Lorena Ascencios is the Wine Buyer at Astor Wines & Spirits, Manhattan's largest independent wine retailer. Growing up "food-obsessed" in a Spanish-speaking US household, she was exposed to wine early and became adept at cross-cultural communication. Lorena earned her B.A. in French, and went on to teach French and Spanish to high school students. She also learned German through her husband, and today her language skills help her to communicate directly with winemakers all over the world. Soon after moving to New York in 1998, she began working at Astor Wines & Spirits. There, while still a sales associate, she earned her WSET advanced certificate and her ASA sommelier's certification, which would prove essential to her understanding of wine fundamentals. In the summer of 2000 Lorena left for a stint in Europe, where she worked the harvest in Germany and taught wine classes in Switzerland. After returning to New York, she went back to work at Astor Wines & Spirits, moving steadily up the ranks to become head of the wine buying department. Lorena believes that anyone can find a good wine if money is no object; her biggest thrill as a buyer is finding wines that are both excellent and affordable. Some of her favorites are Madeira, Champagne, and the everyday "bread-and-butter" wines of Piedmont.