There are quite a few anomalies floating around an upcoming Santa Barbara appearance by Maynard James Keenan, the celebrated lead singer for the alt-metal/prog-rock/art-rock band Tool and founder of the radio-ready supergroup A Perfect Circle. First, it’s not a musical performance-it’s a wine tasting and bottle signing. [CORRECTION: It is not a tasting.] Second, this longtime industrial musicmaker now spends plenty of his time focused on making delicate white and refined red wines. And third, the wine is grown in, of all places, the high desert of Arizona.
“The novelty definitely gets us in the door because initially, people think, ‘There’s no way this is any good,’” explained Keenan, whose winemaking enterprise includes Caduceus Cellars, Merkin Vineyards, and Arizona Stronghold Vineyards. “And of course, it is really good, and that changes their mind. If we were just another California winery, we probably wouldn’t even get to have that conversation.”
In fact, explained Keenan, “We’re winning some really nice awards.” Arizona, it turns out, is a great place for growing all sorts of wine-“pretty much everything but pinot gris and pinot noir,” he said-and has a long vinifying history that faded away during prohibition. “What’s really kind of shining is our malvasia bianca,” said Keenan. “That’s our workhorse and is helping to put us on the map.” To get the word out, Keenan and winemaker Eric Glomski have been doing a Whole Foods Market tour throughout the country, and Keenan also offers wine package deals for his concerts, including a recent tour with his current band Puscifer. “We’re out promoting the wines in whatever way we can,” he explained. So is winemaking at all like musicmaking? “They’re very similar,” said Keenan. “They both take a lot of listening.”
Keenan will be signing his wines at Whole Foods (3761 State St.) on Tuesday, December 8, from 5-8 p.m. For more info, visit arizonastrongholdvineyards.com.