The hard-rock mastermind behind three bands—Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer—has a side project in wine-making, chronicled in the documentary Blood Into Wine. Featuring such funnymen as Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, and the hosts of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, this film fits somewhere between the 2004 sleeper Sideways and the Palme d'Or-nominated doc Mondovino. Maynard James Keenan talked to Details.com about decanting, terroir, and how pubic wigs figure into the wine-making process.
Details: Wine doesn't have a rock 'n' roll reputation. Are you trying to change that?
Maynard James Keenan: The thing is, I don't really have a rock-and-roll reputation. My association with Tool has painted that picture, but I've never thrown furniture out of the top-floor windows of hotel suites, and I don't date models.
Details: What's the right way to drink a bottle of wine?
Maynard James Keenan: There are many schools in terms of whether you should decant or not. I say, taste the wine right out of the bottle, because it might be perfect that way. When you pour, sniff first, then swirl it, then kind of slurp it a little bit. The trick is not having the air affect the wine too much right away, so you can taste what it is first. If you drink a lot of soda or eat a lot of fast food with vinegar- and sugar-based condiments, you're never going to have a great experience with wine, because you can't taste all the nuances. That said, the other night I had a Clarendon Hills 2001 Grenache with a Tommy's burger. I had to pull the pickles off, but it was amazing.
Details: Your vineyard is in Jerome, Arizona. How does the locale differ from more time-tested regions like California or Washington State?
Maynard James Keenan: Elevation. There are very few vineyards farming from 4,200 to 5,000 feet and successfully producing fine reds. There's also a desert influence—the 20-to-30-degree shift in temperature from night to day. So you combine that weather with our soil, which has a lot of volcanic and limestone influence, and that's making our wines unique. A friend of mine said wines from Arizona had a flavor like licking nickels.
Details: You named your vineyard Merkin—a pubic wig invented in the 15th century. Maybe that's not what people want to picture when they're drinking?
Maynard James Keenan: I could give a shit. It's part of the demystification of this supposedly sophisticated, exclusive activity. That snooty, finger-in-the-air, dissertation-of-wine thing—I don't subscribe to it.
Details: Describe the most expensive bottle you've ever uncorked.
Maynard James Keenan: A Domaine de la Romaneé-Conti—a world-class Burgundy from a specific spot on Earth. It's the Holy Grail of Pinot Noir, so they go from $2,000 to $30,000 a bottle. You can taste the place that wine was made. It's like a ghost in a bottle.
Details: Any words of advice for would-be vintners?
Maynard James Keenan: Three: Don't do it. Unless you have some endless source of income to start it, don't. I've already spent over $5 million, maybe $6 million by now, and I'm still putting in money. The destemmer costs what it costs. Barrels cost what they cost. Then there are natural and legal hurdles. But in the U.S. you can make up to something like 200 gallons of wine at home a year without telling anybody, as long as you don't sell it. If you can figure out the perfect amount of vines, you can make four big-ass barrels in your garage.
Slovenia: The Best Wine Country You've Never Heard Of
How to Make Whiskey Better—Plus: Four Cask-Strength Scotches to Try
Karen Elson: The Model Musician
Country-Music Prodigy Dylan LeBlanc