“Wine is to enjoy, not to drink.”
Wine is to enjoy and not to drink. That’s the philosophy of Errol Thomas, owner of Just Wines.
The down-to-earth wine bar located in the Port Mall, Scarborough, is the place to go for wine in Tobago. Errol initially opened the wine bar in 2010 as Villas Garden (named after his mother) at 4th Street, Scarborough. Then, when he moved to the Port Mall, he converted the space and renamed the popular liming spot as Just Wines—serving wines, local and imported beers from Germany and Belgium and finger foods.
Blues and jazz music set the mood on entering, and patrons can enjoy indoor and outdoor atmospheres. The simple high chairs and marble tables placed aside a most interesting conversational wall covered with photos of loyal customers at Just Wines.
Born in Tobago, Errol grew up in Toronto, Canada. He is an alumnus of Ryerson and George Brown College and was interested in culinary arts after being inspired by an executive chef. However, a chef has a lot of long hours, so he chose the management path. His extensive management experience include stints at several global brands such as Sheraton Hotel, Hilton Tobago and Haddon Hotel in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Errol now shares his experiences with the Tobago hospitality community, helping small hotels and restaurants reduce costs and efficiently manage their food and beverage operations.
When Errol returned to Tobago, he decided to open his establishment in the heart of Tobago, At Just Wines, he wanted to create something more than just a bar. Having spent time at the The Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute, education is in his bones. He created a place where his patrons could get an education on wines, a deeper understanding of how wines are to be appreciated and its significance when pairing with a dish.
Every month he invites his patrons to bring their wine for a wine tasting and appreciation event. So they all bring their wine, talk about their wine, and every one tastes it and discusses it. “You would be surprised what people would bring as wine,” says Errol. “At the end, I explain the differences between wine and other spirits, and we all eat, drink and have a good laugh about it.”
Errol’s signature drink is Sangria, made of fermented fruit. On the menu are freshly made meatballs, Accra, crackers, various cheeses, fruits and garden-fresh bruschetta.
The quality of wine is essential, as is holding the wine glass properly and maintaining the temperature of the wine.
“Please, don’t add ice cubes,” says Thomas. “At Just Wines, you can ask questions, and I will be pleased to sit with you and show you how to do a body swirl and enjoy the wine you have purchased. Here you learn about classification, vintage and the purpose of ageing.”
Everyone’s palate is different. So first-timers can try Pinot Noir (pee-no n’wahr) or Pinot Blanc (pee-no blahn). If you want to get into the wine tasting, you can start with the reds, go for a Cabernet Sauvignon (car-ber- nay So –vi-nor) or Merlot (mair-lo).
“I discovered we love a sweeter wine in T&T, so my wines are about 80% Californian,” says Errol. “I also serve some French wines and occasionally Champagne. Italian wines need meals.”
“The key to appreciating wine, especially red wine, is to sip and enjoy it over a good hour. The longer the wine sits in the glass, it becomes mature,” says Thomas. “You won’t find a proper taste if you open the wine and drink it all out.” Instead, let the wine breathe, let it swirl and smell its aroma.
Errol says it takes time and money to start a business. He advises that you should do a feasibility study before starting. It is not a get-up and get rich quick.
Although Errol does not sell local homemade wines, he encourages those in the business to continue to make them because there is a market for them. “I have tasted some great homemade wines,” he says. “Buy something you can enjoy, and you won’t have an effect after.” Errol believes local wines have potential, however, he advises winemakers to get the proper documentation, adhere to the health regulations and licensing to sell commercially.
So if you are a wine lover or just a beginner and want an authentic Tobago experience, feel free to visit Just Wines for some wine, blues and jazz, scrumptious meatballs and delicious bruschetta made with fresh tomatoes and seasoned with herbs from his own garden. You can even try one of the local or European beastly cold beers. Errol welcomes all to be part of the Just Wines community. You can even have a picture taken for the conversation wall while enjoying some wine, tasty foods and good Tobagonian hospitality.
Follow Just Wines on Instagram at @justwinestobago for updates on opening and closing hours during the pandemic.
Photo Credits: Clement Williams and Just Wines via Instagram