As beverage journalists, we have had the opportunity to sit down and chat with some of the most influential beverage rock stars of our time from Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. to Jonathan Goldsmith of Dos Equis’ The Most Interesting Man in the World fame to Mr. King Cocktail himself Dale DeGroff. But we’ve also had the chance to sit down with a real life rock star when we visited Maynard James Keenan at his Jerome, Arizona winery Caduceus Cellars. Famous as the front man for rock bands Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, his first wines were launched in 2004 and this is his story.
Mutineer Magazine: What drew you to wine?
Maynard James Keenan: It’s just a complex art form that requires that you get involved, developing your own senses, developing your own awareness.
How is creating art with grapes similar to creating art with music?
It’s very similar, of course it all depends on the winemaker or the musician. As far as my process, it’s definitely a process of listening…a game of awareness basically. Just listening to what’s happening in the room, listening to what’s happening in the glass, in the barrel, listening to what’s happening in the vineyard, and moving accordingly.
How does your music background change your approach to wine? You’re coming at wine from a unique angle.
But a lot of people do. A lot of people that have vineyards or are making wine, there’s a significant percentage that come to it from a different perspective because maybe they’re successful in some other area and now they have a little bit of cash that they, well, the cliché is that if you want to make a small fortune in the wine business, you have to start with a very large fortune, which is cliché, but it’s true. But you end up having to explain that the small fortune is more consistent and sustainable and it’s a quality of life choice. Probably the lifestyle that you had before was very stressful to make that kind of income and required a lot of headaches and sleepless nights, sore backs, or whatever. A large portion of making wine is labor. People don’t understand it’s not just tasting wine, it’s a lot of work, but it’s wake up at a decent hour in the morning and you go to work, and you’re in your own bed that night.
It’s just experience. A writer writes, and a drinker drinks. You just have to be open to what you’re experiencing.
How did you develop your palate and explore the world of wine?
It’s just experience. A writer writes, and a drinker drinks. You just have to be open to what you’re experiencing. A lot of the education comes from contrast and comparing, so if you have some friends and can open up some bottles of wine, just make sure you taste them in a relatively right order and with food. See how they go with food and how they go with each other. Depending on the wine you’re drinking, you might have an awkward experience with a wine you’re not ready to taste. Some people are into the heavy big cabs, and then they try and taste a pinot noir after that and they don’t understand what they’re experiencing, because the heaviness and the fruit bomb from the California cab interrupts the process, so it’s a matter of education. And you know, another education is to open a bottle of wine, let it breathe a little bit, taste it on its own, wait a little while later, have it with some basic foods, some meats or cheeses, taste it again, and then eat something super sweet, like drink a Coca-Cola and eat a Snickers bar, and then taste the wine again, and you’ll see that the wine tastes like shit, because the sugars and all those things kill the experience of the wine.