Podcast Episode #60 – Ben Parsons from The Ordinary Fellow and his Journey from London to Colorado’s Wine Revolution

Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow

In this episode of Weinnotes, we uncork the fascinating tale of Ben Parsons, the visionary behind The Ordinary Fellow winery in Colorado. From his early days selling wine in London to embracing the unconventional path of urban winery in Denver, Ben’s story is a toast to innovation and passion. Listen as he shares his insights on the transformation of the wine industry, his trailblazing adventure in canning wine, and the profound influence of his father on his winemaking journey.

Key Moments in my interview with Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow

Discover how Ben’s approach to winemaking is shaped by experiences across continents, from picturesque Marlborough vineyards to the vibrant streets of Denver. His narrative is not just about crafting exceptional wines; it’s about breaking barriers, challenging norms, and creating a space where wine is accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

Join us as we delve into Ben’s pioneering efforts in Colorado’s wine scene, where he combines traditional techniques with bold, creative twists. His story is a reminder that the world of wine is ever-evolving, filled with possibilities and new frontiers to explore. Pour yourself a glass and immerse yourself in the extraordinary journey of Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow – a tale that’s as rich and complex as the wines he creates.

Be sure to also checkout other winemaker interviews!

Transcription of interview with Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow in Colorado’s Wine Country

[00:00:00] A.J. Weinzettel: Cheers to another episode of the wine notes podcast. I’m your guide, DJ wine settle on this journey of stories, showcasing the people behind the wonderful world of wine, where we dive into conversations ranging from terroir viticulture to favorite music, 

[00:00:19] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: superpowers, and 

[00:00:20] A.J. Weinzettel: more. Please enjoy this episode of the wine notes podcast.

[00:00:25] A.J. Weinzettel: Ben, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. I really appreciate you taking the time to, uh, you know, sit down with me to chat for a little bit. 

[00:00:33] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. 

[00:00:35] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah, uh, you know, I’m, so I’m here in Oregon and I’ve heard, you know, obviously a lot about the harvest being fast and furious for us here, you know, and California has had quite a, a unique harvest as well, but I haven’t heard anything about what harvest has been like for, uh, you know, for Colorado.

[00:00:55] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Uh, well, my harvest was pretty quick, um, from my vineyard, like it all comes in within like two or three weeks to be honest. So it’s only if I’m getting fruit from someone else. Or like if I’m doing like a sparkling base that kind of prolongs it. So I got some, I got some reasoning in for like a Memphis Champenois, beginning of September.

[00:01:17] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And then I got my last grapes in. We picked, uh, Cavendish Avenue on November 8th. So, recently. Yeah. 

[00:01:25] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. Very, very, very recently. Was, uh, was, do, is the 2023 vintage looking, looking pretty good for you? 

[00:01:34] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah. I mean, I’d say like, um, kind of lower on yield. We were, we were unfortunate late May. We had like a, um, like a hailstorm at the vineyard just around bud break and that kind of wiped out some primary buds on those early.

[00:01:51] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Pushing varieties like Chardonnay. Um, so our yields were down, but, um, yeah, I mean, the wines are good. I mean, like the cab is the cab that we just picked is, is, is looking really good. Riesling’s great. The Method Champagne Noir based wine is good. Like we had a small crop of Pinot Noir as well this year, but yeah, all looking good.

[00:02:14] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Well, 

[00:02:14] A.J. Weinzettel: good. I can’t wait to hear more about it when, you know, when you get to release it. That’ll be 

[00:02:18] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: fun. Yeah, yeah, for sure. 

[00:02:22] A.J. Weinzettel: So, you know, kind of starting off in your wine journey, you know, you were a salesman for Leighton’s Wine Merchants in London. And, uh, you know, you, you’ve always kind of gone around saying, you know, you’re selling Bordeaux and Burgundy wines to silly people at silly prices.

[00:02:38] A.J. Weinzettel: Uh, how did, how did all that come about? Like, why, why sell, why, why sell wine at such a young age? 

[00:02:49] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah, I mean, I, you know, I, I think, uh, I got, I got introduced to, to wine pretty early when I was, um, like, stocking shelves, basically, at, at Marks and Spencer, which is like a grocery store in the, in the UK. And the, um, the lady who kind of ran the wine department was kind of fun and eccentric, and I used to have to put the wine away, and it kind of intrigued me, and then I went to, to college, and kind of, you know, drank more wine, and, um, You know, got, got interested in it from like a scientific perspective, I’d say, cause my undergrad was like animal science cause I wanted to be a vet originally and, um, after graduating.

[00:03:34] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I actually took a job, uh, in a pharmaceutical public relations company, briefly. And, um, that was not interesting at all. I can imagine. Yeah, I was just kind of like, you know, wine is more of a passion. And, um, yeah, I was just looking for, you know, a wine job in London, just to stay in London, because London’s a lot of fun, basically.

[00:03:57] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And, um, yeah, I saw a job advertised, um, For latent, which I really didn’t know much about the history of it, but it turns out it’s quite a famous, um, wine store in London and, um, yeah, I got introduced to it and, uh, lots of, lots of wines that I had no idea where they should be in a cellar and, and, uh, how to pronounce them, but, um, uh, yeah, like, uh, had to kind of deliver these wines on a push bike to all the ambassadors houses in.

