When grape guru Ben Parsons made the decision to open the Infinite Monkey Theorem in 2009, he opted for a converted Quonset hut in a back alley in the Arts District on Santa Fe over a chateau in Napa Valley. It was a space, he told Cafe Society's Tyler Nemkov, that would embrace the kind of "place where people can go and hang out," a stage, he added, that could potentially house a "community restaurant, wine bar, nightclub and winery."
The winery came to fruition -- tenfold -- and Parsons's success has been nothing short of monumental: Since opening the Infinite Monkey Theorem, he's amassed numerous coveted awards in the wine world, received endless praise from local wine crusaders and sommeliers (his wines dot syllabuses all over the state), and he's even managed to produce a pair of excellent wines that come in a can -- with two more in the pipeline.
As for the restaurant, wine bar and nightclub, those never materialized, but that's not to say that they won't. To the contrary, Parsons has big, big plans for the future, which includes, among other things, relocating his winery to a 29,000 square-foot warehouse at 3200 Larimer Street, in River North.
"We've outgrown our current facility and we want to increase production, but we also want to fold in other elements to the mix," including, he says, launching Colorado's first ever keg-filling station, building a rooftop deck and garden, converting an additional 15,000 square feet of outdoor space to a stamping ground for local farmers' market vendors, food trucks and live bands, and opening an indoor winery tap room that will also have a significant food component overseen by a bold-name chef
He's teamed up with Brandon Bortles, the former GM of Zengo, who will be the GM of the tap room (which may or may not get its own name), along with Kelly Whitaker, the chef-owner of Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, who will design the menu and guest chef a few nights a week, beginning in July when Parsons anticipates the tap room will be up and running. And Whitaker will cook by way of a mobile wood-fired oven that was given to Parsons by Bortles's uncle. "The menu is still being finalized, but we'll probably do pizzas, maybe tacos and we can even do whole pigs in there," he reveals.
Parsons is still mulling over the operating hours of the tap room, but admits they'll be dictated by the number of bodies that descend upon the winery. "At the moment, we're thinking that it'll be open Tuesday through Saturday from late afternoon until 11 p.m., but if there are people who want to drink and eat later than that, then we'll keep going," he says.
And River North, insists Parsons, is the neighborhood-of-the-moment in which to make the winery, the tap house and everything else he's envisioning a reality. "River North is the direction that Denver is growing. It's a hipster neighborhood that's already got a thriving arts district, plus there are great bars, distilleries and breweries, and it feels like the perfect place for IMT," explains Parsons, adding that the location was a "no-brainer."
Once he moves the winery, which he'll do next week, Parsons will uncork -- and un-can -- several more wines, including a bottled varietal Sémillon, which will be available in two weeks, along with a Back Alley red, which he'll pop open for the first time during a blowout bash on June 16 at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen; and later this summer, he'll release a Back Alley rosé, his fourth canned wine.
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And that's not all: Parsons also plans to introduce a growler program that will mimic what the breweries are doing with beer; he'll screen films against the winery's facade; and starting next week, he's corralling a co-op of artists as part of a "paste-up" movement to wallpaper the building's exterior. "We'll put multiple layers of wallpaper on the outside to form art, which I think will be a really cool project," he says.
As for the current Infinite Monkey Theorem, Parsons has sublet the space to another tenant, but he says that he'll continue to utilize the courtyard wine bar during the First Friday Art Walk. And, eventually, he promises to host First Friday Art Walk gatherings at the new location.