Infinity Beverages is changing the wine industry one drink at a time

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By Taylor Hupe

Inside a warm brick building off Highway 93, light jazz music plays over speakers and a fireplace crackles with a small flame. Guests mingle at the bar which sits in front of a wall lined with hundreds of bottles of wines and spirits. Next to the bar, a clear garage door allows onlookers to peer into the inner workings of Infinity Beverages.

Matthew Rick checking over the bottling machine before the bottling of their newest experimental beverage © 2018 Taylor Hupe

Matthew Rick, proprietor, winemaker and distiller of Infinity Beverages Winery and Distillery, said the wine industry is “historically rooted” and since he started his business, he has made it his goal to change things up by creating products that no one else has tried before.

Rick’s introduction to the wine industry began when he was in high school and working for a high-end restaurant. He reflected on working in the hospitality-focused industry at the age of 18, where he began to learn a lot about wine and about what people liked and disliked about certain wines. Rick was immediately drawn to the industry because of its focus on taking care of people and its elusiveness. He described the wine industry as “part luxury, but also part past-time for everybody at the same time,” and from there, his interest grew. In 2004 he created a rough business plan of what was to become Infinity Beverages.

“Back then it was really bare-bones,” said Rick. “It was more of a vision of let’s constantly be making new products and pushing the line of what’s norm and what’s accepted, so that’s kind of what we do with all of our products.”

His interest in wine followed him into college. While pursuing a degree in business economics, Rick took up winemaking as a hobby. His choice in working with wine stemmed from the idea of doing something different from others, as he saw that most people were already working with beer. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Rick started his business in 2010 in its previous location in Banbury Place. He reflected on what it was like starting a business at the age of 23.

“It was challenging because we literally took — I think I had $2,500 and that’s what we started with. We maxed out every credit card we had, we got a personal loan and there was no turning back then,” said Rick. “We had to do it then.”

Rick sets a standard for the products, describing them as “liquid innovation.” His goal is to create products that are made differently from others or haven’t been created yet. For Rick, coming up with new ideas comes quite naturally, and inspiration comes from anywhere.

“If somebody else made a product and I tried it, the first thing I start thinking is, how can I do this differently or better, or somehow make it a little more awesome? It’s just kind of what I instantly do – it can come from just going out to dinner, whatever we’re eating or drinking or reading. I wish I could pin-point it, but it just keeps flowing and I just keep writing them down,” said Rick with a laugh.

Katherine Rapacz, Infinity Beverages’ sales and marketing manager, discussed what sets Infinity apart from other wineries, agreeing that their product innovation is what makes them different. For any winery or distillery, she says, the products they produce are based around the tastes of the person who creates them.

“Matt has a very accomplished palate and he knows the balance that he’s looking for in a product is going to be different than any other winemaker,” said Rapacz. “He’s also not going to put out a product that he wouldn’t actually take a sip of.”

Of their signature wines, Rapacz says, the fruits they use and the unique combinations they create make them different from wines created not just in Wisconsin but also across the country. While vodka is a common spirit in liquor stores, Rick says the vodka they produce, named Audacity for being the only vodka produced in Eau Claire, is distilled from fermented apples and sugar beets as opposed to the grains commonly used in vodka distilling.

For products that really differ from the norm, Rick has created the experimental line, which serves as a testing ground for him. With the experimental products, Infinity only produces about 50 gallons rather than 1,000 or 2,000 gallons, and most of the time the products are only produced once.

“It gives customers a great reason to keep coming back. That’s another reason why they love coming here is because we’re always trying to push the envelope and when something new is out, they come check it out and it makes it a fun great experience for our customers,” said Rick.

Along with creating unique products, Rick says his goal with the business is to share new things with guests and help them create memorable experiences involving Infinity’s products.

Reflecting on some guests’ first visits to Infinity, Rick said, “People come in here thinking we’re just a bar, but we actually make it here and we’re really passionate about what we’re doing.”