[00:04:26] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: In and around, like, Elizabeth Street and Sloane Square, Victoria Station. So yeah, that was, that was really kind of my first introduction to, to fine wine. And I mean, I only say it’s like, silly wine to silly people, just because if you can afford to spend a thousand pounds on a bowl of wine, it’s It’s kind of ridiculous, you know?

[00:04:46] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Like, it, it, it, it 

[00:04:47] A.J. Weinzettel: kind of is. So, I mean, yeah, I, I think that it is kind of, kind of silly myself, but, you know, if I had that sort of money, maybe I would do it. I, I don’t know. 

[00:04:56] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: No bottle of wine is worth that amount of money. Like, yeah. I mean, managing a vineyard and knowing how much it costs to farm and how much it costs to, to make sure it’s.

[00:05:05] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: When you’re small production, but a lot of those wines are not small production and they’re still a thousand pound bowl, you know, so it’s just what the market, uh, you know, can, can, uh, sustain, I suppose. Um, and the, the image that they’ve built up over the years, but, um, yeah, then I went, uh, to work for another wine merchant, uh, if you know, like Fuller’s, London Beer, Fuller’s Pride, London Pride.

[00:05:30] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah, no, I haven’t heard of it. Brewery in Chiswick, um, making like house conditioned ales. But they had three fine wine stores at the time, um, in and around like West London. One of them was like Ravenscourt Park, where I lived. The other was like Chiswick. And then I think there was one in like High Street, Kensington.

[00:05:49] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And, um, yeah, I started selling wine for those guys, like, uh, and the, the manager of that store was married to Teresa Novolow, who, um, is from, from New Zealand, from the house of Novolow, which was acquired by one of the big guys many years ago. But, um, yeah, I got, I spoke to her and got a harvest placement in New Zealand, in Marlborough.

[00:06:14] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And that, um, kind of, just to see if I wanted to pursue winemaking as a career, really. And it was, um, it was beautiful, you know, that was 1998, I think, just kind of sitting in the Marlborough area, and just I remember, like, one moment where I was pumping juice, Sauvignon Blanc juice into a 6, 000 gallon tanker to get shipped to Auckland, because they had two wineries, and that happened a lot, shipping between Marlborough and Auckland, and, um, just sitting on the top of the tanker waiting for it to fill, watching the sun set over Marlborough, it was pretty beautiful.

[00:06:54] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I was like, this is all right, you know? 

[00:06:56] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah, yeah, no, that would be amazing. Yeah. Yeah. I’m just curious to go back a little bit. Uh, so you were, you know, you were at that Latents, um, and you ended up, you know, like delivering for like four, balancing four cases of wine on, on your push 

[00:07:15] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: bike. Yeah, there was a big, like, like front, front basket that you was deep.

[00:07:22] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And you could like fit four full cases, like 12 bottles, which, you know, at first it seemed a bit silly, but you kind of got, kind of got used to it like, 

[00:07:35] A.J. Weinzettel: um, yeah, yeah, I’m sure you did get used to it, but I mean, holy cow, um, have you been able to, you know, use those skills any other time in your life? 

[00:07:46] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Just like balancing skills.

[00:07:48] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Like the hardest part was getting it off, as you can imagine, like when you put the stand up on the bike, how do you get it off without it falling off? 

[00:07:57] A.J. Weinzettel: Well, yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s a whole balancing thing that, that was, did, did, uh, did at any time did, you know, do you have any catastrophes where it kind of, you know, fell over and you broke some expensive bottles or anything?

[00:08:11] A.J. Weinzettel: No, 

[00:08:11] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: not on that, but I do remember, um, like clients that were much closer, the store was so close to some very. You know, a bit posh area of London. So you would like wheel the dolly down the street down the street. And like someone had ordered like, you know, just some soda water that back then came in a Glass bottle, like a small glass bottle, and it was shrink wrapped plastic, but the plastic had been torn open, and I was pushing it down the street Like, you know, on top of four cases of wine, and a bottle kept falling out here, and then there Just like this trail of soda water bottles down the street.

[00:08:49] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I was like, well, what do they want me to do? Yeah, 

[00:08:52] A.J. Weinzettel: oh, oh my goodness Uh, so you, you know, you were, you had just finished, you know, uh, pressing, you know, some Savion Blanc on, you know, a 6, 000 gallon, uh, tanker and just looking at the sunset in Marlborough and you’re like, it just doesn’t get much better than this.

[00:09:12] A.J. Weinzettel: Uh, and so where did that, where did that lead, lead 

[00:09:16] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: you to? Well, I, um, I had started like applying for a scholarship through the Rotary Foundation, um, at each district. Within Rotary Clubs worldwide still, still offers these Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships that you compete for amongst the Rotary Clubs in the district.

[00:09:42] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And so, you know, it’s an opportunity to go to another country, essentially, and kind of assimilate into that country and, um, and, and study something that you want on a graduate level. And so, um, yeah, I applied for the scholarship and, and was lucky enough to win it. And at the same time I was applying for the, to the University of Adelaide in South Australia to study enology, which is the chemistry of winemaking.

