommeliers explain what makes a wine great (PHOTOS)

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 04:00 PM.

Gontarek tested at the Breakers Hotel, but she said most of what she learned was from her experience working at Vin'tij Wine Boutique in Miramar Beach , which was her first job. She said working there taught her above all about the flavors of wine and how to pick apart people's personal flavor preferences without being long winded or snobby. She also was mentored by a sommelier from the Windows on The World restaurant, which was a top the World Trade Center .

"That taught me the most about working with collectors, country clubs, hotels, and allowed me to meet and befriend farmers who happen to make amazing wines, as well as my circle of cork-dork friends," she said. "You have to believe in the wine and its message in order to love it, otherwise it’s nothing more than a score from a magazine and a means to get tipsy."

For her, the most challenging aspect of achieving certification wasn’t the tasting aspect, it was memorizing the names of the grapes that belong in the different villages and the wine laws.

" Italy is especially difficult because there is so little rhyme or reason — only blurry suggestions of the laws," she said. "I’ve met a lot of sommeliers who are more or less book smart but have a tough time connecting with the soul of the wine and the meaning it stands for. Wine should really be, above all, about stories, good company, and the joy a great glass of wine can add to that situation."

Gontarek says the hallmark of a great wine is balance.

"Just like food — too much sauce can overpower a meal. The best wines are like the best dishes. Each flavor is balanced with the others and melds well. When you have too much of any one flavor the wines can still be really great but it get difficult to drink more than one glass," she said.

Her go-to wine for every day?

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