Even before I arrived in Denver, I was blogging about the Infinite Monkey Theorem (IMT), a counter culture wine lab and tasting room in Denver’s River North (RiNo).
I had a sneaking suspicion, even before the Friday I was scheduled to visit, that I was going to fall in love with this winery that turns snobbishness and elitism on its outdated head.
Any winemaker with the chutzpah and the quirky sensibility to name his wine after a probability theorem that posits that a monkey hitting typewriter keys for an infinite amount of time will eventually type the complete works of William Shakespeare is my kind of guy.
Says Ben Parsons, the 37-year-old Englishman who started IMT, about its rather offbeat name, “I always envisioned a monkey typing Shakespeare as a way of making order out of chaos. And my business plan, which involved farming, which is always fickle, a short growing season, harsh winters and driving trucks full of grapes through mountain passes to a city on the other side of the state, resembled what could be considered chaos. Or at least there were an awful lot of factors over which I had very little control.”
But because he believed he could make Shakespeare-quality wine in an old warehouse, next to a back alley, that’s exactly what he did. Indeed, his seasonally-changing Syrahs, Malbecs, Roses and Rieslings have secured glowing reviews from Wine Spectator, medals at competitions and, most importantly, at least to Parsons, the loyalty of young, active Coloradoans who email him pictures of themselves drinking his wine while pedaling through mountain passes or cooling it behind rafts on Colorado’s famous white water.
To Parsons, wine and wine-drinking is all about community. His fashionably immodest tasting room has scattered sofas, tables made from reclaimed timber, one, the so-named community table, seats 20, dangling wine bottles transformed into lights and a tricked out vending machine that dispenses perhaps his most unorthodox scheme so far—wine in slim aluminum cans.
“Why the pretense?” Parsons says. “Everybody in Colorado is outdoorsy. They hike, ski, raft and climb and it’s tough to carry a glass bottle into the wilderness. I wanted to come up with packaging that isn’t going to break, that cools down very quickly in a river and that can be crushed down and thrown into a backpack.”
So far, canned wine (also Wine Spectator-approved) makes up 20 percent of IMT’s business, but it’s soaring in popularity with airlines (glass bottles, after all, could be used as weapons), concert venues (IMT was a star at Brooklyn’s Great Googa Mooga music festival this year) and at sports stadiums.
He also sells wine from a keg-dispensing station and in boxes for Snooze, the popular breakfast joint that’s spreading across the country faster than a runny egg.
Sure, he says, there will always be snobs who look down their nose on canned wine, purists who insist wines need corks, but he doesn’t care.
“We focus on the variables that matter—using the best grapes, harvesting them at the their peak, nurturing each batch and getting to know the people who drink it,” says Parsons, who has a degree in oenology. “We want to cut through the pretense, shake things up a bit.
“Our mission is to change people’s perception of wine, to make it accessible. It’s not about proving you can age fine wine in a can. It’s about a particular lifestyle, about enjoying yourself.”
And who knows, maybe Parsons populist approach to wine-making will follow yet another theory, the 100th Monkey Theory after which, of course, Parsons has named one of his wines.
A blended mix of Petit Verdot, Petit Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, the 100th Monkey that Wine Spectator bequeathed last year with 89 points was described by the Wall Street Journal as “boysenberry jam in liquid form.”
But as for theories, Parsons hopes that like the 100th Monkey Theory that suggests a tipping point happens when you finally reach 100, that eventually everybody will get it that wine doesn’t have to be stuffy or elitist.
Photos by: Ryan Lee: www.thinktomake.com