I’m not too big on documentaries. This distaste probably stems from over-exposure as a youngster. My mother is a huge Civil War buff and was especially fond of Ken Burns’ aptly named documentary “The Civil War”. I can’t begin to approximate how many times this film played in our household. Needless to say, when it was my turn to pick the movie, documentaries were out of the question.
With the right subject matter, however, I can be swayed. This morning I watched Blood Into Wine, a documentary released in 2010 which focuses on Maynard James Keenan’s entry into the Arizona wine industry. For those who don’t know who the heck Maynard James Keenan is, he’s the lead singer of Tool and A Perfect Circle, both successful American rock bands. I used to listen to Tool a lot, particularly around the years 2003-2007. Keenan has an amazing voice that really captures the emotion of the lyrics that he’s singing, whether it be anger bordering on rage or sadness. I was certainly intrigued when I heard that he was starting a winery.
Obviously, Keenan is not the first celebrity to start a winery. Athletes (i.e. Ernie Els, Greg Norman, etc.), musicians (i.e. Train), a NASCAR driver (i.e. Jeff Gordon), and movie directors (i.e. Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, etc.) have all ventured into the wine business. I’m a bit skeptical when celebrity-types start a winery. Why? It’s my dream to start a winery. For me, it’s not about the money or prestige–it’s about making wine because that’s what you love to do. Sometimes, I think that wineries are started for the wrong reasons. Take Yao Family Wines, a Napa winery started by the former NBA star Yao Ming. Ming is no doubt looking to use his celebrity and the growing popularity of wine in China, his homeland, to cash in. His cheapest release sells for $289 a bottle, while his reserve wine is priced at a whopping $625. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see Ming putting in a lot of time in the vineyard or working the harvest.
Sorry for the mini-rant and back to Blood Into Wine, a film that I recommend to anyone with even a remote interest in wine. Much of the film takes place near Jerome, Arizona, the unlikely spot where Keenan decided to start his winery, Caduceus. Keenan, his mentor (winemaker Eric Glomski) and several members of the Northern Arizona Wine Industry discuss the Verde Valley, their love of wine, and the challenges faced in growing grapes in such a challenging landscape–if you think bunch rot is bad, try dealing with a pack of javelinas! It’s certainly not your run-of-the-mill documentary. At times it was zany (the “Focus on Interesting Things” bits), spiritual (clips of a Shaman and a vortex specialist), and touching (Keenan becomes very emotional when speaking of the wine made after his mother Judith). My favorite scene is when James Suckling of Wine Spectator is tasting Caduceus wines with Keenan and Glomski. Suckling takes a sip of a Syrah/Malvasia Bianca Blend and states he’s “not sure that the wine works 100%” and that Keenan’s “trying too hard on this wine.” Keenan’s response? “Not at all. I love this wine. I make what I like.”
Very early in the film, Keenan is seen planting in the vineyard. The cynic in me was wondering if this was just an act for the camera and if this guy was for real. Ironically, at the end of the movie, Keenan coyly notes that it’s possible that the portrayal of him on film as laboring in the vineyards may be “bullshit”. After watching the whole film, I’m convinced that Keenan is in the wine business for all of the right reasons, that no vineyard chore is above him, and that none of what I saw is bullshit.
Naturally, after watching the film I headed to a local wine shop to see if I could locate some Caduceus and some Arizona Stronghold wines (Arizona Stronghold wines are a collaboration between Glomski and Keenan). It would have been great to do a tasting today and include some tasting notes on these wines. Unfortunately, there were no Keenan or Glomski wines to be had. I’ll keep looking–I hope to do a follow up post on these wines in the near future.