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Shoreside Review

The Watering Hole  –  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are two definitions of watering hole—one literal and one figurative. The so-named Tortola wine bar manages to be both definitions at once. The literal definition of a watering hole is a naturally occurring depression in which water collects, where animals come to drink. Though the outdoor seating area of The Watering Hole is at street level, it seems sunken because it’s several feet below the door of the wine shop and bar. Planted and potted trees add to the impression of an oasis. Throw in some Sahara dust, a few chickens and lizards, and a real watering hole is easy to imagine.

Juxtaposed with the outdoor oasis, the indoor wine shop and bar resonate more with the informal, figurative definition of watering hole—a social gathering place where drinks are served, as in “Davy Byrnes pub was the preferred watering hole of both James Joyce and Leopold Bloom.” Once inside, I feel like I’m stepping into the cask room of a vineyard. The corked and foiled tops of wine bottles in wooden racks provide a sort of three-dimensional wallpaper. Oak wine barrels, flanked by rough-hewn stools, serve as high-top tables. The smell of roasted coffee, leftover from D’ Best Cup, the coffee shop that operates the space in the mornings, somehow adds to the cask-room feel, leading me to imagine a French vintner sipping an espresso while discussing his harvest.


The Watering Hole is all about the wine. My friend and I each order a glass of Shiraz, a drinkable red that he says tastes like raspberries, but which transports me to Torch Lake, Michigan, and the smoky, tart flavour of cooked Michigan cherries in a warm slice of homemade pie. As we chat with owner Graeme Maccallum about the wine education classes that The Watering Hole offers, I begin mentally planning a trip to Napa and envisioning scenes from my favorite wine-related movies—Bottle Shock and Conte d’automne.

When I emerge from my daydream, I peruse The Watering Hole’s tapas menu—a few basic offerings that serve as a pre-dinner snack. We order polorie– spicy, Guyanese fried dough balls that taste like hush puppies with a kick. They are served with two dipping bowls of chutney, a spicy one and a sweet one. They are a perfect amuse-bouche, and at only $4, they barely dent our evening’s budget.

“I want to provide a stopgap before people go to dinner,” Graeme says. “I’m not trying to compete with The Dove or Spaghetti Junction.” Other items on the tapas menu are a cheese plate (your choice of one, two or three cheeses for $10, $15 or $20), chicken paté for $6, smoked fish dip for $8, and gherkins or whole sweet peppers for $4. With wines always priced at $3 or $5 per glass, I wouldn’t be surprised if The Watering Hole is taking business away from some of the more expensive happy hours in town. Especially on Thursdays when the third drink is free!


Not only is The Watering Hole the perfect place to stop before going out to dinner, but it’s also the perfect place to stop before cooking at home. Pick up a bottle of wine on your way out of town. The staff will be happy to make a recommendation, and the prices are barely more than wholesale.


The Watering Hole is located in Road Town in Wickham’s Cay, not far from the cruise ship pier. The wine shop is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and until 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Saturday hours are 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. They are closed on Sundays, but the space is available for private functions. Though D’ Best Cup vends coffee in the mornings, wines are still available for sale. The wine bar takes over for the afternoons and evenings. Contact them at 494-3340 or send them an email at [email protected] to find out about upcoming tastings, classes and events. 

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