Coming of Age: Mile High Wine

Earlier this month I had the privilege of traveling back to Denver for some work stuff and thankfully got to add a few days for some social stuff. I lived in Denver from 2008-2012, and though I was by most standards already “grown”, I still think of it as a place in which some formative “growing up” occurred for me. It was the first time in all my life that I truly lived alone. No roommates, partner or family members. Just me. I would sometimes walk down the street in my beguiling first neighborhood of Cheesman Park, giggling to myself, tickled that I actually lived there, in my own stately apartment within the red bricked exterior of The Bentley. As a wine lover living alone, one has to get comfortable very quickly with the notion of “drinking alone”.  With the lore of a haunted neighborhood and being a single young woman living on her own, it was not a hard sell. Wine and I became very intimate during the Denver years.

Cans of the rosé, available for purchase many places, including Frontier Airlines. 

Cans of the rosé, available for purchase many places, including Frontier Airlines. 

Colorado makes wine?

If you didn’t know, wine is made in all 50 states of the U.S. However, not all are starting on equal footing. The making of a good wine starts with farming. One may not immediately associate Colorado as having the exemplar terroir needed to grow grapes for premier wine. And you would not be off the mark in that assumption.  However, as invokes the pioneering spirit of the West, there are some outliers.

The route from Denver to Grand Junction, the area considered The Western Slope where grapes are grown for wine.

The route from Denver to Grand Junction, the area considered The Western Slope where grapes are grown for wine.

 

Gettin’ High

Wine is being made in Colorado, primarily on The Western Slope, near Grand Junction and Palisade, about a 4 hour drive from Denver. And we’re talking major elevation averaging between 4,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level. Is elevation good for grapes? Sure it is. The mountain climate allows for summer sunlight and cool nights, producing the favored large diurnal swing in temperature. An ally to viticulture, the diurnal variation denotes the difference between a high and low temperature on a single day. The Western Slope therefore has some good conditions for grape growing. Not a cake-walk to cultivate up there, with robust winds and far less days in the growing season than sea-level vineyards, but definitely producing some high quality juice. With over 100 wineries in Colorado, one could spend some time touring and tasting.

Is that a Gorilla?

The fork lift driver looks plush!

The fork lift driver looks plush!

That brings me to The Infinite Monkey Theorem.  Both a mathematical concept and a winery. The theorem goes like this: put a monkey in a room with a typewriter long enough and eventually he or she will produce the great works of Shakespeare, or similar. Convert that to an approach to winemaking in an urban facility in the Mile High City and you have the aspiration to make great wine, or similar. You just have to try hard and long enough. Eventually, something will stick. That was the concept that birthed the first Infinite Monkey Theorem vintage in 2008.

Well look here! I literally have no idea how this happened but somehow I managed to save the bottle (wine is long gone) from the very first vintage in 2008, moving it amongst my belongings from Denver, to Chicago, to now Monterey, CA. I am calling it Monkey Magic!

Well look here! I literally have no idea how this happened but somehow I managed to save the bottle (wine is long gone) from the very first vintage in 2008, moving it amongst my belongings from Denver, to Chicago, to now Monterey, CA. I am calling it Monkey Magic!

An Urban Winery

Winemaker and CEO, Ben Parsons, had a vision for an urban winery in Denver, sourcing grapes from the Western Slope. Trained in Adelaide, Australia, he was up against some different elements in Colorado. But true to his founding principles, he worked hard. I recall taking home a bottle of the Syrah, from that very first vintage, and being completely enamored of the story, the wine, the fact it was from Colorado and the glass cork (now they use screw-caps). People love a connection. As wine is so much about “Place”, and Infinite Monkey Theorem brings that wild-west frontier mentality into the streets of Denver.

Full disclosure: not all of TIMT wines are produced from Colorado grapes. They also source from California and Washington state to supplement.

The fermentation tanks and some artful "tagging" in the background.

The fermentation tanks and some artful "tagging" in the background.

Tour Time!

On my recent visit back to Denver, now all grown up with a wine blog and all, I thought it best to take in the tour. I had been to the winery before, circa 2011, on one of Denver’s infamous first Friday art walks in the Santa Fe Arts district, but not the current facility on Larimer. So I signed up and went solo. To my delight the tour was conducted by Karen Parsons, wife of Ben and obviously very connected to the whole operation. It was myself and a few other interested parties who spent about 45 minutes in the “belly of the beast” (winemaking facility), learning about how they do it.

Sustainable Booze!

A buttload of dry-hopped pear cider. 

A buttload of dry-hopped pear cider. 

This winery is benchmarked for their inventiveness and disregard for pretention. In that vein, they offer “wine on tap” to restaurants, which reduces waste from packaging, risk of spoilage from corks and an appealing option of bulk purchase. Economic and eco-friendly. They also offer refillable “growlers” which are a liter of wine. One of the other innovations, which I was eager to finally try, is their “wine in a can” concept, topped off with nitrous to keep it fresher for longer. Canned wine has been taking the summer by storm, the past few years (see previous post) and The Infinite Monkey Theorem offers 5 different options including: a sparkling moscato, a red, a rosé, a white and a dry hopped sauvignon blanc….wha?! Yeah, kinda like a beer but it is a wine. In a can. I tried some. It is refreshing and zesty! They also make a dry-hopped cider in a can. The canned wines can be found on Frontier Airlines. But of course!

Then there are their bottled wines. On the tour we sampled a few different things, one of which I thoroughly enjoyed was the Cabernet Franc.  Karen described as having notes of hatch green chile, which frankly was really working for me. It brought back fond memories of farmer’s market days in Denver and the aroma of the roasting chiles wafting through the air, irresistibly beckoning a purchase. I had to buy some! The wine though, that they gained the most notoriety for initially is the Malbec. It is deep in color and flavor with notes of raisin chocolate truffles. Sumptuous.  We sipped those and then some…

I ended up tasting several different wines in the tasting room, including their ever so delightful Sparkling Albariño, called “Bubble Universe”, only sold at the tasting room, and very fun. They actually have a number of intriguing whites, including a Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend that kicked off our tour, and a Riesling, a Gewürztraminer and a Texas Chenin Blanc. Did I mention that are also now in Austin, Texas? Well there you go. Another option for touring, tasting and purchasing the incomparable wines of The Infinite Monkey Theorem.

Tip: if you live out of the area, free shipping on 3 items or more!

Grown Up

Almost a decade since that first vintage and The Infinite Monkey Theorem has grown into itself as a brand and a concept. They also have demonstrated the application of their namesake theorem, and are making world-class wine. I had so much fun going back. It was like it always is with old friends, like no time had passed. Though it has, and a lot has changed. Denver is in a boom. I feel so grateful to have known the Mile High City back then. I hold such fond memories of wine, and otherwise. Bravo to Infinite Monkey Theorem and their delicious wine!