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Dispatch: Monkey Business

Ben Hoffman is sponsored by something called the Infinite Monkey Theorem, an urban winery in downtown Denver.

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“Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that features pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on

While interviewing Ben Hoffman for an upcoming issue of Triathlete, I discovered an interesting fact about the two-time Ironman champion. He’s sponsored by something called the Infinite Monkey Theorem, an urban winery in downtown Denver specializing in “back alley winemaking.” To me, that meant exactly one thing: Field trip!

The winery gets its name from a probability theorem stating that a monkey, randomly striking the keys of a typewriter, will eventually knock out the complete works of Shakespeare – an allusion to the seemingly random brilliance that goes into each batch of IMT wine. Back in 2008, Ben Parsons, IMT’s chief monkey, along with his wife Karen, hitched a 24-foot gooseneck trailer to a pickup truck and traversed the country, scavenging supplies from wineries that were going out of business. Armed with enough equipment to squeeze their first varietal, IMT was born. The wines are crafted minus an IMT-specific vineyard. Instead, Parsons buys grapes primarily from farmers throughout Colorado, as well as from Oregon and California to furnish his luscious venture.

IMT’s physical venue is a work-in-progress, as Parsons is in the process of moving operations from the original space – a converted Quonset hut covered in a commissioned mural of monkey-themed graffiti – to a lofty new location just Northeast of LoDo. Plans for the new and improved Infinite Monkey Theorem include a taproom, a restaurant and a garden supplying rooftop-to-table fare. There will also be ample space to accommodate the winery’s quickly increasing output. Their first year in business yielded 2,000 cases; four years later, IMT is up to 10,000 cases and growing.

Ben Hoffman, his girlfriend Kelsey Deery and I road-tripped together to Denver to visit IMT. Upon arrival, as if by cosmic coincidence, we bumped into a buddy of Hoffman’s, Craig Madsen, on a similar mission to sample wine. The party was officially on! The four of us hit up the Quonset hut (where the wines are currently in production) in mid-move chaos, but I didn’t mind. I don’t need the pomp of a marbled tasting room or the picturesque vine-covered hills that are par for the course at most wineries. In fact, Parsons eschews these frivolities in favor of an unpretentious yet edgy vibe. I’m down with bare bones. I’m down with urban appeal. And I’m especially down with Back Alley Rosé, IMT’s latest warm-weather refresher, a cold can of which was pressed into each of our summer-hot hands the moment we stepped onto the patio at IMT.

Yes, I said a can. Of Rosé. I’ll get to the container in a minute. First, let me tell you about the Rosé – a style of wine the mere mention of which normally produces a reaction akin to a cotton candy overdose-induced gag reflex in my mouth. Not so with this blush. Back Alley Rosé is surprisingly dry, slightly effervescent and fresh as an overserved frat boy. In fact, it may well become my favorite summertime quencher. Packaged in svelte, sexy pink and steel-colored 250ml cans, Back Alley Rosé is a perfect fit for IMT’s target 21-40 year-old fans and the bars in which they frolic. It’s also an ideal match for airline in-flight beverage services and upscale vending machines, arenas Parsons hopes to infiltrate soon.

While can-o-vino may be the current craze, once we swallowed the last drops of our welcome wine we headed into the Quonset hut for an old-fashioned barrel tasting of IMT’s other creations. What followed was a wondrous blur of flavors as we sampled a Riesling (lightly peachy), a Syrah (vanilla, tobacco, blackberry), a Cabernet Franc (black currant, pepper, mocha) and a Malbec (boysenberry, chocolate, coffee). Or was it the Syrah that hinted of coffee? No matter. What I do clearly recall is how each wine danced on my tongue with equal deliciousness, a testament to an entrepreneur’s dream done right.

Pleasantly buzzed, I still remembered to ask Parsons the question that drew me to his Denver winery in the first place: What inspired a winemaker to back an Ironman (or for that matter the upcoming 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, of which IMT is the Official Wine Sponsor)? What’s the bridge between wine barrel and bikes?

“I met Ben when he was just starting out,” said Parsons. Both men lived in Hoffman’s hometown of Grand Junction; Parsons, originally from the U.K., landed his first winemaking job there. “I could see his potential. I loved that he was from a modest background and was working his ass off to pursue his passion. So we were similar in that regard, while following different paths.”

“Plus,” continued Parsons, “Triathlon and wine draw similar demographics – highly educated consumers who want to be a part of something cool!”

IMT is certainly Parsons’ passion project. Yet oddly enough, when I asked the Infinite Monkey master if he drinks wine every day, he answered, “No. I mostly drink beer.” Why didn’t he become a brewmaster, then? “Beer is mostly water. Where’s the fun in that? With wine, you work with juice. It’s so much more complex. So much more interesting.”

Read past editions of “Dispatch.”

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