Val’s Putnam Wines and Liquors
125 W. Putnam Ave.
Greenwich, CT 06830
Family-owned Val’s began in 1957, and over a half-century later, it’s still part of the Greenwich community. Val’s carries a huge selection of domestic, international and rare wines, and everyone in the store can assist you in finding just what you need. In fact, probably no other wine shop in the state goes to such lengths to educate its patrons on wine. Not only does Val’s hold Friday and Saturday wine tastings, it also has an in-store Knowledge Center that provides free wine classes every month and gives lessons on wine collection and maintaining a wine cellar. Visit often enough and you’ll become as big a wine expert as the staff.
Sonoma Wines & Spirits
30 Welles St.
Glastonbury, CT 06033
This Glastonbury Center store has has one of the most extensive offerings of wine (and craft beer if you enjoy that as well) in the state. Shoppers are consistently impressed by how smart and enthusiastic the staff is about wine. Employees will be happy to help you find your favorite cabarnet, zinfandel, chardonnay, or suggest a brand you may like even better. Take advantage of the staff’s knowledge and try one of their suggestions. Recent staff picks have included Miles Mossop Max 2006 (from South Africa), Canaliccio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 2006 (from Italy) and Botanica Chenin Blanc 2009 (from South Africa).
Mt. Carmel Wine & Spirits Co.
2977 Whitney Ave.
Hamden, CT 06518
Hamden’s Mt. Carmel, which has been in business since shortly after the end of Prohibition, keeps racking up awards from Connecticut Magazine as the best retail wine store in the state. It offers a number of great wines at affordable prices - some for under $10 - as well as discounted direct imports. Connoisseurs with more money to spend will want to check out its impressive selection of rare wines which include Red and White Burgundy, Rhone Valley and dessert wines. Mt. Carmel also specializes in Bordeaux with rare vintages such as 1982 Chateau Cheval Blanc, 1978 Chateau Lafleur and 1959 Chateau Haut Brion.
Related: Top Connecticut Vineyards
220 Asylum St.
Hartford, CT 06103
For over 20 years, Spiritus has been helping customers find that perfect bottle of wine. The store boasts a large selection (especially chardonnay and pinot noir), but if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, the staff will gladly order it for you. Take advantage of its other perks as well like free parking (hard to come by in downtown Hartford) for 30 minutes in front of the store or 60 minutes in the XL Center garage and free delivery to anywhere in Connecticut for orders over $100. Participate in its weekly tasting sessions and sign up for the wine club, where every month you receive at a 14-percent discount on its wines of the month. Examples from this past summer included 2011 Vina Leyda Pinot Noir Classic Leyda Valley (from Chile) and 2012 Touquinheiras Reserva Clemen Vinho Verde (from Portugal).
Toast Wines By Taste
984B Farmington Ave.
West Hartford, CT 06107
This wine seller in West Hartford Center gets its name from its unique concept. Rather than grouping its wines by region and varietal, it does so by taste. There are six categories ranging from bright (light-bodied white wines like Rain Sauvignon Blanc) to bold (full-bodied red wines like Bogle Phantom). Once you’ve decided which taste category best fits your palate, learn about each wine from its own card which describes its flavor and suggests which foods it is best paired with. Between this set-up and its reasonable prices (most under $20), Toast Wines By Taste takes the intimidation out of buying wine.
Joshua Palmes is a freelance writer covering all things Connecticut. His work can be found on Examiner.com.