THEIR WINE CELLAR HAD DWINDLED to its last case. According to Taos restaurateurs Jori Jayne Emde and Zakary Pelaccio, that’s what spurred them to open New Mexico’s very first natural wine bar.
The James Beard Award-winning couple had finally realized their dream of moving to northern New Mexico full-time, but it was taking a while to figure out their next venture. Most recently, they’d helmed Fish & Game, in Hudson, New York, a destination restaurant that Wine Spectator singled out as having one of the top 50 wine lists in the country for five straight years. They were particularly hooked on natural wine, which is produced organically, using a simple process with few or no additives. “We were like, ‘We gotta get more wines that we want to be drinking,’ ” Emde recalls about their scant personal inventory in Taos. “ ‘We can do a wine bar.’ ”
The Corner Office, a stylish new vinoteca situated less than a block from Taos Plaza, has much more in store than a fascinating list of 101 wines, many of which are exclusive to the restaurant. Pelaccio’s menu of small, shareable plates is also importing novel flavors to the old town.
“Our sardine toast is what got us through the pandemic,” says Pelaccio. He layers French fromagier Rodolphe Le Meunier’s creamy beurre de baratte with cured sardines from Galicia, Spain, for the hefty $14 plate, which has become the menu’s greatest hit. “We cook through our own filter,” he explains, citing “European technique and Southeast Asian understanding.” He also praises the virtues of local foods like chicos and the chokecherry jam the Corner Office serves with bone marrow.
Other offerings are mostly seasonally focused, though the menu regularly features a beautifully charred green cabbage wedge with beet tahini, scallions, wild sumac, and a sesame-chile crisp. Pair it with a bottle of the 2021 Quinta da Palmirinha Vinho Branco from Portugal, which the wine list describes as having a “flinty backbone with honeycomb aftertaste,” to fully realize the delicious wizardry Emde and Pelaccio have brought to town.
“It was coming, no matter what,” Emde says of the boom in natural wine over the past few years. “If we didn’t do it in New Mexico, somebody else would have.” For more than a decade, she has also taught fermentation classes, and plans to further funk up the Corner Office menu with her concoctions. “We like products that have a story and connect to the earth—and that includes wine. What we’re drinking is just essential to us.”