[00:10:09] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And, um, yeah, I got offered, got offered the position and, and, um, yeah, moved to Australia in 2000, like to, to study in Adelaide. And, um, back then there were only like five universities in the world that offered like an Enology program. And I’d, I’d originally applied for, to South Africa, but the, um, the course was only offered in Afrikaans.

[00:10:37] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And I was like, well, I don’t really want to study organic chemistry in a different language. So yeah, that would be hard. Yeah. I ended up moving, uh, to Australia where I had spent time previously. I’d spent quite a lot of time in Australia, to be honest. So it was very normal for me, but yeah, it was a fantastic, um, program, like really hands on.

[00:11:00] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And, uh, Yeah, probably some of the best. Days of my life spent there. I would say studying enology was fun. Very, very cool. 

[00:11:09] A.J. Weinzettel: Oh, I know your dad plays an important, you know, part in, in your overall story. Um, you know, what, did he have any, how did he, uh, help you or, you know, uh, you know, kind of like be your, be your cheerleader or whatnot, you know, through all this phase of, of your 

[00:11:28] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: life?

[00:11:30] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Well, um, yeah, he was, he was really a big influence more so off, you know, he, he died in 2007, like, and, uh, and we, you know, he, he was definitely very supportive of, of me going to Australia and studying winemaking. I mean, I think he had kind of given up on me before that, to be honest, and, uh, before I was just going to travel the world and as a backpacker for the rest of my life and not get a real job.

[00:12:01] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: But, um, Then kind of wine, the kind of wine bug hit and kind of, you know, it’s something that’s, I think it’s something that, you know, I’m his age now, like, so something that you’re really into when you get a little bit older and kind of fascinating and so he, I could see how it was something that he was interested in and therefore it was something that he was like, well, that’s cool that my son’s Four and has figured out that he doesn’t want to be an accountant, a lawyer, an insurance broker, or a banker , you know, which is like basically the four options that you have when you’re in England.

[00:12:37] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I feel like when you, when you, uh, get to a, you know, when you finish a lot of schooling, you always just end up getting pushed into those fields, um, because those are the ones, you know, you’re gonna make money in . But, uh, exactly. Yeah, right. But I chose the path that you’re probably not going to make any money in, but just as a passion, you know, um, so yeah, he, uh, he passed in 2007, but, um, yeah, he was around for, for my move to, to Colorado and to kind of.

[00:13:09] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: See that all through, um, uh, but I’ll just start my, my first winery. 

[00:13:16] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. And weren’t you all like talking about doing a winery or something together before you passed? 

[00:13:23] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah, we, I was, um, I was making wine, uh, at a winery in Southwest Colorado. And, um, there was an opportunity to, to kind of buy into it and be an owner.

[00:13:38] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And so we were talking about that. But, um, but yeah, that, that never materialized. Um, you know, and it was, and it was a good thing that it didn’t happen. But, uh, obviously it kind of, uh, it put like a, a bug in my ear about, about doing something on my own. Which, you know, I’ve always, I’ve always felt like I, um I have a complete disrespect for authority and don’t want to be told what to do, so.

[00:14:07] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Um, especially when I feel like I could do it better myself. So, uh, yeah, like, being your own boss has, has always kind of been that thing that, um, that excited me most, I think. 

[00:14:20] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah, I can imagine. Then, you know, after his passing, you just kind of, you got into, uh, a truck and you, what, you drove like 25, 000 miles across the U.

[00:14:33] A.J. Weinzettel: S., you know, going and getting equipment. I mean, that’s, uh, how long did 

[00:14:38] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: that take you? Uh, it actually only, we, we accumulated all the equipment in, in like a couple of months. Um, and like, yeah, I think after, after he died, You know, only it took me like 12 months to put together like a business plan and, um, find a space in Denver to, to lease, to start a winery.

[00:15:04] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And, um, I was still working down in, um, in the four corners at that time. And, um, yeah, there was just that, that moment that I was like, yeah, now’s the time. Say goodbye to the current boss, uh, and, um, yeah, and move on. And, and bought like an old truck and a trailer and, and, and like, it was like back then, 2000, like May 2008, gas was like really expensive.

[00:15:30] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Like, oh yeah, the great recession, right? Like, so, so like I remember like gas prices being like eight bucks a gallon or something. Um, yeah, so like, that’s crazy of actually like hiring a company to do it was even more expensive than doing it myself. And so, um, so yeah, we just kind of drove around and, and picked up, used equipment from various places all the way up the, the west coast and then, uh, even into kind of.

[00:16:00] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Walla Walla and, and down back down in, into Denver. So yeah, that was, it was stressful, but it was, uh, it was actually quite a lot of fun. Got some great photos of, uh, strapping tanks to trailers and not having enough space and strapping fermentation bins to the end of the tank, hanging off the trailer. 

[00:16:20] A.J. Weinzettel: I can only imagine.

[00:16:22] A.J. Weinzettel: Do you still have that old Dodge truck that you, that you drove around, you know, gathering all that? 

[00:16:27] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: No, that, that got solved, uh, many years ago. 

[00:16:33] A.J. Weinzettel: And so that kind of brings you to, you know, starting like the first urban winery, uh, you know, infinite monkey theorem. Yeah. Um, did you know that you’re setting a trend at that time for urban winery or?

[00:16:48] A.J. Weinzettel: You’re just like, this felt like the, or it just felt right. 

