By Francois Steichen
Cap, Cork & Cellar
Cap, Cork & Cellar is one of the most inviting stores around, with high ceilings, large-paned windows, and a wood floor. The graphics are laser-focused, with great placement in the store and on the website. (The Champagne section is titled “Fat Corks.” That took me a second… and made me smile.). A massive triangular central column divides the store into three alcoves that stock separate items.
The owner of Cap, Cork & Cellar is Robert Petz; he has an Assistant Manager and 3 staffpersons altogether. CC&C is located on Bruce Park Avenue, just before the I-95 underpass into Bruce Park. There is a parking lot around the side of the store that is not obvious at first blush, but offers plenty of space. Robert’s business is “99% Greenwich-centered,” but he gets a lot of call-in deliveries, and fulfills them through Drizly.
In non-Covid times, CC&C offers events and classes in the wedge of the store
closest to the windows, an open yet discrete venue for that type of affair. But until Covid is gone, the store has several impulse buys to entice clients away from internet-shopping: corn vodka in a small bottle with flip-top cap from Our / New York Distillers. An excellent collection of Italian, French and Domestic wines. Magnums of Cantina del Pino, classic Alsace wines, and a very representative Burgundy section. Customers always come back for Caburrio Super Tuscan anytime Robert introduces it to them. Other customer favorites are Cimarron Tequila and Jack’s Abby House Lager.
Several HVAC-facilitated features further demonstrate CC&C’s innovative instinct. In the Summer, a sliding-door fridge just off the store entrance offers customers boozy ice cream. An open fridge in the back showcases a few hard & soft cheeses, some charcuterie, and a truffle mousse. Food and liquor sales in the same establishment would have been illegal in Connecticut just a few years ago. The same open fridge highlights another exciting item: hard-Kombucha from Jiant and Flying Embers.
The surprise of the store is the incredibly discrete walk-in beer fridge across from the open fridge. CC&C doesn’t offer the largest Connecticut beer selection in Greenwich, but it offers one of the most varied. In addition to NEBCO and Counterweight, there is Kent Falls and even Back East and Firefly Hollow – relatively rare breweries in retail stores. Out-of-state beers include favorites like Frost and Sip of Sunshine, from Vermont, and Banded Brewing, a beer that was a special surprise, since I first enjoyed it in its hometown of Biddeford, Maine this summer.
Robert just took in a full barrel of Barrell Whiskey Private Release ex-Madeira barrel-aged cask strength (111.26 proof) Bourbon. He has an unusual pair of Rums: Probitas, and the Rum Cooperative of Boston, a blend of rums from 4 islands with very different distilling traditions. Classic accessories can be found on nearby shelves: Root 23 Syrups, cocktail onions, 5 different types of olives, and two bitters: Fee and Bittermen’s.
CC&C’s physical plant bespeaks high-concept. But the store is chill. Despite
Robert’s Ferrari-high motor, he clearly seeks a down-to-earth atmosphere for his customers. When I asked Robert what exemplified customer service to him, he answered without skipping a beat: “after all these years in the business, I still get a buzz when a customer says to me ‘thank you so much, I learned something today.’”
Putnam & Vine
Putnam & Vine is located on Elm Street, closer to Mason Street. The owner
is David Johnson, the Manager is Karina Pruitt, and there are 4 persons on staff. The store delivers, with most deliveries going to Greenwich, and up the line to Stamford, Darien and New Canaan. P&V has no online shipping currently, but it just launched its internet page in September, and shipping will be coming shortly.
A big reason to shop at P&V is the store itself. It is very clean, with clear sight-lines and clear separation of sections and displays. One such display was a lot of fun: boxes containing bottles of each of the ingredients for a given cocktail. The cocktail recipe is marked on the front of the box.
Another good reason to shop here is the section of natural, organic and
biodynamic wines set out on a separate table behind the register area. As one would expect, it features a large number of wines from the importer who has to rank as one of the top-five in America: Rosenthal Wine Merchant. In fact, it’s one of Rosenthal’s all-star lineups: Coenobium, made by the Cistercian Sisters of Vitorchiano; Grosjean Petite Arvine; and Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle.
Customer favorites at Putnam & Vine start with their domestic, Italian and
French wines. Let’s be clear here: a fair number of P&V customers call their
orders in from the back country. It is one of the go-to stores in Greenwich for high-end wine, and its collection of big names from California, as well as
Burgundy, Bordeaux, Germany and northern Italy is quite impressive. As an
example, the German/Austrian shelf featured Koehler Rupprecht from the Pfalz, Künstler from the Rheingau, Bründlmayer from the Kamptal in Austria, and superb Selbach-Oster 2018 and 2015 Zeltinger Schlossberg Spätleses. Even the standard Rieslings here, from Von Winning and Dr. Crusius, are nothing to sneeze at.
P&V also carries personal favorites like Polkura Syrah, from Chile, Gaba do
Xil from Spain, and special-cuvée Champagnes like Ruinart, Krug, and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. They maintain a good selection of dessert wines, even as those wines are falling into disfavor among drinkers (one shakes one’s head, but it’s true): Sauternes from 3 producers, Italian Vin Santo, and some Hungarian Tokays. The wine fridge contains 28 different bottles, lined up several bottles deep. It is a very ample selection.
Bourbons and Tequilas are very popular right now, Clase Azul and
Casamigos being the clear sales champions. But the lesser-known “La Gritona,” made from ex-Mexican Coke bottles (the glass is a resultant green, of course) and featuring Chief Distiller and Owner Nelly Barajas’s take on the pride of Jalisco, entices many customers.
François Steichen founded and owns Frenchy’s Wine Road, a Connecticut company that writes copy and content for the wine, spirits and cider industries.
He is a resident of Old Greenwich with 15 years’ experience in the Wine Industry. François started at Harry’s Wines in Fairfield; worked at Acker, Merrall and Condit, in New York, the oldest wine store in America; and has managed stores in Greenwich.
François holds the WSET Diploma, the gold standard in wine education. At 10 years of age, François took his first – chaperoned – sip of a sparkling wine. Since that moment, the magic of fermentation and spontaneously-produced bubbles has never truly relinquished its hold on his curiosity.