Wineries and tasting rooms usually conjure up images of pastoral locales, vaulted wine caves, and other rarefied atmospheres. So what to do with that mental picture when Ben Parsons, a veteran of Palisade's wine scene, sets up shop in one of the grittier neighborhoods in downtown Denver? Parsons is naming his ambitious attempt at urban renewal Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery.
Denver's indie newspaper Westword recently visited Parsons. In their "Food for Thought" section, and under the headline "Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery Creates Order From Chaos," Westword Reporter Tyler Nemkov writes:
"I've got junkies sleeping outside my door," Ben Parsons says, warning me to lock my car when I visit the Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery. "There are needles around here all the time."
"Hmmm...sounds like a perfect place to make wine, I think. But as it turns out, it is. Because Parsons not only likes making wine, he likes making order out of chaos.
"What I'm trying to do," he explains as we walk into the building's "courtyard" -- which is currently full of cracked pavement, composted grape leaves and old cars -- "is create an urban winery based around the community. A place where people can go and hang out...It's why we located in the Santa Fe Arts District. I eventually see this space as a community restaurant, wine bar, nightclub and winery."
"His goals are lofty, and the project massive. He wants to turn the space into an area full of tables and fire pits, and put more of the same on a rooftop patio. The grape leaves will be composted, and the result perhaps bagged and given to patrons when they purchase bottles of wine. And the rusted-out Dodge truck with the trailer? That was the vehicle Parsons used to travel more than 25,000 miles this past summer, from the Napa Valley in California to Eugene, Oregon and Walla Walla, Washingon, all in an effort to find used equipment for the winery he was creating in central Denver, right on Fifth Avenue off Santa Fe."
"I want to put a kitchen in the front building," he continues. "My goal is to get chefs over who don't have their own gig, like sous chefs or line cooks, and have them cook. It'll just be their show that night and we can serve IMT wine: a collaboration of good food and good wine to help out with the community."
"Parsons grew up in the United Kingdom and began working for a wine merchant when he was 21. In 1999 he got a harvest job with a winery in New Zealand, and he then won a scholarship to Adelaide University, where he graduated at the top of his class with a degree in oenology."
"He soon found himself in Palisade, Colorado, working for Canyon Wind Cellars as a winemaker. In 2004, he turned Sutcliffe Vineyards from a modest, 400-case winery into a nationally respected, 4000-case winery. So Parsons was making it in a traditional way in the wine world when tragedy made him rethink his approach."
"In 2007, my father died of colon cancer. We had wanted to open our own winery for a while. So I bought this Quonset hut," he says, gesturing toward the towering half-cylinder sitting next us, "and started making bi-weekly trips to the Western Slope to try fruit and to bring it back up here. What I try to do as a winemaker is find the best grapes no matter where they're from. It just so happens that 95 percent are from Colorado."
You can read more about the Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery here.
Do you think wineries are a good way at revitalizing neighborhoods and creating urban renewal?
What are your thoughts on Parsons' efforts?