Grapes of Wrath
Tool's MJK stomps on wine snobs
Maynard James Keenan knows you most likely don’t give a crap about his love of wine, or his struggle to establish a vineyard in northern Arizona. You’re watching Blood Into Wine, a documentary about those things, because Keenan’s the lead singer of Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer, and if you were to draw a Venn diagram mapping oenophiles and “Stinkfist” fanatics, the two circles would remain as separate as John Glenn’s wrinkled man-tits during the 1998 shuttle launch.
So directors Ryan Page and Christopher Pomerenke stack the deck with Keenan’s famous comedian and movie-star friends. The film’s framing device is an interview with Keenan conducted by Awesome Show’s Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim in characteristically antagonistic fashion. “What kind of tool moves out to the desert?” asks Wareheim. “I’m not going to drink this poison,” Heidecker exclaims after sniffing noisily at a glass of Keenan’s Caduceus wine. Milla Jovovich’s analysis gets as much screen time as any of the snooty-patootie wine critics the filmmakers interview (most of whom, significantly, are not asked to sample the Caduceus brand).Patton Oswalt stops by to riff on douche bags, and Keenan himself is interviewed at one point while taking a dump.
If that were all it offered, Blood Into Wine would be a witty and entertaining commercial. It is that, and I was sad to discover the Caduceus wines are available only online and onsite at Keenan’s Merkin (a word meaning “pubic wig”; worth googling if you’re tired of your combover) Vineyards. Blood Into Wine, fortunately, is also a better-than-decent documentary chronicling the enormous difficulty a start-up vineyard faces. Gloating Napa-valley winemakers tout the region’s dominance in North America, especially over an unproven place like Arizona, which connotes only images of sunburned deserts, emaciated buzzards perched on cacti, and white-haired retirees refusing to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. One self-proclaimed “wine witch” speculates that the “best way to make $10 million dollars in the wine industry is to lose $100 million first.”
Even better, it’s a compelling justification for wine obsession aimed at the screw-top crowd. Surprisingly, though, the best apology for grape fetishists doesn’t come from Keenan. He remains, expectedly, sort of an inscrutable ass-face throughout, no more hostile during Tim and Eric segments than he is in the actual interviews (for my own troubles talking to Keenan, see “‘P’ is for Puscifer,” November 25, 2009), and can’t help but cast doubt on the factuality of scenes depicting him sweatily digging in the dirt. What he calls “the hippie explanation” for loving wine, that the grape is a Fifth Element-style supreme being among fruit, is less convincing than his cynical one: Wine’s an effective way to “get drunk at prom and get those panties off.” The more compelling case comes from an actual hippie — Eric Glomski, Keenan’s more knowledgeable business partner, who discusses wine as a means of conversing with nature and heightening perception with such endearing enthusiasm that by the time some onscreen text defines pruning as “communion with each vine,” and a woman named Feather comes out to offer an “indigenous prayer” for a successful harvest, my scoffs were only slightly audible.
Glomski and Keenan’s dismissal of critical scores and traditional flavor descriptors might offend old-guard snobs, but Blood Into Wine should give everyone else — Tool fans, wine enthusiasts, and lovers of well-made documentaries in general — a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.