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A few years back, at a wine tasting, he first heard Eric Glomski's philosophy about winemaking and knew he'd found a likeminded spirit.
"He was saying you can let the grapes hang on the vine and make something powerful, but it's harder to make something more delicate and hopefully more nuanced," Pillsbury says. "Well, that totally rang the bell of where my instincts were."
Pillsbury invited Glomski to collaborate on Pillsbury Wine Company, and he's pleased with the results so far — Pizzeria Bianco is among the restaurants that serve his product. As he sees it, things will definitely continue to evolve in Arizona.
"The more good wines each of us makes, the better for everyone."
Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski met four years ago, when Keenan serendipitously dropped in on the winery where Glomski was working, looking for kindred spirits.
They just clicked. Both were into food and music, and they each had the passion for wine to fuel endless conversations. Glomski had the winemaking expertise, and Keenan had the desire to learn — not to mention the bank account to make things happen. And in light of that, maybe an ambitious wine venture was destiny.
However, the pair seems less likely when you consider that one guy's an ex-soldier turned rock star, while the other was a teenage Grateful Dead follower and a college professor before he embarked on a winemaking career. Who'd have imagined they'd both age into hardcore wine geeks living in rural Arizona?
Born in Ohio and raised in small-town Michigan, Keenan, 44, served six years in the Army and later attended art school before moving to Los Angeles in 1988.
He joined Tool in 1990 and wound up a full-on celebrity, thanks to four studio LPs, three Grammys, and legions of devoted fans who've plastered their cars with Tool bumper stickers, filled Web sites with articles and pictures, and packed arenas to see the band in concert (making them one of the 20 highest-grossing live acts last year, up there with The Police and Bruce Springsteen.) In the U.S. alone, Tool's sold 10 million records.
Success in the music biz definitely turned Keenan into a wine aficionado, by way of boredom. Being out on the road was monotonous, so he found himself trying different cuisines and wines as a hobby. The defining moment for his newfound interest was when Tori Amos gave him a bottle of Silver Oak '92, a high-end Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. One taste and he was hooked.
But his first experience with wine came before his stardom. Back in 1987, when Keenan was living in Boston, his friend Kjiirt Jensen worked at Martignetti's, an Italian wine shop.
"He'd come home with these fantastic bottles of wine, but I had no frame of reference," Keenan recalls, sounding almost envious of his younger self. "I wasn't ready to dive in, but I could tell that there was something to it."
It ended up an obsession. By 1995, when Keenan decided to leave Los Angeles for Jerome, Arizona, he was already a card-carrying wine connoisseur.
Keenan admits he made the move because he was interested in living off the land, and had a sort of do-it-yourself, survivalist mentality.
"I definitely came here with the idea that California was moving into the ocean. I mean, full-on hippie disaster stuff," he jokes — sort of.
(Consider the lyrics from the title track of Tool's 1996 album, Aenima:
Some say the end is near. Some say we'll see Armageddon soon. I certainly hope we will. I sure could use a vacation from this bullshit three-ring circus sideshow of freaks here in this hopeless fucking hole we call L.A. The only way to fix it is to flush it all away. Any fucking time. Any fucking day. Learn to swim, I'll see you down in Arizona Bay.)
He also wanted to reconnect with the kind of small-town pace he grew up with in Michigan.
But Jerome is no ordinary small town. For one thing, it's perched on the side of a mountain between Prescott and Flagstaff, and has a creepy-cool history as well as vast, head-turning views of the Verde Valley. It used to have a booming copper mining operation until the Phelps Dodge mine closed in the '50s, turning it into a ghost town. Now it's a funky arts colony and tourist destination known for its galleries, biker bars, B&Bs, small indie restaurants, and bohemian boutiques, some of which are supposedly haunted.
Two months ago, Keenan himself opened a shop, Puscifer (named after one of his music projects), where he sells vinyl, CDs, T-shirts, books, and toys from a retail space above a tattoo parlor. Puscifer's mascot is a mischievous she-devil with va-va-voom curves.
"Bring your sense of humor," reads the grand-opening invitation.
At some point, he wants to have a wine-tasting room in Jerome, and next summer, he plans to open a cafe on the main drag in Cornville, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it strip about 15 miles from Jerome featuring a feed store and a sub shop. Right now, it's just a grassy lot, but when it's built, Keenan wants it to feature a brick oven, organic produce from McClendon Farms in Peoria, and homemade chicken soup available every day.