Tuesday, March 07, 2006
By request, I have decided to publish my story on Maynard Keenan in my blog. For more information on Caduceus wine, go to their website at Caduceus Cellars. I spoke to Maynard a few days ago, he said he does have a variety of wines finished for resale now.
Maynard Keenan: Wine and Music are All Parallel
By PAMELA RAVENWOOD
It’s morning at the local coffee shop, not to early mind you, people here may be early risers but they’re not up to facing the public until at least 9 a.m. It’s while enjoying a double cappuccino, dry, when Maynard James Keenan enters and joins me. He comes here often, that is because he lives nearby and we share the same Northern Arizona community. Today, he is toting a half size bottle of wine, one he proudly calls his own.
“It’s my first,” he says. “I’m starting off with a teaser bottle. I call it Caduceus Primer Paso.” It’s rare when a person like Maynard has a first, I think – recalling the plethora of beautiful women I’ve seen him with. Who could blame them? The guy is talented, witty, handsome and mysterious. But when he’s not bashing Bush, grabbing #2 on music billboards or donning a variety of wigs during his performances with bands Tool and A Perfect Circle, he is working on his Arizona vineyards, Merkin East and Merkin South. And now he’s bottling his own wine! It is at Merkin Vineyards (Merkin being a pubic wig worn by prostitutes after shaving their genitalia for lice), as well as surrounding vineyards, that he carefully maintains his 6,000 vines.
Maynard, or Harry Merkin as he is known in our parts, orders breakfast and we talk. I want to know what makes a guy like himself, a guy who has dominated the rock industry, has music recently featured in Warner Brother’s Constantine and who has just finished a role in the independent film Sleeping Dogs Lie, have a desire to bottle his own wine?
“Most of my peers dread the travel that comes with our ‘job’,” he says. “To me, it’s a rare opportunity for new experiences in the form of cuisine, architecture, and local folklore. I make an attempt to absorb as much of the local magic as possible within the short amount of time I may have in each place. It’s not always the easiest task when you’re low on energy and constantly moving. However, one of the little pieces of local magic that always happens to find its way into our plane, train, or auto, regardless of time or focus, is wine. I’ve had the chance to witness a little piece of alchemy from nearly every part of the world and it occurred to me that many of these pockets of culture resemble our own little corner of the southwest.”
I think to myself, is this the same Maynard Keenan that smeared his body with white paint and blueberry yogurt on stage.
His expression is unchanging as he speaks. It’s an enigmatic stoicism that he’s known for, even in interviews with the pros like Jay Leno. I pick up the bottle and run my fingers over its raised lettering. It is very sensual. What did I expect?
Maynard sips his coffee and tells more of his story, how he got into the business of owning vineyards.
“All it took was a few books, an expert’s visit from U.C. Davis and a few conversations with some local grape growers and I was hooked. My vines won’t have any fruit on them until the late summer/fall of 2007. In the meantime, this will afford me the opportunity to familiarize myself over the next few years with the wine making process while the vines reach maturity.”
Maynard was born to a Southern Baptist family in Ravenna, Ohio. I wonder if the lack of liquor in his house augmented his infatuation with wine. The same mystic substance that is so alluring that Christ himself even partook of it and was known for conjuring up a jug or two in a moment’s notice.
In Maynard’s current home, here in Arizona, there is a wine cellar specifically built to host his 2,000 plus bottles. Even with all the tasting and sampling he has done, he humbly considers himself a novice when it comes to the numinous drink.
“I’m working on refining my taste and smell when it comes to wine, it takes time.”
Maynard’s first real affair with wine began in 1995 when working with equally complex songwriter and entertainer Tori Amos on album Boys For Pele, performing Muhammad My Friend. Amos served up a bottle of Silver Oak Napa Valley 1992. One sip and it was appetence and craving from there – for the wine that is.
When Maynard speaks of his own wine and vines, a similar passion with a hint of fervency seems to emphasize his comments.
“The love and care that goes into the growing of our grapes and the making of our wine will be apparent even to the uninitiated. At Merkin East and Merkin South, the elevation, sun exposure, average temperature and soil content alone will yield a diverse juice.”
But you won’t see or taste this diversity quite yet. Wanting to take his concoction for a test drive while his vineyards are maturing into wine-readiness, Maynard sourced his grapes from select vineyards around Paso Robles and Pope Valley, California as well as southern Arizona.
The label he has chosen for his wines is fittingly - Caduceus, meaning the magic staff of Hermes (the god of commerce, eloquence, invention, travel and theft) a staff that serves as a symbol of heralds and commerce, temporality, renewal and vitality. It’s no surprise Maynard uses the symbol of heralds as he has been a sort of messenger himself lately through his band A Perfect Circle and album eMOTIVe. Included on the album are covers from the days of protest songs, times when people cared about the world around them – as Maynard would say. “People are allowing this administration to manipulate their decisions without actually getting involved in those decisions. The song Passive on the album is very much about apathy. I think a lot of the problems in this country have to do with people willingly staying asleep.”
While Maynard attributes more esotericism to his band Tool, he feels A Perfect Circle is more about human relationships. Sharing. Consuming.
Back to the wine. Maynard says the creation of music and the creation of wine are paths that are parallel; the differences are in the medium alone. As far as sharing or distributing the wine, Maynard said he is currently seeking ways to navigate the chaos, fear and misunderstandings that surround the process and the exclusivity of working with one local winery. He is looking for a better way to move forward in making his drink more global.
As for now, if you are seeking a taste of the goods, a trip down into the desert to Page Springs Cellars may be in order. Primer Paso will be released on Thanksgiving of 2005 while Nagual del Sensei and Nagual del la Naga will follow in 2006.