18 January 2021
Since it reopened in late July after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, a series of changes has started a transformation of West Indies Wine Company that will continue into the new year. Although it still offers customers the unique opportunity to sample or drink a whole glass of up to 80 different wines — as it always has — several new offerings have made West Indies Wine Company a gathering place for a wider range of people.
Leading the changes since October last year is new manager William Loyd, who previously worked as a sommelier at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, including more than two years as the resort's head sommelier.
"We're trying to make West Indies Wine Company more accessible to everyone, even those who don't drink wine," says Loyd.
In addition to its wine selections, West Indies Wine Company now offers six different Caybrew beers on tap and a variety of gin cocktails. It also has expanded its food menu beyond its popular flatbreads and small bites.
"We now offer a variety of meat and cheese boards that are larger than what we offered before," says Loyd. "And of course, we're able to offer different wines that pair with each selection."
Some of the menu items offer just cheese, like "The Holy Trinity" — a selection of cow, goat and sheep cheese served with truffle honey, almonds and quince — while others like the "Spanish Meat and Cheese" mix meats and cheese. There's also a seafood board, which includes smoked salmon, marinated anchovies and sardines, served with crème fraîche, cucumbers and shallots, and a Mediterranean board, which combines hummus, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, olives and cucumber and tomato salad.
The new food boards are substantial in size and generally cost between CI$15 and $18.
"Guests are coming over and making a lunch out of it," says Loyd.
In the future, the food menu might expand even more.
"It's something we've been asked about, so we're actively considering it."
At the same time that West Indies Wine Company brought in the beers on tap, the floor plan was reconfigured to add bar seats around the central cash register area. All of the previous outdoor seating remains, but now with added indoor seating, customers can enjoy their beverages or food in air-conditioned comfort.
"During the last rainy season, the extra seating inside came in handy," says Loyd.
Although the reconfiguration reduced the amount of shelf space for retail products, customers can still come in to buy bottles of their favourite wines or spirits — and even selections that cannot be purchased anywhere else.
"We have a number of wines that other retail outlets don't have," says Loyd.
Over the years since it opened, West Indies Wine Company has seen several thematic layouts for its wine stations. Loyd has gone back to the original concept of having all the red wines grouped together, from lightest to fullest body, and all the white wines grouped together, also in order of increasing body. There's also a wine station that contains four dessert wines now as well.
To add some excitement, West Indies Wine Company has started hosting pop-up events, including two that featured Perrier-Jouët Champagne last month.
"They're more like party events than sit-down tastings," says Loyd, adding that the two events in December featured DJ Max Kazakov from Cayman Music School in Camana Bay.
West Indies Wine Company has also started partnering with Red Sail Sports to offer some wine and sailing events in the North Sound. On these trips, Loyd pairs three wines with three small plates of food prepared by Rum Point Club Restaurant. After the sail, guests return to West Indies Wine Company, where they are treated to a fourth wine pairing with dessert.
"They're a lot of fun and a unique experience," says Loyd.
The West Indies Wine Company's Wine Club, which was flying somewhat under the radar before lockdown, has recommenced. Each month, Loyd picks six wines for each of the three tier levels of membership, which range in price from CI$160 to CI$260 per month. The monthly costs reflect discounts of $20 to $40 off regular retail prices. The wines are then either delivered to locations in Camana Bay or packaged for customers to collect them at the store.
"We have a small but loyal following with the Wine Club and we hope to expand the membership this year," says Loyd.
This article originally appeared in the January 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times.
About the author
Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for three years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 16 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. An avid baseball fan, Alan loves travelling but also schedules trips back home around catching a summer game or two with his home team, Cleveland Indians. He is a movie buff who spends many an evening catching a film at Camana Bay Cinema. It was at one of these movies that he met his wife, Lynn!