[00:16:53] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I think it was all very deliberate. Like, um, I had, I was working with a friend of mine, actually my best man, a guy called David Roy. And we did a harvest together in 2006. And we would always hang out and just talk about how wine was just so pretentious and so unapproachable.

[00:17:16] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And we were both young. And I mean, I was, I was 28. Like he was 24 and we were like, it doesn’t have to be like this, you know, why, why don’t we just, you know, figure out how to do something different. And so, you know, it was a plan that I think it formulated from speaking to so many people over the years, like even, you know, you can, you can definitely relate it to my time at Leighton’s, you know, selling silly wines, uh, to expensive people and, and, and, you know, the, the way wines were talked about.

[00:17:50] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And, um, And then I think having spent time in Colorado and spent time selling wine in Denver, but other wineries, it, it just kind of started to make sense. Cause like, obviously Colorado is better known for its beer, um, than wine, but you know, there was a brewery kind of popping up on every corner in Denver.

[00:18:14] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And it was like, well, why, why couldn’t wine be like this? Um, you know, why at the time I was like very kind of anti terroir and just like, this is such a nonsense, you know, like, which for the most part it is, but, um, you know, it’s a good, it tells a good story. Like, um, but, uh, yeah, so why not, why not put a winery in, in downtown, like in a city, like, why not?

[00:18:40] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Embrace city culture, you know, you don’t need to have Tuscan style facades on your wall and, you know, like rolling hills and countryside to, to make good wine. You can make good wine anywhere. And so, you know, why not, why not do it in a back alley in, in downtown Denver, in a, in an old Quonset home. And, um, Yeah, it like quickly.

[00:19:04] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I mean, we made the first wines and everyone in the city was excited about it. It was definitely a time when, uh, you know, lots of small restaurants were starting who were very kind of. Conscious about where they were sourcing ingredients from and, and having a good Colorado wine was something that, you know, was, was missing.

[00:19:28] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And they, and they were all my friends because they were all the same age as me. So they were all kind of embarking on starting like these cool restaurants at the same time as I was starting a winery and it all just kind of made sense. So, you know, the name of the winery was somewhat irreverent, but, but really, uh, but also very deliberate, uh, and the, and the artwork was.

[00:19:48] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: It was all very, um, like, Bansky esque, graffiti style, um, and the story was intriguing, and so, yeah, and the wine was good, so, so it, it quickly became, um, talked about, and, and I would say, The most talked about winery in Colorado for sure. And then of course, that whole kind of disrupting the wine industry, you know, became more and more top of mind.

[00:20:21] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And it was like, well, what’s the craziest thing you can do, you know? So let’s, let’s put wine in the can before anyone else was, was doing it, uh, in the United States, at least, uh, other than Coppola. I mean, they, they, they were doing it. But honestly, that brand at that time was, was a dead brand, um, because they couldn’t produce, they could only produce those 187 mil cans once a year because bull corporation only ran that can once a year.

[00:20:51] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: So they had to basically determine how much they would sell for an entire year, 12 months before. So it was impossible. That’s crazy. And the wine was like. From Indiana or something. Anyway, it was like Moscato or another nonsense with a straw. So, yeah, we, we were the first, uh, to put wine in a 250 ml can.

[00:21:11] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And, uh, I would say to make, to make it cool to, to kind of really, um, address the accessibility of the packaging and Um, you know, certainly where, when you’re living in Colorado, uh, you can kind of that can make that makes a lot of sense, you know, from a pack in, pack out, um, 

[00:21:33] A.J. Weinzettel: and then. And, and it does, but, uh, I mean, you, you spent like two years of R and D to make sure that, you know, the whole canned wine was actually good.

[00:21:44] A.J. Weinzettel: And when you actually got through the, uh, the R and D, uh, you launched it at, um, Aspen food and wine. Uh, festival in 2011 and you, you just didn’t launch it. Uh, you got like a smuggler mine or something there in Aspen and you had all the, the mining carts lined with plastic and ice and it was all loaded up.

[00:22:09] A.J. Weinzettel: I mean, that had to be fun. 

[00:22:12] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah, that was cool. That was like, where’s the craziest place you can, like, throw a party? Um, and looking back, there was probably a lot of liability issues around that, but, um, yeah, I mean, what’s the biggest, what’s the biggest wine festival in the United States? Certainly Aspen Food Wine.

[00:22:29] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And, uh, yeah, where can you kind of make a big splash and, Yeah, so we, we were friends with the owners of, um, of the mine, at least our, our publicist was, and, um, yeah, we, we went up there and we were like, yeah, we could We could do this, we could throw a party up here and, um, yeah, it was, it was cool. There were like, people would get kind of entered on one level and got like a mine tour up to the top level where they grabbed a can of wine from an old ore truck lined with plastic.

[00:23:03] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And there was a DJ up there and, you know, I think we got like 85 noise complaints from the, from the residents of the mine and ultimately were shut down around midnight. But, um, not before making a, making a big kind of splash and then everyone started talking about it, which was cool. Um, and we launched that with just one can.

[00:23:25] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: It was a, it was a black muscat from Colorado, which had been aged in a barrel. It was, it was actually delicious. It was really cool. Um, and, um, the day of that party, we were on one of the panels at Food Wine. With, uh, it was, it was which wine to pair with a taco cart, and it was led by Richard Betts, who, who is a master song, and on the panel was Charles Bela, uh, from Bela Family Wines.

