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Visit The Tasting Room for a new wine experience

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The Tasting Room: (from left) Ben Pewter, Clare Tomlinson and John Lake (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Tasting Room is a new experience for Bermuda.

Enter, purchase a card and choose from a selection of 40 wines in two self-dispensing machines at 8A South Road, Smith's.

For people who don’t have the time to sit – or prefer a wider choice – the attached retail store boasts more than 1,000 wine labels, hundreds of brands of spirits and also beer, non-alcoholic drinks, cigars and snacks.

"We're looking to help people discover wine," said John Lake, an advanced sommelier who is working towards his master diploma. "We understand that sometimes when you go into a grocery store or you're at a restaurant and you're looking at a wine list – for some people it can be a bit intimidating. And so we're here to bring that hospitality to the retail sector."

He was employed by Rosewood Bermuda as the beverage director in April 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit and the island was ordered to shelter in place. It gave him time to think about his future.

"The combined retail store and tasting room was in planning with Pitt & Company when I was invited to join the team," Mr Lake said. "It gave me a chance to reflect and start thinking of different ideas of how I could further my career in hospitality with my wine knowledge.

"Eighty per cent of the wines you find in here are wines and spirits that Pitt & Co bring in and 20 per cent are unique offerings that my team and I have sourced and brought in that you can exclusively find at The Tasting Room."

Clare Tomlinson shows off the wine dispenser at The Tasting Room on South Road in Smith's (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

At 18, Mr Lake was hired as a barback at the Reefs Resort & Club. He moved around in the industry here before he relocated to the UK where he managed cocktail and hotel bars and "ran a pub for a couple of years" in Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 2016 he was offered the post at Rosewood and started his formal training as a sommelier.

On November 1, 2020, with the decision made to push ahead with The Tasting Room, workers entered the old Playtrium building and began transforming what had been an indoor playground for children into a space for adults.

Exactly a year later, the project was complete.

"The vision was to try and create a modern, sleek space with plenty of room for people to wander around and explore, not to have anything forced on you," Mr Lake said. "Paul from Island Home worked with my colleague Katie McCormick to design and create the space and we are really happy with the outcome.

"With wines and spirits it's kind of fun to explore different regions and countries and find different things that you maybe hadn’t seen before."

He is especially proud that The Tasting Room is the only place you can buy cans of On De Rock, a beer that is "100 per cent Bermudian".

Pantry items include Nespresso coffee, Harney & Sons teas, chocolates, jerky, biltong, charcuterie, cheeses, olives and olive oil.

"Really, there will be something for everybody," Mr Lake said.

The Tasting Room (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

He believes the company provides an East End alternative to Two Rock Wine Company in Paget.

"One of the real draws of this location was that you don’t have to go into Hamilton," Mr Lake said. "We've got a large parking lot – so free parking – and centrally located. So people can come and shop or enjoy a glass of wine on their way home from work.

"The wine dispensers are designed to maintain wine in perfect condition even after opening. One of our highlights with the wine dispenser is that you can pour smaller pours. Our recommended pour is two ounces because what that means is you can have a taste of five different wines – and that equates to ten ounces – which is basically two glasses of wine in a bar or restaurant. So you're experiencing much more wine but you're still being responsible."

The wines were sourced from common growing regions such as the USA, Chile, Argentina, France, New Zealand and Italy; there are also lesser known brands from England and Israel.

"We have all the grape varietals that people know and love but we also have some more unique or interesting offerings – things like English sparkling wine, wines from the south of Italy in the Puglia region as well as some Austrian and Alsatian wines," Mr Lake said. "If you're intimidated by wine then we can help you, guide you.

"The wine lounge – that was kind of our ace up our sleeve. You can try before you buy. If you're going into a wine store often you have to trust in the salesman. Obviously we want you to trust us but there's no better proof in the pudding than if you try it yourself. So if you come in and you're looking for a pinot noir or a barolo and you're not really sure which one you like, you can come and try one of the 40 bottles in our dispenser and come back and buy bottles in the retail side."

The wine lounge can accommodate about 20 people; both it and the retail store can be rented for private events.

"My background is in bar so I can do cocktails. We can curate events and experiences for whatever you're looking for," Mr Lake said. "We offer pantry items that pair perfectly with our wines. If you and your guests like sparkling pink bubbles we can do rosé champagne and prosecco, if you’re looking for single malts and cigars we can offer that as well. So it's really kind of curating experiences for the Bermudian public that we're looking to do."

A TV in the wine lounge offers the opportunity for tastings with experts from around the world.

"Whilst I have great knowledge about the wines and can talk about them it's much more exciting to see where the wines are produced and hear it from the producer himself," Mr Lake said.

The Tasting Room retail store is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 7pm. The wine lounge is open Monday to Thursday, 4pm to 9pm, and Friday and Saturday from 12pm to 9pm. For more information: thetastingroom.bm

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Published November 18, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated November 19, 2021 at 8:03 am)

Visit The Tasting Room for a new wine experience

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