When the tagline for a winery is “Back alley winemaking at its finest,” you know there’s something unique about the place. And on October 3, Texas will have a chance to find out exactly what that is when the Infinite Monkey Theorem opens its second urban winery project, along central Austin’s kinetic South Congress Avenue.
The Infinite Monkey Theorem began in Denver in 2008 as the brainchild of three entrepreneurs: winemaker Ben Parsons and the husband-and-wife team of Aaron and Meredith Berman. The Bermans had just completed MBA degrees at the University of Colorado and were looking for a way to marry their creative spirit with a proven business model. When they met Parsons, who had spent much of his time in winemaking on the West Coast, opening a winery came into focus. But instead of building something traditional—say, an idyllic vineyard nestled in a rolling countryside—they opted for the less-than-conventional: an outfit right in the heart of Denver.
“While the idea of a country winery is nice, you’re always having to travel away from where you are to a wine environment, and you don’t really get a chance to feel part of that community,” Aaron says. “We wanted to bring the experience of wine into the city. Denver is young and fresh and vibrant, and it didn’t make sense to create a million-dollar fake chateau on a mountainside. The whole idea is that we are in this with the people who live around us. Just like breweries bring people in, we’re inviting the community to come and enjoy a winery in the place where they live.”
So they began by sourcing grapes from western Colorado—where there’s a bounty of farmland—then trucking them over the Rocky Mountains and crushing them in Denver.
They named their offbeat venture the Infinite Monkey Theorem (IMT), after the probability theory that suggests that given an infinite period of time, a hypothetical, metaphorical monkey, tapping keys at random on a typewriter, is likely to type out a full text, perhaps even the complete Shakespearean collection. A bit of a stretch whether you’re a statistical genius or not, but to the Bermans, so too had been the idea of owning a winery when they first entered their MBA program a decade earlier.
“To us it was about the capability within randomness over a certain period of time. In Colorado, we’ve got towering mountains and a harsh climate, yet we’re able to grow really good grapes,” Aaron says. “When we’re in production, we pull back the veil over what winemaking is. It’s raw, gritty, and chaotic, with our whole winery buzzing with volunteers and staff helping our winemaker make something that begins as very messy into something that’s poetic in a glass, or Shakespeare, so to speak.”
But the name and location aren’t the only things that are unique about IMT. So too is the presentation. All of the wine bottles are silk-screened labels—a first in the wine industry—featuring an intrepid chimpanzee glaring out in front of a spray of graffiti art in the background. The team also made the daring decision to put a few of their larger-production wines in a can, only the second U.S. company to do so with wine.
“We want to be more approachable for a younger demographic of people who are savvy about the way they consume things. We’re always looking at ways to push the envelope and do things anti-traditional,” says Aaron, who was also the first in Colorado to keg wine, something that fell in line with his beer-brewing brethren in Denver. The winery also has a large taproom that serves as a hangout for locals to come and taste and enjoy wines. And what began as a small operation in 2008 has now grown into a nationally distributed brand with more than 25,000 cases in production and canned wines found in retail outlets around the country.
And now IMT has turned its attention to Texas. With a goal to be a community-focused winery, the team was ready to bring the life of IMT to an additional home. To them, Austin was the prefect pick.
“The two important elements of our brand is the accessibility of the market and the willingness of the consumer to seek it out,” Aaron says. “We visited a few places, but we had an instant connection with Austin. People just get it here, and the town is not too dissimilar from Denver. There’s a rugged makeup to it like you’d see in Colorado, but a sophistication as well. People are up to trying new things and welcome ideas that make a statement.”
It doesn’t hurt that Texas has a reputable wine industry as well. The Bermans contacted noted Texas winemaker Kim McPherson, of McPherson Cellars, in Lubbock, to help them get their first Texas wine produced while they built their own production facility in downtown Austin.
“When coming to Texas, it was foundational for us to make Texas wine,” Aaron says. “It’s the model that the business is built on, that you get the fruit where you’re from, otherwise there’s no connection. How can Texans be pumped about California fruit? They should be pumped about Texas fruit.”
But the Bermans aren’t just building a winery and heading back to Denver. They’ve moved to Austin and built a house in town, letting Parsons manage things back in the Mile-High City. “Part of the goal is to let Austin help shape the next chapter in our winery,” Meredith says. “We’re hiring people here, we’re getting our grapes from this state, we’re making a home here to make this a more authentic community experience.”
While completing the winery’s construction (some 6,000 square feet in all, including 1,800 square feet of patio and event space), IMT has released a refreshing Cinsault dry rosé from McPherson as its first Texas wine. Once the winery is in full production, it’ll work with a number of Texas grape growers to begin making a wider range of wines. And while Texas waits for IMT to expand its Texas wine offerings, there will be plenty to enjoy in the meantime, including Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Malbec, Syrah, Petite Sirah, dry Pear cider, and sparkling Moscato—more than enough to keep wine enthusiasts from going thirsty.