Movie review: 'Blood Into Wine'

Blood Into Wine” is not going to be Arizona’s version of “Sideways,” the 2004 Academy Award-winning film that led to a spike in California wine country tourism and Pinot Noir sales.

Instead, “Blood Into Wine” is a not-so-intriguing documentary, bordering on an infomercial, about Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski, who describe themselves as pioneers of Arizona’s wine industry.

Keenan, of course, is better known as the front man of the prog metal band Tool. In 1995, he left Los Angeles to live near Jerome, where he launched a nearby winery called Caduceus Cellars with the help of vino veteran Glomski, who later opened his own Page Springs Cellars.

The two (pictured below) take great pains to describe the challenge of marketing wines made in Arizona. Wine enthusiasts, they insist, don’t even know wines can be made in this arid land of cactus, rattlesnakes and sun-bleached cow skulls.

Nowhere in the documentary’s 139 minutes, though, do these oenological lone rangers mention there are more than 30 other active wineries in Arizona.

Likewise, as Keenan and Glomski recount the seeming absurdity of starting a third vineyard — their co-owned Arizona Stronghold in desolate southeast Arizona — they fail to note others have been growing grapes there for decades.

About the only thing that keeps “Blood Into Wine” from quickly becoming unbearable is the affable Keenan. His passion for wine and, especially, winemaking is clearly evident, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

In one scene, he conducts an interview with the filmmakers while sitting on the toilet. In another, he laughs off a story about bringing a leather-clad woman wearing a dog collar to his first meeting with Glomski.

The documentary tends to skip around, providing a little geology, a little horticulture and a little history (courtesy of the state’s official historian, Marshall Trimble).

Since the wineries are close to Sedona, there’s also a fair amount of mysticism and New Age philosophy, including appearances by a “vortex tour guide” named Feather and a shaman.

When asked at the film’s start why people like to drink wine, Keenan answers with a confusing analogy comparing wine to Milla Jovovich’s character Leeloo in the 1997 movie “The Fifth Element.”

The actress, by the way, who gets second billing on the “cast” list, makes nothing more than a cameo appearance (pictured at left).

Comedian Patton Oswalt manages to provide a couple of laughs when he meets Keenan at a wine store, but an ongoing mock TV talk show skit with Adult Swim comedy duo Tim & Eric just comes off lame.

There’s one touching (if slightly creepy) moment when Keenan talks about his late mother, whose ashes he scattered over his vineyard. He named the wine made with those grapes “Nagual del Judith” after her.

As the documentary begins to wind down, Keenan and Glomski rail against wine ratings, subjective evaluations done by entities such as Wine Spectator magazine.

Keenan says his winery is like an indie rock band. He makes what he likes, critics be damned.

In the very next scene, however, he and Glomski arrange for a Wine Spectator writer to fly over from Europe to taste their wines and give his evaluation.

Indie rockers indeed.

‘Blood Into Wine’
Rating: Not rated
Running time: 139 minutes
Playing: Harkins Valley Art in Tempe
Grade: C-

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5 Responses to Movie review: 'Blood Into Wine'

  1. Jason Benatz says:

    Sour Grapes? Maynard is a nice guy and an amazing business man ! Judith is a spectacular wine. Grapes have been grown in Northern Arizona for more than a century,vintners are not new in Arizona. What ever the reason for this documentary, Maynard will sell alot of great wine at a good price.

  2. Flancy says:

    EW is that even sanitary to sprinkle someone’s remains over a vineyard or any garden that produces something people are going to consume? Gross. There’s got to be a law against that. I’ll never try his wines now.

  3. ron says:

    The climate is to hot and NO humidity to allow the grapes to grow or sea breezes to cross the vineyards. We will see what they can produce solid world class wine remember we have Kokolelli and is not very good. I really wish them well. We need some value priced wine. In the Winespectator last year the top 20 Cabs averaged over $211 a bottle. BUT many are really yummy. If these guys can attain the concentration and tannins and long term cellering capabilities I will bow to them. and buy a case.

  4. Michele Laudong says:

    I don’t normally post responses to film reviews but this one was really upsetting. Not sure what Ms. Harter’s credentials are but this review shines more of a light on uneducated Ms. Harter is when it comes to judging the quality of a film. I have a strong feeling Ms. Harter has it out for the filmmakers or Maynard and that this is a hatchet job. I’m also assuming she is a food critic perhaps. She definitely should not be writing about film. I’ve seen the film once at the Sedona International Film Festival and really enjoyed it. I thought the filmmakers did a great job turning a subject that most would find boring (after all we’re talking about watching plants grow). Blood Into Wine has humor, heart, an interesting structure that while flitting about a bit keeps the pace fast and furious, informative, and looks gorgeous to boot. Does Ms. Harter think that anyone outside of Arizona gives two sh*ts about whether other winemakers were making crappy wines in AZ before Maynard and Eric came along? Does Ms Harter really truly believe this film is totally worthless? Not worth seeing? Not worth spending an hour and a half? We’re talking about an incredibly interesting subject of a documentary (Maynard) and a film that was made with extreme skill. I encourage all of Ms Harters readers to check the film out for themselves at the Valley Art Theatre in Tempe, judge the film for themselves, and report back here if they agree with Ms. Harter that this film is a total waste of time. I watched the film in a theater filled with “blue hairs” and there was a standing ovation when the credits rolled. Ms. Harter also may want to reconsider what she does for a living. There is an opening at In N Out Burger near Rural and the 202.

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