[00:23:58] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And, um, Andy Flowers from the Flowers Winery and Bobby Stuckey from Frasca and, you know, previously the French Laundry and the Lil Nell and, um, and then one, one other guy who I forget, but yeah, we kind of, we were all talking about like alternate packaging and stuff. And I, and I started, uh, we started talking about my.

[00:24:19] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Black muscat can and Charles Beeler sticks a pencil in it and shotguns it on his shoulder. I told him to do that. But it was funny. And there was, you know, a hundred people in there, like, thinking, this is ridiculous. With wine in a can. And after it, like, the owner of the Texas Rangers came up to me and was like, You wanna, wanna sell this wine at the stadium?

[00:24:40] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And I was like, Hell yeah. 

[00:24:42] A.J. Weinzettel: Of course. Yeah, why not? 

[00:24:44] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah, yeah. It was funny. But yeah, that’s, uh, that was, um, Well, I think those are the thing, kind of fun things you can do when you’re a small company that’s very agile and, you know, not, not scared to kind of shake things up a little bit. I think it was quite easy to do just to kind of think about how you could like change things when It was an industry that resisted change and still is, right?

[00:25:13] A.J. Weinzettel: Oh, yeah, it’s, there are a lot of traditions that are set in place. I mean, just, you know, talking about, you know, the foil on, on bottles. I mean, people are like, no, we can’t get rid of foil on bottles, but it’s like, but. It would be a good thing to do for the climate and, you know, what is the actual purpose of the foil and, you know, so it’s, you know, there, there are a lot of, um, a lot of things that people are stuck in their ways in, in the world of wine.

[00:25:43] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah, for sure. Like heavy bottles. Which are just nonsense, like foils, which are completely irrelevant. Uh, wire, you know, crown cages, and, you know, wire hoods for sparkling wine. When the same wine has been under a crown cap for the last 12 to 3 years. You know, like, why not just put another crown cap on it?

[00:26:06] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: That’s so it doesn’t need, right, 

[00:26:10] A.J. Weinzettel: exactly, exactly. And, and getting into the sparkling a little bit, you, uh, you know, you did the Colorado’s first ever method. Champagne while sparkling wine out of, um, Arborino 

[00:26:21] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: grapes. Yeah, that’s right. That was, that was a while ago. Like maybe, I don’t know, 2013, 2012, something like that.

[00:26:29] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Um, but yeah, Albarino seemed like a good grape to make sparkling wine with. And, um, Yeah, I didn’t know a ton about the, the practical, uh, method. Um, so, got, uh, we had sponsored, like, a bike race in the previous year called the USA Pro Challenge. And, um, I had met a bike rider called Craig Romer, who was formerly the head winemaker at Schramsberg.

[00:26:58] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And so he, um, he was consulting because he had left there and, uh, yeah, started talking about Met for Champion Noir and he was like, Oh yeah, I’m, I’m a consultant. I’ll, I’ll help you out. I was like, okay. So yeah, we, we worked together for a couple of years and figured out how to do that kind of very, very like hands on, very small production.

[00:27:18] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Um, you know, if, talking about like a grower’s champagne, I mean, this is more geeky than that. 180 cases, like, hand riddled, hand disgorged, no dosage, single vineyard, like, everything, you know, everything done by hand, like, no neck freezer, like, no, you know, like. Yeah. So that was, yeah, that was fun. And my wife told me I had to make one up, otherwise she’d divorce me.

[00:27:43] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: So we did it. 

[00:27:45] A.J. Weinzettel: We got it. You got to, you got to keep that with the wife’s happy. Most definitely. Right. Uh, coming from England, I mean like the, and the sparkling in England is just booming. You know, Jackson family is buying wine or buying property over there. You know, uh, champagne families are buying property.

[00:28:06] A.J. Weinzettel: Uh, I know next to nothing about English sparkling. Are there like any recommendations or anything that 

[00:28:12] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: you might have? Yeah, there’s so many of them now. Um, like Chapel down is probably the most well known producer, maybe the biggest producer from Cairns. Um, with vineyards, I think, in Kent and Sussex, uh, another one called Nightimber.

[00:28:33] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: But yeah, I mean, they’ve been making like exceptional sparkling wine for the last 10 years, maybe even longer than that. Um, and that’s, you know, that’s definitely, uh, because like climate change has raised, you know, a degree or two and enabled, um, what was fairly impossible and infrequent. Um, you know, made it more practical and, um, commercially viable to produce, you know, consistent wine year in, year out.

[00:29:11] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And certainly when it comes to like sparkling. base wine. Remember, it doesn’t have to get ripe particularly. Um, it’s not about that. It’s not about hang time or anything because they certainly don’t have hang time there. But, uh, yeah, they, they’re, they’re making really great sparkling wines. And I think a few of them are available in the U.

[00:29:30] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: S. and I, I know that it’s starting to export more because their production is ramped up. Considerably. 

[00:29:38] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. Well, I was just curious about that. I appreciate it. Um, you’re mentioning Kent and you know, your, your label, uh, the ordinary fellow was inspired after a pub there in Kent. What, uh, what was the name of the pub and what, what brought you that inspiration?

