Unlikely duo taps into winemaking

David Goldman/Courtesy photo<br>Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski are the brains behind Arizona Stronghold wines, which they produce from grapes in southern and northern Arizona.

David Goldman/Courtesy photo<br>Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski are the brains behind Arizona Stronghold wines, which they produce from grapes in southern and northern Arizona.

Eric Glomski and Maynard James Keenan grew up in the Midwest, but they did not meet until they became winemaking partners in north-central Arizona years later and hundreds of miles away from their hometowns.

The story of their trials and tribulations, and ultimate success in a tricky business, is told in the light-hearted, entertaining documentary "Blood into Wine," which was shown Saturday night at Yavapai College Performance Hall during the Prescott Film Festival.

After graduating from Prescott College years ago, Glomski, 42, was working as an ecologist, primarily along rivers, when he began experimenting with manufacturing wines from apples found in old Arizona orchards.

"I realized one year when making apple wine that the wine really reminded me of the place where I harvested those apples," Glomski said this past week. "It helped me for the first time understand that wines are expressions of places. The winemaker's job is to kind of be the steward of the grape and make it into a wine. It becomes like a liquid landscape, essentially. You can tell things about places through the wine."

Glomski's apple experience fascinated him so much that he eventually moved to California to learn winemaking. He later returned to Arizona to fashion wines that symbolize the state.

Keenan, who is best known as the lead singer for the popular progressive metal band Tool, was initially a novice winemaker. That's why he sought an expert for guidance and just so happened to meet Glomski seven years ago.

At the time, Glomski, now the owner of Page Springs Cellars winery near Cottonwood, was helping another man start a vineyard and winery in the Cornville area, where the former lives.

"We were about to put vines into holes at one of our initial sites and I realized I didn't have the faintest idea of what I was doing," said Keenan, who once picked fruit as a child in the orchards of Michigan, this past week. "When I met Eric, we kind of hit it off. He was just starting Page Springs Cellars and he said, 'Come on over here and we'll make some wine.' "

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Today, Glomski and Keenan have their own label called Arizona Stronghold.

Keenan, 46, whose grandparents and great-uncle produced wine in Europe, said he has an aptitude for winemaking and enjoys the challenge. He has planted grapes on three locations around the Verde Valley and is about to break ground across from Page Springs, nestled between Sedona and Cottonwood.

He likes how the slopes, soil and sun in Arizona affect the grapes' taste, even though unpredictable weather patterns and insect infestations occasionally trouble his crops.

"There's a lot of elements and talent that come into winemaking," Keenan said. "When you see a guy with deep lines on his face and tan skin, you know he's been out in the field. It's inspiring and challenging to be able to juggle all the aspects of what goes into it."

Glomski had plenty to teach Keenan, who has lived in Jerome since 1995, about grape growing and winemaking. But the latter's notoriety and experience with professional marketers bolstered the endeavor with Stronghold.

Glomski continues to operate Page Springs Cellars, a small, family-owned business, while Keenan has his own family-run Caduceus Cellars.

But the duo has grander designs for Stronghold. By the end of August, the wine will be distributed in 30 states and two Canadian provinces. It may soon be shipped to Great Britain.

Glomski said he and Keenan want Stronghold wines to "speak of what Arizona's all about," while maintaining reasonable prices.

"We'd like to try to put Arizona on the national map with Stronghold," he said.

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Keenan said he's noticed that some of his wines produced in northern and southern Arizona have "a combination of being austere, but also subtle and restrained." He has 7 acres of vineyards in the northern part of the state and about 180 acres down south.

"You would expect very sun-ripe, sugary fruit bombs," he said of his

grapes. "We're not getting that. We could if we pushed it that way. But what we're getting naturally from the vineyards here is a very solid, very complex wine."

Glomski added that the landscape defines Arizona wines, with its warm days and cool nights at the higher elevations and its diversity of soils. Stronghold's wines are 70 percent red varietals and 30 percent white varietals with a fine, dry European style.

The duo has gone through, and continues to go through, plenty of trial and error with tastes in its vineyards, although its winemaking process is fine-tuned. More control exists in the winery than in the vineyard, where one is at nature's mercy, Glomski said.

Arizona Stronghold's winery is nestled in Camp Verde, but it has two historic vineyards in Willcox, located in southeast Arizona, where land and water prices are cheaper.

With the fall harvest under way in the next two weeks, Glomski will soon transport some white grapes from Willcox to Camp Verde and Page Springs for processing. Glomski and Keenan bottle all of their wine in a trailer.

"We still need more time to get a deeper sense of the very specific characters (of tastes) that are unique to our landscapes," Glomski said. "But we want to get out there in the country and we don't want to be like California or France or Italy. We want to say, 'This is Arizona wine,' and focus on authenticity."

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To learn more about the men's wines and/or to buy a bottle, log on to the Internet at www.arizonastronghold.com or www.caduceus.org.

The three-day Prescott Film Festival concludes today, beginning at 9 a.m. at the Elks Theater, 117 E. Gurley St, Suite 115, with six short films.