I’ve been to plenty of cheese shops and a few liquor stores in my day, but I’ve never experienced a place exuding as much passion as No. 109 Cheese and Wine. Located at 109 Danbury Road, it reminds me of a Vermont Country store or perhaps a French Village shop.
These two neighboring stores, owned by Monica and Todd Brown, offer fine wines and spirits, gourmet cheese and charcuterie, and curated specialty items sourced worldwide.
Co-owner Todd Brown is something of a Renaissance man. He started his career in fashion, found his way to the world of music production, then the automotive industry. From there, he continued to follow his passions which led him to fine wines and cheeses.
“There’s nothing we carry in this store that we don’t love,” Todd explains. From wines to bourbon cherries to Alpine Cheeses and French cheese knives, Todd can expound on the origins and quality of every item with an encyclopedic level of knowledge.
The wine shop delivers on distinctive wines you aren’t going to find anywhere else.
“98% of our wines are biodynamic, organic, and sustainable,” Todd says. While the wines are sometimes obscure, that doesn’t mean that they are all expensive. You can purchase a bottle of wine that costs as little as $13 but also find more luxury wines and champagnes, with the highest price being “a collector’s dream” – a Domaine Dujac French Burgundy retailing for around $495. “Our sweet spot is delicious wines that can be very difficult to come across, most in the $25 price range,” explains Todd.
Walking into the wine shop is a bit like walking into a personal wine cellar. “We have a wine cellar at home, but we wanted this to be a place that we could pull from. We wanted it to feel like our cellar.” When you visit, don’t miss the handmade counter that Todd and a friend designed using barn wood and the grill of a 1937 Mack Truck and 1942 vintage Dodge parts.
You won’t find “staff picks” or prices on the shelves when you walk around the shop, instead, you will find Gary or Greg. They are friendly and approachable, ready to make suggestions based on what you like.
“We almost always ask what you’ll be eating and pair your wine based on that,” Todd says.
A Perfect Pairing
His wife and co-owner Monica is a charming gal who hails from Kansas. She is blessed with a discerning palate, which she further developed as a restauranteur and later, a sommelier. During a time when she was the manager of Jack Fry’s, an institution in Louisville, Kentucky, her personal life took her to Stamford, CT. She decided to branch out from food to her next passion: wine, and soon secured a job with a French wine importer.
“At the time, my exposure was more with New World wines. I didn’t know as much about Old World wines. So, I just fell in love with French wines, the French lifestyle, and the idea of food accompanying wine versus serving wine as a cocktail.”
After a few years, she decided to open a wine shop, called Cellar 15—where she would sell well-made quality wines priced around $15. Todd was interested in dating her, but she explained she didn’t have
“So, I said, ‘if I help you open your wine shop will you be interested in dating?’ and she said, “sure” Todd remembers with a chuckle. And the rest is history. They met in 2001 and married a few years later. They sold the first wine shop to a friend and began thinking about their next venture. They saw a need for a cheese store and specialty food shop in town, and that’s how 109 Cheese and Wine
“Some people buy shoes. We buy food and wine,” Monica says.
Her face lights up as she listens to Todd explain the experience of tasting caviar, “we turned people on to caviar that had never tried it. They’re suddenly like, “why have I not had this before?” the answer is because they don’t understand it. And because they don’t understand, it’s scary to them.”
How would Todd describe caviar? “It’s like the perfect oyster. It has that brininess,” Monica chimes in, “Our favorite way to enjoy it is on potato chips with crème fraiche and champagne.”
If you are interested in giving caviar a go, they suggest you start with Hackleback Wild Caviar or try a tasting at a local restaurant,
Food You Have to Try
Todd and Monica’s staff seems as passionate as their bosses, two “work hard, play hard bon vivants.” “We have a great staff, and we are all hunting for the new cheese. The next thing,” Monica explains.
I took home items to try – including a very gooey runny cheese that put your “typical” triple crème brie to shame, delicious prosciutto, and some Croque monsieur tarts that WOWed my friends. And the wine he recommended was an Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat.
“A well-crafted blend of Cab, Syrah, Merlot and Garnacha” that landed right in that $25 sweet spot – but it was something I had never had before, and I loved it.
A few years back, the couple relied on their staff to run the shops as they took a road trip across the country. “We traveled six weeks with like one reservation. For us, life is about the journey and discovering new and unique experiences along the way,” Todd says.
The next leg of their journey is just getting started as the duo explore ideas for a gourmet coffee shop and hang out for vintage automotive enthusiasts. •