By Don Simpson | February 16, 2010
Director(s): Ryan Page & Christopher Pomerenke
Writer(s): Maynard James Keenan, Ryan Page, Christopher Pomerenke
Starring: Maynard James Keenan, Eric Glomski, Milla Jovovich, Patton Oswalt, Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Tim Alexander, Bob Odenkirk
Before I get started, I should probably set the record straight; I had no idea who Maynard James Keenan was prior to watching Blood Into Wine. So for the other Tool-deprived souls out there, allow me to summarize: Maynard James Keenan fronts Tool, a multi-platinum metal (a term I am using very loosely) band that formed in 1990. Tool has released four studio albums since its 1993 debut, Undertow. Keenan also fronts the supergroup A Perfect Circle (which has released three albums to date) and Puscifer (a side project, which released its first studio album in October 2007). Keenan is also a winemaker, former Army cadet, comedian (he is featured in a couple Mr. Show cameos – the name “Puscifer” was first publicized as a fictional band in the first episode of Mr. Show, which included Keenan and Adam Jones as members), and he studied martial arts under Rickson Gracie (world renowned as one of the great practitioners of jiu-jitsu). It is also worth noting that Keenan is a reknown recluse, avoiding press for a majority of his career; so, it seems that this documentary is a very rare glimpse at Keenan’s life.
From the get-go, we know Blood Into Wine does not purport to take itself too seriously as it begins as a tongue-in-cheek talk show hosted by Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim (Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!). Keanu Reeves was supposed to be the guest on today’s show, but due to a last minute cancellation Maynard James Keenan steps in as their guest. The hosts know very little about Keenan nor do they care to learn anything about him; they also seem to have a really low opinion of wine. Keenan is trapped like a rat in a cage being bludgeoned by insults and mockery, but he takes it all in stride.
From there, Blood Into Wine turns into a more traditional “talking head” documentary chronicling Keenan and Eric Glomski’s embarkation into winemaking in the high desert conditions of Arizona’s Verde Valley; all the while discussing their trials, tribulations and successes. And sure the topic of Viticulture can be a bit dry and elitist at times, but Blood Into Wine always finds some way to be humorous and entertaining.
The first question one might ask is: What would bring the lead singer of Tool to live in Jerome (population 343)? Well, Tim Alexander (the drummer for Primus) used to live in Jerome and he introduced Keenan to the secluded, creative Mecca that was once a ghost town. (Knowing that Keenan is such a recluse, it does actually make sense that he was so attracted to Jerome.)
Next question: What would bring the lead singer of Tool to become a winemaker? Well, winemaking is apparently in his blood – Keenan’s grandparents and great-uncle made wine in Northern Italy.
Okay, fine; but, winemaking in…Arizona? That seems like a contradiction in terms, if ever there was one; but Viticulture in Arizona began in the 16th century when missionary Spanish Jesuit priests began to plant grapevines and make wine. That said – most vineyards in Arizona are located in the southeastern portion of the state (near Tucson) and Keenan’s Caduceus Cellars (named after an ancient symbol for commerce) and Merkin Vineyards (named after a pubic wig) are based in the unincorporated area of Page Springs/Cornville (southwest of Sedona); Keenan is also a partner of Stronghold Vineyards, which is located in the unincorporated area known as Kansas Settlement in Sulfur Springs Valley.
Co-produced by Moog filmmakers Ryan Page and Christopher Pomerenk, Blood Into Wine juxtaposes appearances from Patton Oswalt, Milla Jovovich and Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show) with some snobby wine enthusiasts and critics (such as James Suckling of Wine Spectator). No one is treated too seriously, especially not the professionals. Oddly enough, Jovovich’s interview with Keenan is the closest to being serious; while Oswalt somehow finds a way to compare winemaking to making douche-bags.