Arizona’s Own Rock God Spreading the Gospel of Grapes, Both Locally and Statewide

Maynard James Keenan. Photo Credit: Revolver Magazine

To anyone between the ages of 35 and 50 who knows anything about rock music, we don’t need to tell you about Tool. An iconic band which has transcended genres, has earned incredible commercial success while never needing to rely on stunts and attention-grabs, and in the process has obtained a nearly cult-like following. But most Arizona Tool fans can also tell you about one major connection: that lead singer Maynard James Keenan calls Arizona his home.

Furthermore, he has spent much of his life outside of music trying to get people to not praise his group’s music, but instead to learn to praise the greatness of the grape. Indeed, he has become quite a prolific wine producer and evangelist with a growing footprint including even here in Scottsdale.

One of Kennan’s first commercial ventures outside of music was a winery just outside of his longtime home in Jerome, along with a merchandise shop from one of his musical side projects Puscifer; in fact, it would not be unusual to see him walking around the town, mostly unbothered (author’s note: I saw him being interviewed inside of Paul and Jerry’s Saloon in Jerome in 2015, confirmed by the 20-something interviewer that was so excited that he nearly burst and had to tell a perfect stranger the big news).

Oddly enough, Keenan seems to be more focused on wine than he is on music at the moment, as indicated by significant recent news: a very major wine-focused development in Cottonwood. It appears to be more of a wine-lovers complex, with great attention given to the experience of consumption, as well as giving a nod to the area’s mining past with a tram to the top of the facility. Great pains have been taken to emphasize the aesthetics and visual aspect of wine-making, since as Keenan duly notes it is difficult to get Arizonans to buy in completely to the concept until they see it themselves.

Keenan even has a location perfectly situated in Old Town Scottsdale; while Merkin Vineyards does not have vineyards on site, it does feature Keenan’s wines from the Verde Valley, with Maynard’s father Mike even getting into the action by growing the fruits and vegetables on site.

Arizona has long been stereotyped as the land of cactuses and sun. Even before that, it was known internally and sometimes externally by the 5 Cs. But any successful area understands the importance of evolving, adapting, and getting creative. Maynard James Keenan helped bring those very attributes to his music, and now he’s bringing them to his home state and helping change the perception of Arizona. For that alone, if you’re unfamiliar with his music, his wine, or both…if you love Arizona you owe it to yourself to check them out.