Ted Simons: "Blood Into Wine" is a new film about a rock star's attempt to grow wine in Arizona's Verde Valley. The film documents how Arizona winemaker Eric Glomski helped guide the effort. Glomski learned years ago that Arizona is quite capable of producing quality wines.
Excerpt from film: In the early '90s, I graduated from Prescott College with a degree in ecology but specialized in river ecology. One of my first big contracts was to do an inventory of perennial streams in the Prescott National Forest and in two years I must have hiked thousands of river miles. Without error there was always a quince tree, apple, pear there and at the time, I was already making beer and I got interested in the fruit and I got excited about getting some of the heirloom apples I got on my hikes, taking them out, pressing them, and making apple wine. I'll never forget the first whiff I had of that apple wine. It brought me back there I could smell those grasses and hear the babbling brook, and smell the ponderosas. And this was the moment that made me into a winemaker.
Ted Simons: The rock star profiled in the film, Maynard James Keenan of the band "Tool," says growing grapes on a small plot of land in the Verde Valley required a lot of faith.
Excerpt from film: If this is what we can get out of this soil, letting the soil speak for itself, then anything is possible. It's taken about nine years, contemplating the areas where we could plant, breaking ground, navigating local politics to even break ground, very hands on. Very small sight,just under 600 vines on the spot. No one in their right mind would plant a vineyard with less than six acres or 10 acres, because financially it's just as easy to farm 100 acres as it is 10 acres. So to farm half an acre is just kind of silly. But the location is special. The Vineyard itself is special. It's worth taking the risk, basically.
Ted Simons: Joining me now to talk about the film, "Blood Into Wine" is co-director, Ryan Page. And Eric Glomski, the owner of Page Springs Cellars. Good to have you both on the program. Thanks for joining us.
Ryan and Eric: Thank you.
Ted Simons: As a filmmaker you are, congratulations because getting a film done is no easy task. What were you looking at? Was this rock star as underdog kind of thing?
Ryan Page: Well, it was. With my partner, we primarily make music documentaries so it was our last film, the Heart of a Drum Machine,that we want to visit Maynard and interview him there. And I was thinking about making a wine film for quite some time and it kind of connected when we saw it.
Ted Simons: When you make a film, you're looking to get X, when it's done, sometimes you've got Y. Anything change in the final product?
Ryan Page: Yeah, a lot changed. What I hadn't realized about winemaking, Eric can explain, but it's 99% hard labor. I hadn't realized that. A lot of people think that winemakers sit and pontificate amongst the vines and it's not that. It's farming really and these guys do a great job.
Ted Simons: It sounds like this is a good hard push for Arizona as winemaking country. You obviously feel that way. What makes you feel that way? Why has Arizona that potential?
Eric Glomski: I think most people who don't live here especially, maybe even some who do, don't realize how diverse Arizona is from the landscape perspective. You drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff to get a perspective on how diverse Arizona is. And so I'm confident if you look at all of these different elevations in our state, you can grow about any wine grape in the planet here. It's all about elevation.
Ted Simons: Is it all about elevation? Or a lot to do with just plain dirt. The difference between Napa and Sonoma and northern Arizona and even southern Arizona.
Eric Glomski: I'm a firm believer in -- all of my background was ecology and I'm a believer that the big variables on the earth, the macroclimate are what drive winemaking and styles and things like soils are secondary variables. So I would say, actually, probably some of the bigger differences between let's say Sanoita which is one of our older wine regions here the Verde Valley is different. The rainfall and the temperatures shifts from day-to-day, that’s the biggest factor.
Ted Simons: I think you've got surprising information into what factors into making wine in Arizona. Back to the film aspect of this, you've dealt with a guy who is notorious for being a little different, we can say. Some may say difficult, but we can certainly say different. The band is very, very popular. Yet he's up there in north central Arizona making wine. Was it easy to work with this guy?
Ryan Page: Easy as -- easy might be a bit much but we heard that Maynard moved to Jerome, I think in 1998 or something like that. And it blew our mind that's this international rock star was living in a ghost town, basically. I don’t know how recently you’ve been to Jerome, but it's a tiny town. So Maynard, when we set out to make the film, we knew he was perceived a certain way and it wasn't our intention to kind of break the mystery of who he is.
Ted Simons: Were you surprised how earnest he was about wine?
Ryan Page: Absolutely, that was shocking, really. He is -- he is -- you know, Eric is his mentor in winemaking, but Maynard is as passionate about winemaking as he is about music.
Ted Simons: Did he come to you and say I'm interested in wine or did you go to him and say you sound like someone I can work with.
Eric Glomski: I wouldn't say he came to me. I think he went looking and we found each other. I was helping another guy open up Echo Canyon, a stone's throw from McCain's house, and one day Maynard rolled in and smart enough to look for others doing something like that and we hit it off and then I watched him doing things – I said yeah, I ought to give you a hand, and here we are several years later.
Ted Simons: When you watch him do things and, obviously, you mentioned earlier that winemaking in Arizona is a different beast as it is in all different corners of the country. Talk about the challenges of making wine in Arizona. We talked earlier, a little surprising, some of the challenges.
Eric Glomski: I give tours and sometimes I call it the myth-busters tour. Everything I say is exactly the opposite of what they think. The two biggest challenges is -- and really, it's more about growing. Cold weather and rain. And everybody assumes it's heat and aridity. And the challenge is, number one, we're growing at high elevations and usually in the valley bottoms where the soils are decent and we get spring frost. If we get a couple of days below 70 degrees in the winter, we can lose vines to winter kill. And rainfall, and more importantly the timing, if we get rain in late July, August, early September, it's a real problem because that's the ripening season and the rain leads to all kinds of fungal problems, mildew and hails can physically damage the wine and grapes and it's exactly the opposite of what people expect.
Ted Simons: That’s fascinating. And getting that information on to film along with the relationship between these guys and the rock star and his new craft, so to speak, how do you make in entertaining and a movie people want to see?
Ryan Page: That's the task with any documentary, you know, I mean, we're making – not doing a news program. We're making a feature film that's going into theaters so we actually brought in some comedians and Maynard brought some of his friends in, to taste wine and one of my favorite segments in the film is we flew one the wine spectator writers from Italy into Jerome to taste the wine.
Ted Simons: What did he say?
Ryan Page: He liked it. He really did.
Ted Simons: That brings up the question. I know what I like. And most people know what they like. What makes a quote/unquote good wine?
Eric Glomski: Well, you know, I think -- I think knowing what you like is important and ultimately that's how people should buy wine and I think you can appreciate wine that is done well and artistically made regardless of whether you like it or not and it starts with growing the grapes. You can't make a great meal without great ingredients and then it comes down, to me -- for me, at least, my personal opinion, I think great wines have everything to do with balance, harmony and complexity and I don't think a wine has to be super-dense and rich. It can be a light wine, and be appealing. But I think it has to do with balance and finesse. And these are things that as a winemaker and I'll speak for Maynard too, each year as we evolve in our understanding of this, that's what we're trying to achieve and with a lot of people in the state.
Ted Simons: We have to stop it right there. Thanks for joining us.