“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.
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.
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