[00:29:57] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah, The Ordinary Fellow was a pub, is or was a pub, uh, in Kent, in my home county, uh, that I used to go to, um, with my father when I was younger. And just a very warm, comfortable place to, to relax after a day’s work and, you know, have a few beers and kind of put the world to rights and go home. And, um, you know, I, I was reminded of the pub, after my father died.

[00:30:28] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Uh, he had He had collected these pub cards which back in the 60s were found in the in the back of cigarette packs So I think in the US if you’re a smoker you you would get baseball cards in the back of cigarettes back in the day Yeah, and but in England there were pub cards and it basically was a card size and it had the It had the, uh, the symbol, or the logo from the pub, like the sign that hung outside the pub on the front.

[00:31:02] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And then it talks about the history of the pub on the back. And, um, I found this big pile of them, um, that my mother gave me after he died. And, uh, I was like, oh, these are cool. And so, like, I framed them. And, um, yeah, there’s maybe 500 of them, like, on a frame on the wall. And, uh, I was looking for kind of inspiration for the, for a name for my new winery.

[00:31:26] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And, um, I was like, Oh yeah, The Ordinary Fellow. And, um, the, uh, on the label, the, the kind of front logo, um, is actually the blade sign. That’s the sign that hung from the silhouette of the sign that hung from the pub, um, which is meant to be, um, the silhouette of King George IV, who, uh. Considered himself an ordinary fellow.

[00:31:53] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: That’s, that is very cool. 

[00:31:54] A.J. Weinzettel: That’s, you know, I, I read that, you know, it was inspired, but I just hadn’t heard the, you know, the actual backstory or anything of that. So I, I appreciate that. Thank you. 

[00:32:03] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah. So when you look at the, you’ve got part of my back label behind you, like it’s, yeah, there’s, there’s like, uh, lots of pub references there and there’s a forklift with a pint of Guinness on it.

[00:32:17] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Cause. All winemakers do is drive forklifts and drink beer. And then, uh, it’s quite an old joke. And then there’s, like, the Three Lions, which is emblazoned on the English soccer jerseys. And, um, there’s a, there’s dart, and there’s, like, the angle of release, and the speed that you throw a dart at, and there’s a dartboard.

[00:32:36] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And there’s all sorts of, like, references on that. On the, um, underlabel, um, of my, of my bottle, which has two labels, like an underlabel and an outer sleeve. Yeah, and I, 

[00:32:49] A.J. Weinzettel: and I, yeah, and I, yeah, 

[00:32:51] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: and I 

[00:32:53] A.J. Weinzettel: was just curious, like, how did you, I mean, you’ve said, like, You know, uh, the, the wine in the can and then, you know, urban winery.

[00:33:04] A.J. Weinzettel: And then this, I mean, why made you think of doing something like this to like be different 

[00:33:12] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: and unique? It was really more like, um, and I think I’ve always kind of pushed boundaries in terms of packaging. Um, and, and this, it was, it was coming up with like a concept that was kind of like this hidden imagery, like this, like a codex.

[00:33:32] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And trying to bring it to life, um, on a, yeah, on a three dimensional bottle. Um, and so we, we kind of came up with the, the underlabel, which is basically a story of my journey as a winemaker, with lots of very personal Imagery on it. Uh, like there’s a silhouette, my, my family, my, my dog who I just let out.

[00:33:58] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: It’s like, uh, an old black beanie that I would wear when I’m making wine, which is why, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s a lot of kind of. Cool stuff on there, but there’s also a, a story if you take the sleeve off, you’ll, you’ll read it that it’s very flowery, a story of me meeting a bear when I’m camping in Colorado and, um, the descriptive words in the story come through the outer sleeve to complete the tasting note.

[00:34:32] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: So you can align, when you align it correctly, the tasting notes are completed on the outer sleeve and there’s certain call outs. That come through on the artwork and, um, just the engineering that was required to bring that together. I don’t, there’s one thing designing it from an artist standpoint, right?

[00:34:53] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: But then to like bring it to life so that the sleeve would not fall off and so that it was in the correct place and so that it would rotate and so that the, the, the, the words, um, Came across correctly when it was aligned correctly. I mean, just an amazing feat of engineering. And, um, yeah, I mean, I think a picture paints a thousand words.

[00:35:16] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I think, uh, 80 percent of customers still make wine purchase decisions on the label alone. Um, so I do think it’s important to have a, to have a good label. Um, one that tells a story and, um, it kind of sucks you in and then. And it also allows the customer to kind of interact with it, which, you know, I think is cool certainly when it’s at home on your dining table, but also if you’re in a restaurant and you had bought the bottle and, and you were kind of like playing around with it, you know, as you were talking, it would provoke conversation, which is what wine in general does anyway, like When you’re just drinking it, it does it, but then like, you know, it’s, it’s a work of art on its own.

[00:36:06] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: The wine is a work of art and the label is, so I think it’s, it’s, it’s like a complete package. Um, and I, I don’t think, I think a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to the, to the wine label or just come up with something that’s so generic and, you know, it’s, uh, you know, this is, someone’s put a lot of thought into this, took it, took it like over 12 months to, to come up with it.

[00:36:30] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: So it’s, it’s very cool. 

