I was listening to A Perfect Circle's album Thirteenth Step on my iPod this morning, and it got me thinking about a trip last weekend to Arizona to see Maynard James Keenan's vineyard there. Maynard has become a friend after spending time together in Los Angeles over the past two years and meeting through the magazine when he was blogging for WineSpectator.com. Maynard is a passionate wine lover and is dedicated to making wine in Arizona as well as making innovative music. We have shared many a good bottle together. (Sometimes too many!)
It still amazes me how the vine seems to flourish just about everywhere, obviously some places better than others. What I saw in Arizona was interesting, even impressive, especially the terraced hillside vineyards of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon around Maynard's modern house about 5,000 feet above the desert floor. I didn't think vinifera liked growing that high!
Maynard lives just outside the old mining town of Jerome, about a two-hour drive from Phoenix. Jerome is not Napa, or even Healdsburg. It's an old mining town full of bikers, ranchers and hippies. It's funky and fun. It's weird seeing so many people walk around with firearms. But we do have the Second Amendment! Some say Jerome is one of America's most haunted towns, but Maynard wants it to be a wine town.
I ran into a film crew at his house. They were finishing their yearlong project on Maynard's wine endeavors called "Blood into Wine." I might even have a small part in it. You can check out the trailer on YouTube. The documentary is about Maynard's personal journey from musician to vintner.
Maynard makes a number of wines with his winemaker partner Eric Glomski under his Caduceus Cellars and Arizona Stronghold labels, but it's the wine from this tiny home vineyard, named after his late mother, that really touched me. It's called Judith. His mother was an invalid for the last two decades of her life, and Maynard named the vineyard in her memory. Makes me sad writing about it.
The Caduceus Judith 2007 and 2008 both have wonderful licorice and mint aromas and flavors similar to a Médoc, even a wine from Pauillac. But the freshness and length make the young red more New World than Old World. In fact, Maynard is not that into what he calls "jam bombs" from California, although I know he loves Aussie reds, so that is a little bit of a paradox. He makes about 100 cases a year of the Judith, but he may be making less as he reduces yields to improve quality.
Walking through the 1 acre or so of the Judith vineyard gave me flashbacks to parts of Sicily with its volcanic hills and slopes. I kept on thinking about Etna, where I spent some time about two years ago. The rest of the vineyards I checked out were mostly on flat plains, like in parts of Sonoma Valley, not particularly unique-looking.
Maynard makes his wine at Page Spring Cellars, about an hour away from his home, but he is finishing a small winery nearby. It's going to be a cool hillside house, complete with recording studio, living quarters, massive wine cellar and small winery. You would think his pad would be in the Hollywood Hills, but he is more than happy that it's on an isolated mountain in Arizona.
I am happy for Maynard to have the courage and dedication to make a go in winemaking in an "under-the-radar" place like Arizona. And I hope he finds time to make more music while he devotes himself to wine.
Paula Woolsey — Jerome, Arizona — October 15, 2009 7:47pm ET
Loren Lingenfelter — Danville, CA — October 16, 2009 12:06am ET
Wayne Young — Friuli — October 16, 2009 5:42am ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — October 16, 2009 1:14pm ET
David Williams — Carlsbad, CA — October 17, 2009 1:38am ET
Jason H Rush — San Diego, CA — October 17, 2009 7:36pm ET
Thomas Hughes — Texas — October 21, 2009 1:28pm ET
Adam Thalhimer — Richmond, VA — October 23, 2009 11:18am ET
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