A charismatic, talented Brit is putting Colorado wine on the map. So why does almost every other vintner in the state hate him?
On a chilly spring day, Parsons leads a Quonset hut tour for three attractive couples in their 30s. They’ve spent the last few hours watching Parsons scale the racks of barrels, stacked a half-dozen high, to pull samples for this private tour and barrel tasting. There’s no fancy tasting room, just cement floors with drainage holes that pull double duty as spit buckets.
The girls flirt with the winemaker as their boyfriends stand by, admiring him. Parsons has charmed them all during the $50 per person tour; they will all tote a case or two home. “I think people pick up on my enthusiasm,” Parsons says. “They know that it’s a passion, and they see that I am genuine in my love of what I am doing. It’s contagious.”
Parsons is hoping his passion will continue to spread. He just released his 100th Monkey—a red blend of Petit Verdot, Syrah, Malbec, and Petite Sirah. At $50, it will be his most expensive offering, out of reach for just about everyone except hard-core wine-lovers or folks splurging for a special occasion. He’s planning to open a restaurant called Lechón—which means suckling pig in Spanish—next year with Brunson, his good friend. It’ll be just up the street from Masterpiece; Brunson will handle the pork- and seafood-heavy menu, while Parsons will tackle the beverages. Parsons is also starting to turn his gritty winery space into an East London–style, chic wine bar; the renovation of the patio started this past spring, and by early 2011, the roof of the office building could be popped to make room for a restaurant and indoor bar.
Unraveling his blueprints, Parsons is nothing short of giddy. He’s left the Western Slope in his wake, turning a Quonset hut into a brand known outside of the state; soon, he will have two of his own restaurants. He can already hear the music in the background, the cackle of neighborhood regulars stopping in for a small plate and a bottle, and the corks being popped during Denver’s best wine party.
Jacob Harkins is a Denver writer, executive sommelier, and the founder of www.coloradowino.com.