There are important questions that we, as a species, continue to struggle with. Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? And which wine pairs well with Tool's Lateralus? I can't help you with the first two questions, dear reader, but I have spent the last month rabidly imbibing both wine and Tool albums to become your prog-metal sommelier (it was either that or ask Tool frontman and Caduceus Cellars vintner Maynard James Keenan himself to do it for us, but the odds of him sending in an animal piss pairing list for Puscifer albums instead was just too great to risk).
Curious what kind of red goes with samples of Bill Hicks and 9/8 time signatures? Read on and educate yourself so you'll have just the right bottle on your table the next time you invite your friends over for a delicate evening of osso buco and "Message to Harry Manback."
The Album: Undertow (1993 vintage)
The Wine: Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw Merlot (any year)
There's no need to let this bad boy breathe. Two Buck Chuck is meant to be imbibed quickly like the immediate riffage and throbbing bass lines on Undertow. Drink in the pounding strains of “Prison Sex” as Charles Shaw paints your teeth a shade of red to match Undertow’s album cover. The acidic nature of the merlot will make it feel like you’re burning on the inside, like the contempt that Keenan feels for all of humanity is settling like a puddle at the base of your stomach and is slowly eating you alive.
Drink two bottles of Chuckie Shaw back to back and "Disguistipated" will stop being a song and become your entire state of being.
The Album: Ænima (1996 vintage)
The Wine: DAOU Vineyards Pessimist Red Blend (2017)
We're still in Tool's "pop years" phase. They were still dropping radio hits and Keenan hadn't created enough Horcruxes to complete his transformation into a lich with a mohawk. You could host a dinner party and drop in some “Stinkfist.” Maybe you could start a provocative conversation when “Hooker with a Penis” hits the needle and the charcuterie plates get passed around. For an album with such straightforward pleasures, stick with a wine with hints of dark berry fruit and a smooth finish. Your head will “learn to swim” in no time after a few glasses of this Pessimist Red Blend.
The Album: Lateralus (2001 vintage)
The Wine: Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (2015)
All right, motherfuckers: playtime is OVER. Do you think this is a game? Do you think you’re listening to some Hoobastank? This is Lateralus. This is thinking people’s music. You do not sip something carefree and subtle while listening to Lateralus. You need something so rich in tannins that every sip of that bitterness will make you regret being born. It’s only then, wincing with a puckered face full of buyer’s remorse, that you can appreciate the wavelength Lateralus is on.
Lateralus is a bold, forward-thinking album, the kind of record that dares to ask what the world would be like if everyone in The Mars Volta were white. It doesn’t have time to waste on singles or music videos or hooks: It’s too busy trying to crowbar your third eye open with an official Tool-approved dildo. So just sit back, relax, and sip this wine alone in the comfort of your own home (always alone: Lateralus is not a record for charcuterie plates, parties, or sex).
The Album: 10,000 Days (2006 vintage)
The Wine: Graham's 20-Year-Old Tawny Port (any year you can get it)
A good tawny port is life-affirming. It’s sweet, redolent of brown sugar, and fills you with a pleasing warmth. Its mix of sweetness and light makes it a perfect companion for 10,000 Days, an album that possesses neither of those quantities. Lateralus was the sound of Tool blasting off into the astral space located deep inside their own asses. 10,000 Days is them coming back down to Earth and committing to making a mediocre A Perfect Circle album. You can practically hear Keenan taking phone calls about his winery in between tracks.
Much like Stag’s Leap, Graham’s can be a little pricey. But that’s okay: like 90 percent of Tool fans, you have disposable income and a propensity for investing in things that actively hate your guts. So pop the cork and listen to Keenan point his finger while singing about people who point their fingers. The port is strong. You’ll get tipsy soon enough. Whether that buzz is strong enough to make 10,000 Days sound any good, though, is another story.
The Album: Fear Inoculum (2019 vintage)
The Wine: A tasting spit bucket (Caduceus Cellars)
If you’re going to listen to a bunch of recycled dregs, you may as well drink them, too. If you like listening to music with absolutely no hooks, brother, have we got the album for you! Care to hear what somebody sounds like when they’ve completely checked out? Listen to Keenan on this album. Once a singer who could invest even the dopiest lyric with intensity and emotion, he now sounds like he’s counting the seconds until he can head to the booth in the next room and lay down some Puscifer lyrics about country-fried ass-fucking.
The rest of the band do put in strong performances, but most of the record sounds like an audition tape for a King Crimson cover band. For an album as lukewarm as this, a single vintage won’t cut it. You need to co-mingle dozens of wine and spit into one metal-accented broth to create the right varietal to complement this record.