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For decades, fruit growers on the Western Slope brought their sweet, juicy peaches to a warehouse next to the railroad tracks in downtown Palisade, loaded their fruit onto trains, and sent it off to Denver to be enjoyed across the Front Range. After sitting vacant for several years, the warehouse at 202 Peach Avenue is getting a second life, this time as a modern winery that shows off the Centennial State’s grape-growing prowess.
Ben Parsons, the innovative Colorado winemaker behind the Infinite Monkey Theorem, has transformed the old Palisade peach packing plant into the Ordinary Fellow, a new watering hole offering elevated wines and a warm, welcoming place to hang out.
When Parsons left the Infinite Monkey Theorem in 2018 to launch his new venture, he knew almost immediately that the historic building, situated on a 2.5-acre lot next to Palisade Brewing Company and across the street from Peach Street Distillers, would be the perfect location. After negotiating a lease, he set to work converting the 16,000-square-foot facility (with a 4,000-square-foot shaded patio) into a tasting room and production facility. According to Parsons, the facility was the longtime home of the United Fruit Growers Association Co-op, which dissolved in 2002 when growers decided to sell through individual stores and stands; it was then briefly occupied by a bread distribution company before sitting vacant for several years. “The building was empty and I was like, ‘This is such a great spot for a winery,’” Parsons says.
Parsons didn’t even know Colorado had a wine scene when he finished the enology program at University of Adelaide in Australia in 2001 and first began looking for winemaking jobs. But a posting at the now-shuttered Canyon Wind Cellars in Palisade caught his eye, so he applied, got the gig, and moved across the world to be its winemaker for four years. Parsons, who also launched a wine consulting business, then moved south for three years to work for Sutcliffe Vineyards in Cortez before moving to Denver to launch the Infinite Monkey Theorem. “It’s nice for me to move back to the Western Slope, because that’s where I started my career in the Colorado wine industry,” he says. “It’s just nice to be somewhere you have more accessibility to the outdoors and more open space.”
The new winery’s name is a nod to 45-year-old Parsons’ British upbringing. After Parsons’ father died in 2007, the winemaker inherited his dad’s collection of pub cards—little cards that came in cigarette packs in the 1960s and ’70s (similar to baseball cards) that featured a picture of the sign that hung outside of various English pubs. While brainstorming a name for his new venture, which opened in October, Parson glanced at the cards, which he’d had framed in his father’s memory, and honed in on one in particular: the Ordinary Fellow. The humble pub in Parson’s home county of Kent brought back fond memories of his childhood and inspired the unpretentious ambience of the new winery. “It was a place that was just a very warm environment to hang out,” he says. “It just resonated. It ended up sticking.”
For now, the Ordinary Fellow has four wines, which are available in the tasting room and at some Colorado restaurants and liquor stores (as well as online): a Colorado riesling, and an Albariño, a red blend, and a rosé all made with grapes grown in Washington. Parsons also recently helped launch a wine-based seltzer brand called Jetway (a collaboration with the Strokes’ guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.), and he plans to put some of those products on tap at the winery in the spring. Parsons is also leasing a 12.5-acre vineyard south of Cortez, where he grows cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, riesling, and pinot noir grapes. “I want to make the best Colorado wine I can using the fruit from our own vineyard and do it in Palisade, which is the heart of wine country, and create an experience for people to come in, hang out, and really enjoy themselves,” he says.
By next spring, the Ordinary Fellow will also offer small plates made with local ingredients and served from a shipping container-style vessel on the patio. For the menu, Parsons is teaming up with Mike Winston (former chef at Denver’s Table 6 and current chef de cuisine at Bin 707 in Grand Junction) and Megan Silvertooth (who opened Denver’s Bistro Barbès, Red Sauce, and Temper Chocolates).
Parsons is excited to help further the Grand Valley’s growth as a year-round destination for mountain biking and other outdoor pursuits, top-notch dining, excellent wines, and high-quality fruits and vegetables. “Palisade is a small town, but it’s growing up—people are moving here who want good restaurants, good experiences, they want to be close to the outdoors,” he says. “Palisade is on the cusp of something really big. It’s a real wine and food destination located in a beautiful river valley with world-class mountain biking and great skiing.”
202 Peach Ave., Palisade