“Making wine is a bit like making tea,” says Page Springs winemaker Eric Glomski as he tries to make funny sounds poking the grapes in a fermenting bin. I finally got around to seeing Blood Into Wine, a documentary featuring Tool and A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard Keenan’s quest to produce wine in Arizona. Wine as Art, much like Music as Art, is the focus of Maynard and Eric as they manually extract juice from the dirt at Caduceus, Page Springs, and Arizona Stronghold Wines. For the usual Maynard fans like myself, who picture the musician mohawked and facepainted on a stage, seeing him on his knees planting grape vines is exactly the overexposure that this film is all about. Making wine is not glamorous, in particular not in the backwoods of Arizona. Blood Into Wine gives a great snapshot of the winemaking process from the point of view of a passionate amateur; it’s not hard to imagine how we can all relate.
Part of the reason I waited so long to watch this, despite being aware of the documentary and wine project thanks to Wine Library TV, was that I was expecting the glamorous angle that we get in America from outlets like Wine Spectator. The reality is of course that wine is really about dirt mixed with more literal sweat and blood than the figurative type. Or as Eric says so perfectly, 90% physical labour. This movie reflects that reality and is refreshing in the way that it returns the viewer to the inevitable focus of every wine, the story behind it that contributes to the sights, smells and tastes to create the full sensory experience that wine is.
In particular I love the reflections on critics and the palate of each individual wine drinker: “you have to trust what you like. If you have a Walmart palate you have a Walmart palate. You have to trust what you like.” Maynard’s repetition of this ideal leads into the arrival of James Suckling, super critic. “If you are really serious about your wines, you need to get to know the palate of the person who is scoring the wines.” This segment ends with James feeling the dirt in the vineyard while discussing the inspiration for the wine, Maynard’s mother Judith, then smoking cigars together with Eric in the evening.
There is lots of playful humour coming from Maynard and the filmamakers throughout the film used to emphasize the juxtaposition of glamour and practicality. You see a 20 something girl with dyed blond hair in one scene dipping her fingers in a wine glass to let her purse-sized dog try some. The interlude segments Focus on Interesting Things is weak humour for the most part but contain some of the best insights into Maynard’s introspective and resclusive image.
Blood Into Wine is a solid show for fans of music, wine, and other interesting things.