[00:36:33] A.J. Weinzettel: It is very cool. And I can only imagine, you know, I’m, you know, uh, being an engineer at heart, you know, all the engineering that it took to actually, you know, put that on and make it happen. I can only imagine it’s, it’s very unique and it also goes to show just how forward thinking you are and, uh, uh, it is gorgeous.

[00:36:55] A.J. Weinzettel: It is amazing. Uh, and also the other night I poured your, uh, 2021 Pino and, uh, I was just right off, uh, two, just two facts that just got me, uh, all giddy about it when I, when I looked at it in the class. I mean, it was just. A gorgeous Pino, uh, just, just looking at it, I was like, Ooh, I’m in, I’m in for a treat.

[00:37:25] A.J. Weinzettel: And then also to see that the, that the vineyard that it came from the hawks nest vineyard is at 6, 800 feet in elevation. And you know, I’m, I’m here in Oregon, you know, so for us, anything, you know, above 900 feet to 1100 feet is. Over the top, you know, as far as elevation goes, uh, I am, it just, I, it just boggles my mind at 6, 800 feet, you know, how Pino is able to, to 

[00:37:57] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: thrive.

[00:37:59] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah, it’s definitely, well, that’s how you get like cool climate. When you’re basically in a hot climate, right, you, you go up in elevation and, of course, Colorado is fairly high anyway, right? Denver’s a mile high. Palisade on the western slope is at 4, 500 feet. And then southwest, uh, Colorado, like Cortez, where my reasonably shodden name Cap are grown is at 5, 800 feet.

[00:38:25] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And the vineyard called the 800 feet. It’s definitely a marginal climate, I would say, you know, um. Bud break is obviously later and then, um, the potential to get an early fall frost is, is considerable come, like, mid October, but, um, yeah, just a, just a really great vineyard site planted by, uh, this chap called Guy Drew four years ago, so it’s only been, it’s only the second crop off of it, um, and he’s growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay there.

[00:39:01] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: But yeah, just like, when you’re talking about the color, I think it’s the color of real Pinot Noir, that hasn’t been adulterated by Syrah or something. Um, and just, you know, great natural acidity, I mean, the, the color of it belies, like, the power of it and the intensity of it, cause like, you put, you smell it, woah, and then you put it in your mouth, and it’s like It’s, it’s like a serious wine, you know, um, and, uh, a lot of people I pour it for who, who don’t know anything about Burgundy are like, Oh, it’s very light.

[00:39:36] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: And I’m like, you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. 

[00:39:40] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. Yeah. But I, you know, once I got past, you know, just being blown away by the elevation and just the beautiful color of the glass. I, I loved how velvety smooth it was and how the tannins were just nicely integrated and all the fruit was just showing in all the right places.

[00:39:59] A.J. Weinzettel: I was, um, you know, I don’t think, I think that’s the first time I’ve had a pinot from a Colorado and I was a little apprehensive, but I was very pleasantly surprised. And so, you know, thank you for that. I appreciate it. 

[00:40:17] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah. Thank you. No. Um. Yeah, it’s, uh, it’s a variety that, um, I’ve had like a love hate relationship with for 25 years, I’d say.

[00:40:29] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Um, and really, my first real opportunity to make a Pinot Noir in maybe 15 years. So, yeah, it’s, uh, it’s cool. I mean, as soon as you got it in the winery, you know it’s going to be a good wine. I mean, the fruit was good. The fermentation smelled good. You could tell it was going to be good. And they just spent eight months in some neutral French oak barrels.

[00:40:55] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: They were like eight, nine year old barrels, so no real influence in there. Um, yeah, and just, just well balanced fruit coming off the vine, which is It really makes the winemaking job pretty easy, I’d say. 

[00:41:11] A.J. Weinzettel: I can imagine. And, you know, I have, I have your cab here. Um, and I haven’t had a Colorado cab either.

[00:41:18] A.J. Weinzettel: You know, we were talking about 6, 800 feet for the cool climate for Pinot, and I think you said that your cab vineyard is at 5, 800 feet. How does, how does that ripen enough to You know, to, to make a 

[00:41:30] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: cap. Yeah, that’s a good question. Cause like, yeah, you would think, um, like the growing season is in Colorado is between like 155 and 170 days compared to Napa.

[00:41:45] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: That’s like 250 days. So it’s very short, right. But, um, at high elevation, you get like high concentrations of ultraviolet light, which kind of speed up ripening. Um, and, and when you look at the number of degree days. Uh, you know, we have the same number of degree days as Napa in Colorado. So, depending on the site, uh, like a later ripening varietal like cab, um, will get ripe.

[00:42:14] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Some years, depending on where it’s grown, it won’t, and it’s just very herbaceous. But, um, but yeah, like, if you get, if you get like a, a long, extended, full You know, you can certainly ripen it and, um, you know, like I think I’ve said earlier on, I didn’t pick the cab till like five days ago. So, so that’s, that’s pushing it, you know, um, and then we had a frost, you know, so it was a good job.

