About a month ago, I was wandering back to my car on the plaza, empty coffee mug in hand — two hours past my first coffee of the day, and preparing to head home for my second — when I noticed a new sign announcing “Pärcht: Bottleshop + Bites.” We’d been hearing rumors for months about a wine shop going in under The Gorge, so I popped in to check it out.
It was about 11:30am, and quiet, but the doors were open on a gorgeous new space in the back-right section of the building, where there has long been, well, nothing. I poked my head in and the gentleman behind the bar (who, I’d soon learn, was co-proprieter Kevin Hunter), immediately noticed my empty coffee cup. “Need some coffee? I just finished this pour over,” he said, indicating a steaming hot, fresh cup of coffee behind him. This whole operation obviously merited further investigation, so I saddled up to the stone-and-wood bar and settled in.
Kevin was there with his partner, Nicolette Casale; they’d only been officially open for a few days, but already the place looked completely stocked up and ready for full swing. The lighting was warm and inviting; the walls were lined with a wide variety of reasonably-priced wine for take away, not to mention a bunch of bottles on-tap behind the bar for drinking-in; the coffee was sourced from Iconik roasters in Santa Fe; the aforementioned “Bites” promised cornichons and at least one cheese I’d never heard of; hell, even the chalkboards were slick. I honestly didn’t feel fully prepared to continue without backup, so after a brief chat to get the lay of the land, I decided to return a few days later with Max to really get down to business.
When Max and I came in on a Tuesday night shortly thereafter, Nicolette and Kevin were once again behind the bar. They’re currently running the show on their own, which means that the service is really straightforward, sincere, and well-polished. These two are serious service industry pros, most-recently with a major wine and spirits distributor based in Albuquerque; they relocated to Taos for the opportunity to open Pärcht, which is part of the restaurant group that includes The Gorge.
They’re an autonomous restaurant, though, and Pärcht is clearly the culmination of a lot of careful thought and design. “It was pitched to us, with our wine sales background, as a rough concept and space, but they wanted a fresh set of eyes and ears. At first it wasn’t going to be too interactive, more standard wine-sales-and-tasting. It evolved after the original shell was in place,” says Kevin.
Speaking of interactive, we quickly got down to business on some of those Bites. First up, arugula/pear/ricotta with honey. Then charcuterie, cheese, cornichons, caperberries. Then edamame spread and bacon candy (no, I did not stutter). Figure four, below, clearly demonstrates our feelings on all subjects.
Start to finish, it was all really, really great — “no bullshit, all really fresh and clean,” as Max put it. You certainly wouldn’t want to come to Parcht if you were starving for a giant steak, but if you’re looking for starters or small plates, this is the place for you. “We wanted a menu small enough to execute with just us,” said Nicolette, “focusing on things like cheeses, meats, small bites with cool flavors.” I could’ve stayed on this part all night — oh god, the bacon candy — but there was still the wine and beer to taste, too! And Kevin and Nicolette have devised a way to make drinking wine even more fun, with their Brown Bag Special.
Here’s how it works: for $5, they’ll pour you a glass of wine out of a bottle wrapped in, you guessed it, a brown bag. If you can successfully guess what kind of wine it is — identify the region and the grape, feel-good bonus points if you can get even more specific — you win a prize. If you don’t guess right, hey, you’re still drinking a really good $5 glass of wine!, so really, everyone wins.
If this is sounding stressful and pretentious to you, I promise it’s nothing of the sort. I’m no wine-expert, outside of being an expert at consuming a lot of it, that is, and Nicolette and Kevin managed to make the whole experience relaxing and hilarious. The super-dark wine they poured us and the three folks sitting at the bar was revealed to be a Spanish Grenache (no, none of us got it right; yes, it was delicious), and it got everyone in the room — strangers, most of us — chatting and laughing. It was a great way to create a feeling of togetherness, to gently educate us, and perhaps most clever of all, to move the end of a bottle of wine with panache.
We wrapped up the night by tasting their beers on tap. They were pouring a Bosque ‘Crystal Single Hop’ Pale Ale, the New Belgium ‘Hop Kitchen’ Oat IPA, Stone’s Cali-Belgique IPA, the Anchor Lager, and Deschutes ‘Nitro’ Obsidian Stout. “We’re just trying to offer different stuff you’re not getting anywhere else,” explained Nicolette, in the understatement of the evening. “We’ll keep rotating them — we didn’t have a beer list when we were working for the distributor, so it’s so fun to get to play with different types of beers now.”
They’re also selling package beer — La Cumbre and Marble and Oskar Blues and more — and Iconik Coffee, and of course that big selection of wines (if you want to buy a bottle and drink it there, grab it off the wall at retail price and add a $15 corkage fee, then sit back and enjoy while you await the delivery of your bacon candy).
Pärcht gets a hearty “welcome-to-town” from livetaos — they’re succeeding in their goal of offering up something completely different from anyone else around, and they’re doing it with style, warmth, and creativity. Highly recommended as an early stop on your next night out.
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