Friday, March 27, 2009

Wine Tasting with Maynard James Keenan

This morning I went out early to grab a ticket for the Maynard Wine event at the local Whole Foods. They only had 500 tickets and I was able to get #291.

The set up was Whole foods would be selling Maynard's wines and offering signing in a private room for the first 500 people. Key points of interest leading up to the event:

#1 Maynard's wines are very hard to get a hold of. If you want to buy them you have to a) visit the vineyard in Arizona or b) catch him on a wine signing tour - this round only had 4 stops. Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. c) get lucky enough that they have what you want on line and that they can ship it to you for reasonable cost - these wines are expensive and very limited.

#2 Maynard is known for being impersonal and rude. Not that I minded. It wasn't going to stop me from going. I was hoping this was just hype.

#3 The place was expecting 3,000-5,000 people to show up. I had no plans to be stuck in the crowd all day (people started lining up at 8am for a 5pm signing)

#4 The security was insane - no purses, no phones, no camera, nothing but your ID and $$ to make your purchase. Metal detectors, bodyguards and all...

So here's how I made the most of my Maynard experience:

I called ahead to the store and got a hold of a chef friend. I told him I would be buying at least a case and I wanted to avoid the idiots in the crowd. He told me to show up @8, get a ticket and it would be numbered. Park at the front of the store in a reserved space at 4:40/5pm and he'd get me back to the "curtained area". I told him he was awesome, and he told me I was owed from a referral I gave for a private party. (he has a catering business on the side) It pays to have foodie friends!

I showed up on time and like clockwork I had my #291 place in line, no waiting. By then I was maybe 20 ppl from the door. I found my friend and he let them know I was indeed purchasing a case. I opted for the Merkin Chupacabra - because what makes a better dinner party than hairy goat? Once I had my case, I had them carry it for me to the back. Wine is heavy! There was a small room where people were taking in their bottles to be signed by Maynard with a literal "curtains pulled back" reveal of Maynard and Eric for each customer.

They had sectioned out the line in 20 person segments, so once that current segment had finished up I got to go in with my case and have a seat. It was surreal. I introduced myself and Maynard and his partner Eric immediately asked in unison :what are you planing to do with a case of Chupacabra? I explained my "hairy goat" plan and they laughed. Maynard, in his black tshirt, board shorts and flip flops, asked me if I knew what a merkin was. I nodded and told him that was 1/2 the fun. I guess not too many people in SA know about pubic wigs? The only reason I knew was a BBC Graham Norton episode - which I admitted to them both. We all had a laugh and started talking goats and merkins, and would a goat merkin be for a goat? or made of goat for a human?. Maynard asked if I had tasted the wine. I told him no, and let him know I was fully aware that with only 500 cases made and not living in AZ it would be unlikely that anyone here had tasted it outside of the idiots who might have corked a bottle in the parking lot. He pulled out glasses and poured me a glass from the bottle at his side. This is when I first noticed how short he was. Shiny bald head, beautiful eyes, but really a small guy. Granted most people are short compared to me, but he was much shorter than I would have expected.
We sipped, the wine had a light body with a sweet blackberry tinge and a small citrus finish on the end. Great nose and would pair well with a bloody steak, which makes sense having named it after a blood thirsty goat. We talked about the central cost of CA, food and wine parings, more about goats and merkins, tasted 4 more of the wines from their vineyard and then the bodyguard told me it was time to go. Eric and Maynard told them "give her a few minutes, she bought a case" and they went about signing my 12 bottles.
I said my goodbyes and Maynard shook my hand and told me I sould come by the vineyard next time I am in AZ. I promised (quite honestly) that I would. I didn't quite get the "I'm never going to wash this hand again" feeling with him, but I was seriously in awe and star struck. He was a genuinely nice, well spoken, beautiful, and intelligent man.

I exited the store with my case, watching the thousands outside standing in line like cattle wondering how long it would take a Chupucabra to devour the herd. I think I am one of the luckiest people I know. What a great event!

I am now a proud owner of 1 of the only 500 cases of 2006 Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra. I couldn't resist that it's partly named after a mythical creature that drinks blood from livestock, and partly after a pubic wig that always reminds me of British humor. The bottle’s design is simple but appealing, with a sepia-toned, vintage-looking label decorated with a replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Vetruvian Man” drawing with a bunch of deep purple, luscious grapes hanging over the loins. The back of the bottle has this mystic-cryptic inscription from Maynard himself:

“The Trickster. The Shape Shifter. The ever elusive shadow who mutates with the Sun and Moon. One year a Dragon, another a Snake. This is our Mystery Hand. Think forest, not trees. Think weather, not rain. Stare, and the CHUPACABRA, who dwells in your heart and not in your head, will vanish. Only a True Alchemist can draw holy blood from a stone, and the CHUPACABRA is his opus, his phoenix, his cherub, his child. Bravo, Mr. Glomski, Bravo! – M.J. Keenan, Owner & Novice Winemaker”

Glomski is Eric, his partner in AZ and also quite a nice guy.

I highly recommend checking out the site for Caduceus Cellars (, where Keenan maintains a journal and has an entry about the 06 SENSEI that explains the creation and evolution of the Chupacabra wine. You can order some of the other wines from the site (most of the Caduceus wines are limited quantity; and there were only 500 cases made of 2006 Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra). So, if you want to try the Chupacabra wine, wou'll have to come to dinner at my house :) Date TBD.

Xtine - I have an autographed bottle set aside just for you :) I had snuck in my iPhone, and I showed him your facebook post from earlier in the day. He said "that's cute" and then asked me how I snuck the phone in. I told him a smart girl never reveals her secrets.

I should have been sneaky and taken a picture, but the bodyguards were scowling at me with the iphone to begin with.

I am a happy foodie and Tool fan!


xine said...

HOLY SHIT YOU SHOWED HIM THAT?????? I'm all by myself in my living room, but my face is on fire!! *giggles* But, if I get a bottle of autographed wine out of it, how can I complain too much? I mean, hell, I was just going to ask you to save one to share with me! Thanks!!

And there are guys who still don't know the "I have boobs and can hide stuff in them" trick? Especially when it comes to a tiny little iphone? I think even I could pull that one off!

I'm glad to find that Senor Keenan is so personable. I figured he really was. From everything I know about him, he's very intelligent, well read, and really into finding the oddities this life has to offer. Think about how many drooling, idiot fans he has to deal with (like me!) I'd be a little standoffish, too, me thinks. Of course, Adele, you could charm the merkin off a Siberian goat in the dead of winter.

MessynMcCleavage said...

I met him in Sugarland (Houston suburb,) #218, and had 6 bottles signed. Surprisingly, he and Eric were not only both smiling but instigated keeping the conversation going! People must confuse celebrities who just want to keep their private life "private" with arrogance, because all I felt was genuine kindness from them. My folks live in Chandler, AZ... I should go visit them, and take the vineyard tour soon! Maybe then we can take pics?

The Cynical Christ Follower said...

I went to the one in Florida (Boca Raton) and yelled at him about Tool coming down to South Florida and threatened that I wouldn't buy any more of his albums. LOL. Then again I only bought 2 bottles. If I had bought more, maybe I could have had a conversation with them, too.

Anonymous said...

Would love to get out and taste his wines someday. Maynard has stated many times he does not like Facebook and its pervasion in society so surprised he made the comment. He sure is intelligent and well spoken, I thoroughly enjoyed his documentary "Blood into wine".