Guide to CT Wine & Spirit Shops for Summer 2015

April Guilbault

If there is one sound that can make you think of a hot summer day, it is the clink of ice in a big, tall glass. Ka-chink, clink, clink. Does a fizzy sound follow on the heels of those ka-chinks? Is there a ker-plop of a citrus wedge tumbling into that cool pool of refreshing, fizzy goodness? Ahhhh...and this is the sound that follows all of those...Ahhhh. Hello, icy cold craft beer, hello tart and tingly gin and tonic, hello creamy pina. It’s so nice to see you again.

To make you overflow with summer lovin’, we have found spirit shops around the state that will put the ka-chink-clink-clink in your future...

Spiked Seltzer

SpikedSeltzer is made exclusively from purified water and natural ingredients. The fresh fruit flavors infused in SpikedSeltzer are derived from a variety of cold-pressed citrus essences and the yummy results are flavors such as West Indies Lime, Valencia Orange, Indian River Grapefruit, and Cape Cod Cranberry. Fermentation of this citrus essence and sugar naturally produces 6% alcohol. The result is clean and clear, low-carb, gluten-free, less filling than a beer, and packs as much alcohol as a glass of wine...but no hangover (and no bloat! weeee!). Master brewer and Westport resident Nick Shields hit the nail on the proverbial head with this one. Whether it’s straight from the bottle, poured over ice, or used in a mixed drink, SpikedSeltzer always remains perfectly refreshing. Visit their website for rockin’ cocktail recipes, Here is just one of the many ways to try it... simply combine and sip, sip, sip! Visit for retailers

Margarita Fizz


12oz West Indies Lime SpikedSeltzer

1/2oz fresh lime juice

1.5oz Triple Sec

1.5oz Tequila

Pinch of salt 

Stew Leonard’s Wines

locations in CT, NY, and NJ

Stew Leonard's Wines, named the 2011 Wine Enthusiast Retailer of the Year, is known for the personal service it provides to customers and its knowledgeable staff, many of whom are Certified Specialists of Wine, per the Society of Wine Educators. The store carries 2,600 wines from around the world (everyone sing...”2600 bottles of wine on the wall...”), including more than 200 bottles of hard-to-find, highly rated wines in the fine wine cellar.  With competitive prices, food pairing suggestions and tasting notes, a visit to Stews will get you what you are craving. Check out for specials at each of their locations and unique video samplings. Here’s a great recipe for Rose Sangria from JoAnn LoGiurato, Certified Wine Specialist at Stew Leonard Wines. Makes 6-8 servings.

Sangria is a fabulous, festive, and refreshing cocktail option for the summer!  When making sangria, you don't need to break the bank - selecting a wine under $10 is fine and Spanish wines are perfect for sangria. Its best to let the mixture chill for a few hours before adding the Cava and serving. Bottoms up!

Stew's Sangria


1 bottle chilled Abrazo Garnacha rosé [$8.99]

1/4 cup Triple Sec, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau

2 tablespoons brandy

1 cup halved seedless grapes

1 cup quartered strawberries

1-2 peaches (peeled) or nectarines, sliced

2-4 tablespoons sugar

1 cup chilled Paul Cheneau Cava [$8.99]


Pour rosé into a pitcher. Stir in the Triple Sec, brandy and the fruit. Taste, and add sugar. Chill for a few hours and right before serving, add the Cava to the pitcher, then pour the sangria into glasses and add ice.

Val’s Putnam Wines and Liquors

125 West Putnam Ave, Greenwich 

Family owned for 60 years and a great part of the fine town of Greenwich all along, Val’s strives to give its customers a fine selection, great service, with a healthy dose of knowledge about their products on the side. In fact, they have initiated a weekly on-going platform called The Knowledge Center, where they conduct wine tastings each Friday and Saturday and host free (free? yes, free!) wine classes 2-3 times per month. You will soon have no need for the line “Can you suggest...” in your vocabulary, if Val’s has anything to do with it. They love being part of the community, hosting and co-sponsoring many town and county events, and their commitment to people and their craft is evident. A good sense of humor is a must, too, and they invite you to “stalk them on social media”. Go for it, what do you have to lose?

