“These people are way better behaved than the people in Arizona.” A Whole Foods employee patrols the line, handing out wine menus to the Tool fans and wine junkies who wrap around the outside of the high end grocery store. Dozens of people have shown up at the Henderson market to wait an hour plus in the 50-degree temperatures, not to buy concert tickets, but to get a bottle of Tool lead vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s wine signed by him in person.
The crowd is an organic mix of lip and tongue piercings, heavy metal-approved beards and combat boots alongside straight-out-of-work slacks and ties and women with Chanel bags and Blackberries.
“I was a huge Tool fan, but now I’m a fan of his wine, too,” says one woman. Keenan first developed an interest in wine after musician Tori Amos gave him a “thank you” bottle of 1992 Silver Oak. He continued to collect wines, amassing a 6,000-bottle cellar and then turning his vision of a winery in his home state of Arizona into a burgeoning, profit-generating reality. Now a veritable connoisseur, the singer manages the boutique vineyard Arizona Stronghold with renowned California winemaker Eric Glomski.
Their Tazi White, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Malvasia Bianca, set two new national sales record for Whole Foods Markets. The cores of the red plantings are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Tempranillo and Sangiovese.
“Think forest, not trees. Think weather, not rain,” reads the red Chupacabra’s description. Other wines have hints of campfire smoke, cherry pie filling, pomegranate, green melon, tobacco and leather. Leather? This is, after all, a wine from the man behind songs like “Prison Sex” and “Schism.” The names for the wines and the vineyard come from the native history of the area, giving credit to Cochise and the Chiricahua Apache tribe.
For many people, the signed bottles are more collectibles than beverages; they will be given as gifts, lain on their side on the shelf as a collector’s item, or, in the case of one man, added to his estate to be passed on to his children.
“The Chupacabra is a delicious wine,” gushes self-confessed Tool junkie Lynette Ferrara. “It’s 29.99 but I would have paid more than $100.”
Keenan will return to Vegas for another wine bottle signing on December 9 at the Whole Foods at 6689 Las Vegas Boulevard.