Bottling Wine at Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver
July 15, 2013 • Wine
A couple of years ago I blogged about my barrel tasting evening with Ben Parsons at Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery in Denver. Since that time Ben has moved the winery to a new location in Curtis Park, and expanded both his production and reputation. Recently a friend told me that the winery allows volunteers to come help with bottling, and I knew that sounded interesting and was something I had to try. What I didn’t know was just how physically demanding the job is!You pick a station to start when you arrive, although we all switched up during the day, to relieve the monotony as well as to give our hands a rest and to use different muscles and movements. First you pull the empty bottles from the cartons on the pallet. If you’re steady enough (and I’m proud to say I was), there is a technique to just tipping the entire case of empty bottles upside down on the side table and carefully lifting the box and the dividers off of the bottles.The actual bottling machine is a series of 5 spigots that you lift a bottle up under to start the flow. Did I mention you’re handed a wine glass when you arrive at 9:30 am and shown how to help yourself from the spigot any time during the day that you like? We were bottling cabernet franc, and somehow, even for me, this seemed a little early in the day! Once the bottles are full you lift them off the spigot and set them to the side, then reload with an empty bottle. This job is probably the hardest on the line only because it takes some arm and hand strength to push the bottles up under the spigots and to life them back off.Next to that machine is a huge box of metal caps (we were bottling screw tops, but they also do glass “corks”). You first have to check the cap to be sure it has the white plastic liner at the top inside……then you top the full bottles of wine and move them to your left for the person working the cap machine.Sorry for this blurry picture, but I was trying to catch a shot of this machine in between lots of rapidly loaded, capped, and removed bottles. You press two buttons on either side of the machine and it comes down and seals the metal screw top lid, then you pass the bottle to the left to be boxed. Turns out this is the speed control point in the assembly line as there is only so fast this machine works.After the bottles have their caps, they are inspected for quality, wiped down if needed, and reboxed into the empty cartons, stamped, and taped closed. One of the staff’s dogs helps guard the final product before the pallet is filled and moved into cool storage. (There are actually 3-4 dogs there running around and playing all day long.)You can pick your lunch which the staff will bring in for you and you can also pick your wine to accompany your lunch from the tasting room (turkey ciabatta sandwich from Curtis Park Deli for me with the IMT Syrah), and then it’s back to work after lunch. Between 9:30 and 4:45 with a short lunch break we bottled about 4500 bottles of wine. I could barely move my fingers and hands by the time we finished, and my feet and back were tired. But it was worth the experience, and I have a bottle of the wine in my cellar, given as a thank you when I departed, to enjoy with a special dinner later. If you’re interested in helping out, call the winery to get on the mailing list for volunteer events!