Ben Parsons, founder of the Infinite Monkey Theorem winery in River North, hosted a James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour dinner on Friday night, but the event felt more like a celebration of the winery's recent achievements than a staid and stuffy formal dinner. Parsons has been busy expanding IMT into new markets with innovative offerings as well as even more wine.
The biggest news for the wine world, if not for Colorado, is that Parsons is opening a second Infinite Monkey Theorem; this one is scheduled to open in Austin, Texas, on October 2. Like the Denver original, it will be an urban winery (in Austin's South Congress neighborhood) and will feature wine made from Texas grapes, starting with a cinsault rosé. And like the Denver winery, the new Austin sibling will strive to engage the community of local musicians, artists, chefs and wine enthusiasts.
Parsons also recently spun off a side business called Iron Monkey, a keg-filling service for existing wineries. Iron Monkey cleans, fills and ships kegs of wine from wineries that send their product to the Denver warehouse. The company also sets up tap-wine service systems for bars and restaurants.
As far as the wine itself, Parsons just bottled 176 cases of the first méthode champenoise sparkling wine made in Colorado with Colorado grapes. It's a bottle-fermented albariño from grapes grown on the Western Slope. Parsons says the grower only plants a few acres and that his winery purchased the entire crop. IMT is also expanding its pear-cider production and recently landed an account with Frontier Airlines to sell cans of dry-hopped pear cider on flights beginning in November.
With so much going on, a celebration seemed in order, and the dinner organized by the Celebrity Chef Tour fit the bill. Ticket holders enjoyed a lavish meal, with food from seven Denver chefs and bakers and four national guest chefs. Justin Brunson of Old Major, Paul C. Reilly of Beast + Bottle, Troy Guard of TAG, Kelly Whitaker of Basta and Jeff Osaka of Osaka Ramen prepared a number of passed appetizers before pitching in to serve up plated dishes including a tomato salad from the garden adjacent to the winery, whole roasted duck breast and foie gras with bacon-marmalade sauce, enormous rib steaks slathered in country-ham-lard butter, and even bigger skin-on pork shanks with kimchi stew. Jeff Cleary of the Grateful Bread Company provided a variety of loaves, and Josh Schwab capped off the night with pumpkin-pie puffynuts (a take on cronuts filled with pumpkin-spice pastry cream and topped with chai glaze) from Glazed and Confuzed.
Everything was served family style, and diners were given chef's knives and encouraged to do their own carving. Guest chefs included Stephen Gerike of the National Pork Board; Jason Alley of Comfort in Richmond, Virginia; Adam Sappington of the Country Cat in Portland, Oregon; and Chad Colby, who's opening a new restaurant with Curtis Stone in Los Angeles. Keep reading for more photos of the event.