Punzone Limoncino Passione

Combine all, chill and enjoy~

2 parts Punzone Limoncino

1 part Punzone vodka

1.5 parts mango nectar

fresh mint-muddled

garnish with fresh slice of lemon or sprig of mint

Ancona's Wine and Liquors

5 River Road, Wilton

82 years of this family business have resulted in a store that is brimming with selections and offerings for their customers. Beer, wine and spirit tastings (check out their summer calendar), “buzz worthy” picks, a fun blog, kosher and organic wines and gluten-free beers. Ask them what’s on tap for the summer and they get excited! For example, they are “super stoked” about two specially selected barrels of Bourbon that will be available exclusively at their store. It’s a ridiculously small batch limited offering. Hold onto your hats. Or glasses. E-mail and be the first to know when Ancona's Custom blend arrives. They also suggest two fine cocktails that you will get excited about, that have been favorites at past tasting events. Enjoy and be merry!

Champagne Cocktail

Combine 1oz Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon, .5oz Royal Rose Lavender Syrup, and .25oz Lemon Juice in cocktail shaker. Shake well. Strain into a flute and top with Mas Fi Cava. Garnish with lemon peel.

Mexican Firing Squad: Combine 2oz Calle 23 Reposado, 1oz Jack Rudy Grenadine, .75oz Fresh Lime Juice, and 2 dashes Angostura Bitters in cocktail shaker. Shake well. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with lime.


1790 Post Road E, Westport

Logging onto their cheeky website, you instantly get the vibe of Bottlerocket, the store. They are going to break down the world of wine, spirits, beer and make it fun. Need a drink to go with takeout food? They’ve got your back. Need a wine to go with fish? Need one to go with an unusual dessert? Options abound and they hold nothing back. No snooty-hoity-toity here. They’ve got some great ideas for the summer, too: Gruner Veltliner, a dry white wine, is inexpensive and quaffable, light bodied with notes of granny smith apples. A perfect thirst quencher! Try also Ripe Bar Juice, which are tasty local mixers (New Haven born!) and flavored ciders from Sweden in summery flavors like passionfruit, wild berry, and pear. These drinks will send you to the moon, via rocket.

Casa Bacchus

10 South Street, Litchfield

Wanting to highlight smaller distilleries, local products and artisanal wines are what this adorable spirit shop down the street from the iconic Litchfield green does best. Their new(ish) location is highly accessible, their prices competitive and their stock comprehensive. Just speak with owner Chris Jeans for a few minutes and his infectious enthusiasm will have you wanting to whip up a vintage cocktail in record time. In fact, for this summer’s entertaining, he suggests just that...bubbly mixed with liquors; casual but still special. Think elderflower liquor! Blood orange liquor from the Amalfi Coast (si! si!)! Or try Hendricks Gin with a hint of pink grapefruit juice and a twist of freshly cracked black pepper. Don a fedora. Shake it. Stir it. Become a mixologist this summer. 

The Cork Fine Wine and Spirits

1597 East Main St. Torrington

The Cork wants to make your summer entertaining enjoyable and easy. Their knowledgable staff will help choose the perfect accompaniment and they will even deliver to save you “that last errand”! Weekly tastings of beers, wines, and spirits will broaden your range and you can call it “educational”. This month, they are highlighting Cantina Zaccagnini’s Pinot Grigio (an easy way to remember it...look for the bit of grapevine on the bottle). They also stock the fixins for perennial favorites like Dark and Stormies and the hip kid on the block, Moscow Mules. Sign up for their Buyers Club and you’ll never miss a beat.

The Crush Club Wine Making

65 S. Colony Rd., Wallingford

Want wine? Hate going into wine stores and being overwhelmed by the choices/tasting notes/regions...gah!! Simple solution...make your own vintage! Enjoy a totally unique “activity” for new or experienced crushers! It’s actually a 12-month process (so get started! What are you waiting for?) where you pick the grapes, press them, rack them, bottle, cork and label the final, sippingly delicious product. Tap into your inner Lucille Ball and get crushin’. Your own Ethel Mertz-bestie definitely required for maximum enjoyment

Harry’s Wine and Liquor Market

2094 Post Road, Fairfield 

For almost 75 years, Harry’s has been the go-to place for spirits in Fairfield and they also pride themselves on being a teaching and learning store for both their staff and their customers. Wine tastings, beer tastings, cocktail and champagne tastings...Harry’s wants you to try it all and enjoy it all. Check out their blog, too, that is overflowing with information. Be sure to sign up for their “Weekend Update”, which alerts readers to their Saturday tastings and weekly new in-store arrivals. Chateau d'Esclans Rose Whispering Angel is one of their best buys of this week and those angels will have you rejoicing this weekend, for sure. I’ll have what she’s having, Harry.

