About five years ago, Taos native Jacob Herrera was hired as a part-time bartender at Graham’s Grille by Lesley B. Fay. Today, he’s a certified sommelier, general manager and vice president, and a part of the restaurant’s family.

Herrera, 31, said he’s developed a strong connection with restaurant co-owners Peter and Lesley Fay, who opened the restaurant near Taos Plaza in 2007.

“I believe in what they’re doing,” said Herrera, who recently became the restaurant’s vice-president.

As he’s climbed up the ranks, Herrera said his role has been to complement Peter Fay’s shrewd business sense and chef Lesley Fay’s creativity.

When Herrera came on, he said the restaurant offered fewer than a dozen wines. Now a certified executive wine sommelier, Herrera says there are more than 100 vintages on the wine list, all hand-selected to match the “modern” menu.

“Peter and Lesley don’t drink at all, so there wasn’t a real emphasis on the wine,” Herrera said. “After [sommelier] school, I started to design a wine list that was not only suitable for Lesley’s food but was affordable and evenly priced.”

Herrera said new wine’s are selected as the menu changes every six months. He says he’s picked some good cabernets from the Napa Valley to match steaks and lambs featured on the winter menu.

He said he especially loves to pair wines to the dessert menu. “Lesley cooks with a lot of fruit in her dishes, with this very vibrant style of cooking,” Herrera said. “I just try to make it all the more lively with the wines.”

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