- By Arianna Auber American-Statesman Staff
Visitors to the new Infinite Monkey Theorem winery and tasting room in South Austin might wonder if they’ve accidentally walked into the wrong place.
The urban winery, tucked into a residential area just off South Congress Avenue, doesn’t exactly look like the picturesque setting we’ve come to expect from our wineries: sprawling rows of vineyard grapes flanking elegant, well-decorated tasting rooms in the Texas Hill Country.
Infinite Monkey Theorem’s eclectic, off-kilter look, however, is intentional — mirroring the spirit of its larger flagship space in Denver with colorful graffiti on the walls, classic board games and other activities available for the 80-person seating area, and decor that includes vintage radios and typewriters stacked tall behind the bar. Kegged and canned wine is served here, in addition to traditional bottles.
All of that is so you’ll have “a raucous good time” when you visit the Infinite Monkey Theorem, Meredith Berman, the director of Austin operations, says.
She and her husband, Aaron, the winery’s CFO and co-founder, moved from Colorado to Texas to make sure this second location stands out as a funky place to hang out, listen to live music and not take the art of making wine quite so seriously. That’s in keeping with the winery’s philosophy, a mathematical theory from which it gets its name.
“All these permutations are possible in life, and eventually they lead to something, like a piece of art or a bottle of wine,” Berman says about the basic idea behind the theorem.
It posits that a bunch of monkeys in a room with typewriters and an infinite amount of time will, at some point, type out the words of Shakespeare. At its heart, the theorem is about randomness — a chaos the Infinite Monkey Theorem founders say applies to winemaking as well.
“So many things can happen during the growing season, transporting the grapes from the vineyard to the winery, even when the wine gets processed,” Berman says. “So out of those variables, you do what you can and let nature influence the taste, and out of it, you get your art.”
Winemaker Ben Parsons, who founded the original Denver location in 2008, is doing in Texas what he does in Colorado: sourcing the grapes from vineyards around the state, specifically in Texas’ High Plains. He’s already begun to develop relationships with the grape growers there and has brought into the Austin winery a bounty of red and white fruit from this year’s harvest.
For now, though, visitors will find only one Texas wine on the menu — a rosé made from cinsault grapes. The rest, including a Chardonnay, a malbec and even a dry-hopped pear cider, all hail from Colorado. (They’ll slowly phase out as more Texas wines are produced, starting with whites.)
Parsons, a Brit who moved to Colorado to get into winemaking, has never been conventional with his winery. In Denver, its home is a large warehouse in an industrial part of the city now booming with entrepreneurial businesses like his, and a good portion of the 18,000-square-foot production space is devoted to canning and kegging Infinite Monkey Theorem wine — both of which are important to him, albeit for different reasons.
He’s been canning since 2011 to make wine accessible at ballparks, campgrounds and other places canned beers have dominated. He also believes kegged wines are better than bottles in bars and restaurants because they contribute less waste and keep the wine fresh. The Austin location will keep up both of these practices, Meredith Berman says.
Another key tradition of the Infinite Monkey Theorem is that visitors to the tasting room can help out in the winery. In fact, the Bermans are counting on having volunteers, starting in the spring, who want to contribute to making the wine. They’ll be able to crush grapes and bottle the resulting wines.
“Part of the way we’ve built this winery is with the volunteers, which generates a lot of interest in us,” Berman says, noting that the size and the enthusiasm of the volunteer pool in Denver contributed to Parsons moving the Infinite Monkey Theorem “to a much larger back alley” in 2012.
The Austin winery is going to make wines that will be available in Texas only, she says (unlike the Denver space, which has even gotten Infinite Monkey Theorem wines into the skies).
In the meantime, stop by for a visit to the tasting room, outfitted with quirky Craigslist-cultivated furniture by Vagabond Designs’ Kim Lewis, for a glass of wine and a game of chess. (Plus, there’s Wi-Fi.) Eventually, you’ll even be able to enjoy a meal there, once Buzz Mill Coffee opens its second location across the parking lot.