[00:42:43] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I picked it, but, um, 

[00:42:45] A.J. Weinzettel: yeah, yeah, I can only imagine. Yeah. Oh. So you have two younger children, um, you know, and like your father played a nice influence on, you know, on your trajectory and like, what, what you have done. Have you given any thought to like, what kind of legacy that you want to 

[00:43:06] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: leave them? Um, I mean, really, you know, just to try and be around for them more, I think, and just be a good dad is, is like, And not, and not be working the whole time, which is tough when you have a winery, but yeah, I mean, you know, I think, uh, I think it’s, I think every winemaker parent, you know, probably thinks.

[00:43:35] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: It’s pretty cool for their kids to grow up in that environment. Like, just, it’s not a usual career path. It’s like, it can be very beautiful. It can certainly, like, show them the meaning of hard work. Because until you’ve done a harvest, you don’t really understand how hard that can be, I don’t think. Um, you know, I read, there’s a great article.

[00:44:02] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I’ll try to send it to you, but it compares. Uh, work in a harvest to, to living on a pirate ship, but it’s like no showers and just everyone hates each other. 

[00:44:17] A.J. Weinzettel: Oh man. That would be an interesting article. Really 

[00:44:21] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: great. It’s a really great story. Um, but, uh, Yeah, I, I, yeah, I hope, you know, that they, they understand the value of, of, of hard work and, and that we get to, to experience cool stuff together, you know, and, and whatever they end up doing, you know, is, is, is, uh, hopefully influenced by, by that at some stage.

[00:44:44] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah, I, 

[00:44:46] A.J. Weinzettel: I can only imagine. I, you know, I have a 15 year old daughter and, you know, I try to do the best that I can for her as well. So it’s doing the best that we can is all we 

[00:44:56] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: can do. Yeah, that’s still pretty young. Mine like nine and seven. So that’s awesome. 

[00:45:04] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I have some rapid fire questions here for you and I’ll get you out of here.

[00:45:11] A.J. Weinzettel: Okay, uh, favorite artist to listen to during Harvest? 

[00:45:16] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Ooh, uh, well, this, this year I’ve been listening to, um, a lot of, uh, like the Wu Tang Clan, actually. 

[00:45:29] A.J. Weinzettel: That’s awesome. Yeah. 

[00:45:32] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I think the, uh, When the, uh, people come in to taste wine, they’re not quite expecting it. I can only 

[00:45:42] A.J. Weinzettel: I can imagine, I can imagine. Um, your favorite indulgent food?

[00:45:49] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Oh, um, yeah. That’s it, that’s it. Well, you know, like, what I really Right now would just be a good bowl of green chili. Oh, 

[00:46:05] A.J. Weinzettel: that would, and that, that’s a perfect time of the year for that 

[00:46:08] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: too. Yeah. Yeah. So complex and interesting. 

[00:46:12] A.J. Weinzettel: Yes. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

[00:46:19] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Um, to look into the future. 

[00:46:25] A.J. Weinzettel: Nice. Harvest notes, are they digital or handwritten? 

[00:46:30] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Uh, neither.

[00:46:36] A.J. Weinzettel: Nope, that’s great. That is great. Uh, and the last book you read, it could be physical, it could be audible, or it could even be like a, say like a podcast or something.

[00:46:50] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Well, actually, I’ve been, I’ve been listening to a podcast called The Wine Blast, uh, by, um, Peter and Susie. I can’t remember their last names, but they’re two MWs who are very funny. Yes. And, and also, yeah, very entertaining and, and have a lot of knowledge to share if you’re really interested in wine. Yeah.

[00:47:13] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Not that that is a great 

[00:47:14] A.J. Weinzettel: podcast. I, I’ve listened to that a handful of times myself. All right. Well, that’s all the questions that I have for you. Do you have any questions or anything for me before we 

[00:47:25] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: sign off? Uh, no, I don’t think so. Thank you for doing this. I appreciate it. And, um, yeah, hopefully you get to try those other wines and, and they’re not too bad.

[00:47:38] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: So, 

[00:47:39] A.J. Weinzettel: yeah, no, I’m, I’m very much looking forward to it and just, you know, taking my time, just enjoying all the hard work that, that you have done. And, uh, you know, I can’t wait to, to dive into them. So thank you so much for that too. 

[00:47:50] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. If you’ve got any questions on them, just shoot me an email.

[00:47:55] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: I will do 

[00:47:55] A.J. Weinzettel: so. All right. Well, thank 

[00:47:56] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: you. Thank you. Have a good one. Thank you for joining me on this flavorful voyage through the world of wine on the White Notes podcast. I’ve been your host and guide, 

[00:48:05] A.J. Weinzettel: AJ Weinzettel, and it’s been an absolute pleasure sharing these captivating stories. But alas, like the last sip of a fine vintage, our time together must end.

[00:48:17] A.J. Weinzettel: But don’t fret, my wine loving friend. The cellar doors of the Wine Notes podcast will always remain open, waiting for you to return and explore new conversations. Stories and musings from the captivating 

[00:48:29] Ben Parsons of The Ordinary Fellow: people behind the magical world of 

[00:48:31] A.J. Weinzettel: wine. Before you go, hit that subscribe button on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify, and don’t forget to leave a sparkly five star review to help spread the word.

[00:48:41] A.J. Weinzettel: And to our glasses clink again, remember to savor life’s moments and let the spirit of wine and camaraderie linger on your palate. Cheers! And as always, may your wine glass be full, your heart be light, and your journey be delight.

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