Lake Wine and Spirits

180 Main Street South, Southbury

‘Tis the oldest liquor store in Southbury. Offering perks like the lowest legal discounts in the state, in-town delivery, case discounts and even gift wrapping, Southburyians love them! The staff at Lake Wine tastes everything before it is sold...and with their stock of 2500 wines, along with high-end scotches and bourbons, that is saying A LOT (worry not, they try just a little) and it also simply screams commitment to quality. Stop by, pick up a bottle. You only have 2499 to go.

Nicholas Roberts Fine Wines

1053 Boston Post Road, Darien

Are you an enthusiast of stylish living? We thought so. Then cruise over to Nicholas Roberts Fine Wines and you will be treated as an honored guest, so say the Troilo brothers who run this fine business. This Darien shop has been in existence since before Prohibition and they are happy that those days are over. Bring out the fun and the style! From cellar sales to tastings of extraordinary wines and spirits, Nicholas Roberts has the libations to stylize your life. Some suggestions for summer entertaining...gin is taking a center spot and Barr Hill Gin from Hardwick, VT is topping their list. It is terrific over ice with a lemon twist and also makes a mean Negroni. Another spirit that is perfect for summer sipping is rum (try El Dorado from Guyana), whether incorporated into cocktails or simple over ice with a sprig of mint. And for the wine drinkers, rose continues to lead the way in the summertime. Gobelsburger, Jean Luc Colombo and Chateau Ferrages are this years stunners. Nicholas Roberts Fine Wines will surely point you in the right direction...stylishly.

Saugatuck Grain and Grape

40 Railroad Place, Westport 

Across from Westport train station (location! location! location!), SG & G offers a wealth of bottled libations, along with educational sessions with special interests in scotch and bourbon. I’m thinking that a bourbon cocktail would be great with that BBQ you are firing up next weekend, hint-hint, wink-wink? SG & G also has a darned fine Wine School, which I’m sure you have surmised will be rather helpful as the summer progresses (and beyond. To infinity). And you said you never wanted to go to summer school-funny how things change. SG & G loves to stock smaller wine producers, unique offerings, and they carry an extensive selection of not-your-run-of-the-will roses and white wines that are perfect for summer. These types of wines are so tasty with grilled items, salads and fish, and smoked food. Today’s favorite: Gobelsburg Cistercien. But stop in next week, too, as they will probably have a new favorite then!

Toast Wines by Taste

984B Farmington Ave., West Hartford 

Have you ever wandered into a wine store and tried to describe what you are looking for? “I need...oaky? Velvety? Dry? Knock-my-socks off?” Well, at Toast Wines, you buy by the adjective. How user-friendly is this?? They don’t group their selections by varietal or region, they group them by description...mellow, rich, fruity, silky, bold, sparkler, dessert and Toast selections, which are domaine and estate selections. While they don’t yet have a category officially labeled “knock-your-socks-off”, they are well on their way. We love this!

The Wine Institute of New England


 “Uncork your inner wine expert!” they say. “Sure!” we say. The institute offers a host of wine education opportunities for consumers and professionals, including wine appreciation classes, private and corporate wine tastings, wine study courses, and food and wine pairing events. They also happily partner with various venues around the state so as to give everyone a shot at attending (nice!) and they are the only establishment in Connecticut to offer the Certified Specialist of Wine and French Wine Scholar programs.   Spirits Specialist programs coming soon-stay tuned. If you have a hankering to learn, get your notebooks, pencils and palates ready and....3...2...1...uncork!

The Wine Thief

181 Crown St. and 378 Whitney Ave New Haven

Voted New Haven’s best wine shop, hands down. They specialize in stocking hard-to-find wines, educating the consumer and making fine wines accessible to all. Holding Friday night wine tastings (and beers and delightful liquors, too), they want to you to learn so that you can know and enjoy. You’ll also have some serious fun along the way. Amble on down and get thee educated.