by Sheila Dean
Arguably, the most prized legacy to Maynard James Keenan, lead singer to modern rock bands Tool and A Perfect Circle, is sitting in an arid Northern Arizona valley. "I've lived in Arizona since 1995. I consider it my home and therefore the place where I would establish a family business. The Verde Valley in Arizona is a perfect spot for pioneering a vineyard. This became very obvious to me while traveling through parts of Italy, Sicily, or the Rhone Valley of France. Difficult terrain and harsh weather conditions provide just enough friction for the right vines to produce an excellent wine grape."
Kennan has earned a fortune in one of the toughest businesses in the modern Western world: music. He could have had any number of entrepreneurial ventures. However, he chose one of the most high maintenance forms of agriculture known to man: a vineyard. His direction and motives for a wine enterprise are spiritual in nature.
"There seems to be more of a sense of magic that surrounds a vineyard as opposed to say a Christmas tree farm or a cabbage farm. Most individuals who have spent any quiet time walking through a vineyard would agree. Wine is a living breathing entity. To truly align yourself with its process is to choose a spiritual and connected path. Like the path of any artist, it's a process of becoming more conscious of the world around you and your place in it."
Keenan's duties to Merkin Vineyards, the vine farm that produces the grapes for Caduceus Cellars, has profoundly committed the Keenan family tree. "To give you a glimpse into the depth of this commitment, you should know that I will not live to see the full potential of these vineyards in my lifetime. This will be my gift to my children and my grandchildren, should they choose to continue on my path. As it turns out, I have family on my father's side who owned extensive vineyards in what was, Northern Italy. Now it is a part of Southern France. I trust my intuition. I have to believe that I would have somehow found my way into a vineyard regardless of my musical venture."
Keenan's progression toward wine-making started with a 1992 Napa Valley Silver Oak. "I had it with the right meal, at the right time of day, in the proper quiet space and it changed me." While Keenan's music career was considerably time consuming, he somehow found time for his wine craft. Opportunity met its destiny in mentor, Eric Glomski of Page Spring Cellars, as he created a forum to learn the art of winemaking. "Many winemakers do custom crushes and bottle wine for small restaurants and/or individuals who make a comfortable living and just want their own wine label. I have to assume that Eric initially thought I would be one of those people. Completely hands off. I believe he was pleasantly surprised to find me there on the morning of crush to help as much as I was able to. I'm guessing that he saw in me the same passion that had infected him. So the relationship has grown from there."
Keenan chose his vines based on his international experience and passionate tastes in wine. He then factored in local terrain and weather. The creation was a wine suited to his own palate. The end product was Caduceus' 2004 Primer Paso, a Syrah blended with 12% Malavasia. The Primer Paso, like all of Keenan's wines, is only available to be purchased and tasted from Page Spring Cellars in Cottonwood, Arizona.
Keenan only produced 225 cases of the wine this year. He indicated the production for 2006 would be considerably larger. His wine label is Caduceus, named after the staff of Greek god, Hermes. The Caduceus was used to mediate quarrels among gods, turned everything it touched into gold, and exercised influence over both the living and the dead (spirits). The Caduceus was also the even exchange for the lyre invented by Hermes, herald of the gods given to Apollo, the god of music. In Greek society, it was the mark of the ambassador, the herald and holymen. Keenan chose his Caduceus logo based on a philosophy of his life.
"Caduceus, is the staff of Hermes: the herald of commerce, temporality, transformation, and thieves. The double helix of serpents relates more to the rising kundalini and our DNA. It spirals upwards and moves towards the wings of Hermes. For me it suggests a spiritual awakening to a higher ideal and our temporary nature. DNA and kundalini rising has a very specific meaning in and of itself: to transcend our temporality. Live for the moment but look to the future. I think at one time or another I was a slave to either one perspective or the other, planning only for the future and sacrificing the moments, or living only for the moment and wallowing in a selfish lifestyle that had no future. I'm attempting to perfectly blend the best parts of the two."