Last Friday night, at a pop-up speakeasy on the rooftop of Ghost Plate & Tap, Denver wine lovers had their first opportunity to sample the latest cool-kid offering from the Infinite Monkey Theorem: Monkey Shine, the winery's brand-spanking-new keg wine.
IMT certainly isn't the first to join the burgeoning wine-on-tap movement. In fact, you can already weigh in on whether keg wines are destined for longevity or just a flash in the pan at a handful of restaurants across the Front Range. But Ben Parsons's co-branded venture with the Breckenridge and Wynkoop breweries definitely serves up its own unique spin on the trend. Right away, we pegged this as a win-win for all of us who live in fear of being invited to grab a post-Broncos bite at one of Denver's more casual eateries and having to force down the subpar wines usually on offer.
Very soon, you will be able to take your pick of thirteen predominantly beer-focused restaurants offering not only the freshest of Infinite Monkey Theorem wines, but at wallet-friendly prices, to boot. If you're as giddy at this prospect as we are, here's what you need to know before you order your first draft glass of Infinite Monkey Theorem on tap:
Best of the bulk: A total of four different Infinite Monkey Theorem-branded wines are destined for pouring via the Breckenridge Brewery tap program. The first two, available now, consist of a white and a red, and both are sourced through the vast (and largely subpar in quality) bulk-wine market. "There are literally thousands and thousands of wines out there that never get to market, probably because the vineyards or wineries couldn't use or sell all of their fruit," says Parsons. "Ninety percent of it is basically undrinkable, so a bulk-wine broker selects maybe a thousand samples for winemakers like me to go through and find the good stuff."
From there, Ben's top three bulk-wine picks (all from well-known, higher-end California wineries) were shipped to IMT's Quonset hut-based winery, where he and his crew put the finishing touches on them (stabilizing, filtering, etc.) before transferring them to kegs - 900 in total. The result? Monkey Shine White, a pinot grigio, and Monkey Shine Red, a blend of two different Cali-sourced syrahs. "For the red, I did blending trials with the syrahs to figure out what combination of the two would work best," explains Parsons. For the record, we tasted both at the launch party and judged them fully worthy of IMT's moniker - and their namesake eye-catching label. Monkey Shine White was bright, uncomplicated and guzzle-ready, the Monkey Shine Red hearty, smoky and juicy.
Tap that [second] line: As a counterpoint to the Monkey Shine Red and White offerings, the new keg program will offer two additional, custom-made Infinite Monkey Theorem wines. There's just one catch, though: They're still in development. "I'd love to have them ready to go right now, but harvest season is just starting," notes Parsons. "I'm sourcing the fruit from Palisade and making the wine from beginning to end." Actually, he'll be using a batch of riesling he's already got in the works for the secondary white-wine offering, currently targeted for a January or February 2012 release.
And the follow-up red? That remains to be seen. "I'm thinking cabernet sauvignon, syrah, probably malbec, and cabernet franc," Parsons muses. Bear in mind, none of these varietals have even been picked yet, so it will probably be the end of May before the wine's available at a tap near you. If you're wondering why the hell IMT is offering two completely different whites along with two equally different red wines for the same keg program, you're not alone.
"When Breckenridge Brewery/Wynkoop Holdings approached me and asked me to make custom wines to carry at their thirteen locations across the state, the plan was to make four unique wines for this program - two more 'generic' wines sourced on bulk market and finished at the winery, and two wines made from scratch," Parsons explains. The branding and labeling for the IMT-made wines will be different than (but will still tie into) the existing Monkey Shine theme and include the Breckenridge Brewery logos.
Try before you buy: We're loving the idea that environmentally aware oenophiles will soon have four higher-quality-yet-inexpensive wines available to choose from the next time they belly up to the bar at one of the Breckenridge Brewery or Wynkoop establishments featuring IMT wines. The current Monkey Shine releases are going for just $7 per glass, which is generally the lowest price point for a restaurant by-the-glass offering. And for those uninitiated to the Infinite Monkey Theorem's bottlings, what better (or should we say cheaper) way to sample the work of a winery whose cabernet franc typically retails at a pricey $29 per bottle? "People need to understand this is a great way to try before they buy. After trying the glass on tap, hopefully they'll decide to buy a bottle at the wine store," says Parsons. If last week's event was any indication, it seems like this particular keg wine program is primed to pump up a whole new lot of IMT fans.
"We went through eight kegs -- that's 105 glasses per keg -- on Friday night," Parsons recounts. Of course, that event was free. But something tells us that more than a few of those "Prohibition Chic"-clad peeps will be happy to pull out their wallets for some Monkey Shine.
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You be the judge. Check out Monkey Shine White and Red, available now at these locations: