Dreams Uncorked: Local winery / distillery plans big relocation
There are few more enjoyable ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than at a wine tasting. And the fact that I construe it as work makes it all the sweeter, or perhaps that is just the surprisingly crisp apricot wine. I had the opportunity to sit down with Infinity Beverages’ owner, winemaker, and distiller Matthew Rick to discuss his upcoming relocation and expansion. Last September Volume One covered Matthew’s plans when they were still a far-away goal, but now the renovations of a new, larger south-side location are about to begin with a grand opening coming up in June.
Matthew has come a long way from making wine as a hobby with his wife. “We’re like a lot of Wisconsinites; we’re really hard-working. We just want to work hard and build something, and that’s kind of what I’ve done,” he says with a shrug. Infinity’s Tasting Lounge at Banbury Place is empty now, but I can still feel the vibrant energy of new experiences and of people coming together. “I’ve built something from nothing,” he says. “I think when I started I had something like $2,500.”
“We’re going to use a lot of galvanized piping so (the lounge) will have an urban industrial feel to it. That’s what we are; we’re a winery and distillery. We’re not a vineyard; we’re not a country wine store.”
– owner Matthew Rick on Infinity Beverages’ new location
Such a large change to many would be intimidating, but Matthew Rick is more than accepting of change – he seeks it out. Infinity Beverages has made a name for itself from Matthew’s inspired experimentations, “I try and tiptoe the line (of established wine culture). Break just enough rules to be different and try to make something one-of-a-kind. We’re not the kind of people to say you’ve got to swirl (wine) or smell it a certain way. ...We’re not trying to be snobby wine drinkers. ... It can be as simple as whether you like it or not. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.”
It’s an approach to wine that works well with local culture and one Matthew intends to reflect in the design of Infinity Beverages’ new location: “We’re trying to make (the Tasting Lounge) more multi-faceted so we can do more events and offer more seating to people in general because that’s one of our main problems down here. ... We’re going to use a lot of galvanized piping so (the lounge) will have an urban industrial feel to it. That’s what we are; we’re a winery and distillery. We’re not a vineyard; we’re not a country wine store.” The new Tasting Lounge, located in the former Coffee Grounds building on Mall Drive, will be nearly 10 times the size of the current space, with everything from a mezzanine overlooking the bar and production room to an outdoor seating area with access to food trucks. Live musical performances will take place on Fridays, and guests will be able to take tours of a greatly expanded production room featuring the new 200-gallon still (a huge step up from his current 26-gallon one) and 4,000-liter fermentation tanks. The new equipment will allow Infinity Beverages to move its production capacity from 3,000 cases to 20,000.
Infinity Beverages’ goals aren’t ending with this new move; Matthew hopes that more and more of the process from start to finish can take place in Wisconsin. He spent two years trying to find someone local who had enough grapes of a single varietal to work with. Currently 95 percent of his grapes come from California, but Matthew believes there’s room for the wine industry to grow in Wisconsin without betraying our long-standing love of beer. Germany is often considered a kindred spirit for its appreciation of beer, but not only does Germany have a similar climate to ours, but it also excels in the production of white wine. “I’d love to be able to source more Wisconsin grapes and scale it a little bit,” Matthew says. “I’ve even offered to co-finance some vineyards, but most people only want to do an acre or two and I’d rather do 10 acres and get something moving.”
The new Infinity Beverages will open in June at 3420 Mall Drive, Eau Claire. The current establishment in Banbury Place (930 Galloway St., Suite 4) will remain open right up to the grand opening. Learn more about the business and its new location at infinitybeverages.com.