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The Face of Arizona Wine: Tool’s Maynard James Keenan Talks “Blood Into Wine,” Screening February 19-26 at the Capitol - Page 2 PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 11 February 2010 09:42

Bringing Out the Land

Keenan moved to Arizona in 1995 and said he met Glomski -- who returned to Arizona after working in the California wine industry, ascending to co-wine-maker at David Bruce Winery -- in 2002 or 2003. Their joint wine endeavors started shortly thereafter.

Keenan and Milla JovovichWhile Blood Into Wine's subjects aren't pioneers -- Keenan guessed that contemporary vineyards in Arizona date back at least a dozen years -- they are likely essential to building a market for Arizona wine.

Keenan's fame is the obvious impetus for the movie, which will expose a lot of people to the idea that the state has a lot to offer wine and wine consumers. And his financial resources are also critical. "You spend $10 million to make one" million dollars in the wine business, Keenan told me. "I'm definitely not out of the hole by any stretch. I believe in this thing so much that I've dumped everything into it."

The wine-makers have had to deal with rough climate. Despite Arizona's reputation as a baked desert, "we have more problems with cold than we do heat," Keenan says in the movie.

There are also critters that can destroy crops.

And there are bureaucratic obstacles, from water rights to branding. Although it's not in the movie, Keenan said he's now battling the federal Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau, which regulates how wines are presented. "They're still trying to fight me on the name of my wine, although they've approved every one of my labels," he said. They want him to change his name and logo -- the snakes and staff of caduceus are often confused with the medicine-related Rod of Asclepius -- "having let me develop this brand. ... They say I'm implying that it's medicine."

But there are also the basic challenges of wine-making. Finding grapes that will grow well in Arizona, Keenan said, has been a "crapshoot." They looked for hardy fruit and have planted varieties from "Bordeaux, Italy, southern Rhone, northern Rhone, Spain -- just because the terrain here mimics some of that. So we've planted pretty much everything you can think of."

It's critical to understand that Keenan and Glomski aren't interested in trying to make California-style wines in Arizona. They think the land gives the grapes and therefore the wine a unique character.

When they were getting started, Keenan said, they brought out experts from California, but they weren't very helpful. "This ground has nothing to do with that ground," he said.

Expressing the land, he added, is "the most important part. ... It's something that we're missing [as a culture], the connection to the ground." The core of the film, he said, is "connecting with where you are."

"My wines are an expression of a place that I call home," Glomski says in the movie.

Much mass-produced wine, Keenan said, does not meet that goal, with flavors achieved through processing rather than viticulture. "What they're doing to it has nothing really to do with the wine," he said. "There are things that are outweighing what's happening in the bottle. ... It could be made anywhere. So as a business model, great, but as a sustainable product ... ."

Bringing out the characteristics of the soil, climate, and farming techniques -- collectively known as a wine's terroir -- will take a long time. Keenan gave the example of Cabernet grapes grown with a 900-foot difference in elevation, with one vineyard on flat land and one on a slope in a different part of the state. "It's going to take us a few years to really figure out what the unique profile for the grapes are up here in northern Arizona. ... ," he said. "There's two Cabs and they taste similar. Why do they taste similar? They should be polar opposites just based on the elevation and the temperature swings on those two sites.

"Two different parts of the state are definitely presenting two different styles of wine," he continued. "That they are not different enough in characteristic might just be because we treated them in a similar way in the wine-making process. Maybe we should have used different kinds of yeast."

Keenan has produced five vintages of Caduceus, with 10 red-wine styles and one white. Prices range from $18.99 to $100 a bottle.

For the time being, Keenan is having "custom crushes" done for him at Glomski's winery, but he has almost finished his own winery, at which he hopes to "dabble" this year.

"The biggest, most important step for me in the wine-making process is going to be to make a lot of mistakes," he said. Glomski will continue to make most of the Caduceus wines, while Keenan will experiment with "small batches that I just assume I'm going to screw up." Glomski's role will be "saving it from the brink when it's about to go horribly wrong, but allowing me to make mistakes."

Keenan also said that Glomski will be his primary wine-maker for the foreseeable future. "I've got crazy ideas that he would never explore," Keenan said. "I'm kind of like ... Curly to his Larry and Moe."

Getting Out of the Way

Keenan's passion for wine-making is evident both in the movie and over the phone. When he talks about music, however, you might fear that you'll never have another album from Tool or A Perfect Circle. The singer clearly wants no part of contemporary celebrity culture.

"You've seen how popular reality TV is," he said. "People don't care about the person. They want to see them self-destruct. And that's partly what it is with the entertainment industry. ... Unless it's tragic, who cares?"

People might like music and enjoy the songs, he said, but fundamentally "they want to see you overdose. They want to see you self-destruct and come apart. ... I'm not a martyr. I have no intention of sacrificing myself for the evening news."

But while there are no imminent releases from any of his bands, Keenan said he hasn't given up music for wine. "If it's a positive, healthy experience, then it's always going to be a part of my life," he said. "I'm not going to abandon my brothers. I just think we have to re-think what the healthy steps are."

And he sees parallels between making music and wine. "It's just a matter of perception, and how you perceive the world around you," Keenan said. "The whole listening process and the whole responding process."

Both involve "getting out of the way and allowing things to occur. Of course, nudging them along with your personality and your perceptions in the world. ... You're allowing this terroir, or this site, or this grape to speak for itself, and then you nudge in the direction that you think it should go, but you let it speak to you first."

Blood Into Wine will be screened at the Capitol Theatre (330 West Third Street in Davenport) on Friday, February 19; Saturday, February 20; Sunday, February 21; and Friday, February 26.

February 19's screening will be followed by a wine tasting of Arizona Stronghold wines. The film will be shown at 7 p.m., and tickets are $12 and available from

February 20's and February 26's screenings will be at 7 p.m., and Sunday's will be at 2 p.m. Admission is $5, and Arizona Stronghold wines will be available for purchase.

For more information about the movie, visit

Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski

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