Lead singer of rock bands Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, Maynard Keenan recently opened a tasting room for his northern Arizona wineries, Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars, in downtown Scottsdale. Merkin Vineyards gives locals a rare opportunity to experience the fruits of Keenan's labor by allowing them to taste a diverse selection of wines from around Arizona.
"In order to truly understand Arizona wines, we feel it is essential to visit these magical regions and experience them firsthand," Keenan says. "However, not every visitor to the greater Phoenix area has the extra time to visit these semi-remote areas. The Merkin Vineyards location in Old Town Scottsdale is meant to be an introduction to that magic."
Due to Keenan's belief that well-made regional wine speaks more loudly of a place than any other beverage or produce and, therefore, serves as both export and local draw, Keenan explains that his decade-plus of experience in growing fruits and vines in Arizona has taught him something crucial.
"Our Southwest wines have an identity. They stand apart from other regions, and our state producers have received countless awards to prove it. Those international accolades started rolling in once we embraced the fact that Mother Nature is in charge. We molded our practices to reflect her movements, and that is when the region truly began to express through our wines."
Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale Wine Bar's general manager, Jim Cunningham, has created pairings for all occasions, proving a night out at Merkin Vineyards is a full culinary experience.
Loukanika and Dates / Merkin Chupacabra Blanca – The traditional Greek salami recipe uses garlic, cumin and orange zest nestled on a plate next to sweet Medjool dates. This small bite tapa plate and wine give a great back-and-forth of sweet, salt, spice and acid that makes for a great start to a meal. Higher acidity of the wine helps counter the richness and fat from the salami. The bright fruit of the white wine lends a complementary hand to the sweetness of the dates while the spice of the salami makes the bright fruit pop out of the glass.
Squash Galettes / Merkin Chupacabra Bubbles – Crisp on the outside, plush on the center, these small cakes made from freshly shredded garden squash were made for the bubbly variation of the beloved Chupacabra. The fuller-bodied nature of this sparkling wine matches the creaminess of the squash and the bed of smoked ricotta cheese they sit upon, while the warm and rich galettes beg for the bubbly white wine to cleanse your palate after every bite.
Crisp Berkshire Pork Belly / Caduceus Airavata – The Airavata is 100% northern Arizona grown Garnacha (Grenache) and a heavenly partner for this over-the-top pork belly. The vivid fruit of this lighter bodied red wine creates a resonance with the fresh orchard fruit sitting on top of the crispy pork. The Garnacha’s earthy and soft mouthfeel melts away the richness of the entrée and helps carry you on to another bite.