Cove Ledge Beer, Wine and Spirits
147 Water Street
Square footage: 1,500
Years in operation: 9 years
By Sara Capozzi
Located among the picturesque shops in the seaside neighborhood of Stonington Borough, Cove Ledge Beer, Wine and Spirits has created a niche for itself in the community during its nine years in business. The shop is owned and run daily by husband-and-wife team Annette and Keith Bienkowski, who decided to turn their lifelong passion for wine into store ownership in 2015.
“We grew up in families that made wine,” said Annette Bienkowski. “When we started dating, on all of our trips, we would go to wineries. That’s how it all started. And then in 2012, we moved to the U.K. and lived overseas for a couple of years and that’s when we started traveling to European vineyards and met owners of a lot of the wines that we carry.”
When the couple purchased Cove Ledge Beer, Wine and Spirits, it was originally located on Route 1. After about seven years in that location, the Bienkowskis learned that there was a vacant space on Water Street in Stonington Borough. There hadn’t been a wine shop in the borough for some time and they saw an opportunity to open a boutique there, relocating and opening the new Cove Ledge in April 2022.
“We had always envisioned a boutique like this,” Bienkowski said of the beautifully appointed shop, which features a special occasion room with a cozy fireplace and chairs on the second floor and a patio. Selections are neatly arranged on lightly painted wooden shelving on the well-lit sales floor. The couple also added a wine tasting station where customers can sample select vintages. “That way we can discuss wines with our customers, find out what their palate is like and what they like to drink,” Bienkowski said.
Cove Ledge’s wine selection focuses on smaller, family-owned vineyards and Champagne houses, all of which are vetted by Bienkowski. Half of the store is designated to a variety of spirits, which are organized visually for easy shopping. The shop carries both well-known spirits brands and offers a variety of local craft beer and nonalcoholic selections as that category continues to grow in popularity. A special gift section offers unique items including glassware, decanters and items made by local artists.
In trends, Bienkowski said she has noticed that French whites are more popular with shoppers, especially white Bordeaux and white Burgundies. “We can’t keep them,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how fast I bring them in, they’re just moving.” Bienkowski thinks these wines appeal to customers because they are “cleaner and [made in] more old-style ways with no additives or pesticides. They may not be certified organic, but so many small vineyards still use what they’ve spent generations doing.”
The Bienkowskis are active in the tight-knit Stonington community, donating to local charities such as the Josh Piver Memorial Scholarship Fund and offering their event spaces to local artists to display their work. “Donating to our community is a big piece of who we are, and I think it’s important to give back,” Bienkowski said. Cove Ledge also benefits from foot traffic from the many community events in the borough.
Most of their customer base is from the neighborhood, with more customers from greater Stonington, Mystic, and Rhode Island and plenty of shoppers from the boating community during the summer months. “We love being here,” Bienkowski said. “We love being part of Stonington. It’s a community that we are proud of and truly proud to be part of.”