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Famed musician forges new winemaking road in Jerome

Heavy metal, alternative rock star Maynard James Keenan is the lead singer for Tool. He has very loyal following for his music, as well as an increasingly loyal following for his other creative outlet.

Wine and food.

The two-time Grammy Award winner and five-ime nominee left LA for Arizona. Keenen, in fact, went to the quirkiest, most strangely unique town in Arizona.

Jerome.

"I moved to LA in '90, and ran screaming in '95," said Keenan.

When Keenan first made his way up a long, curvy road to Jerome, he felt an instant connection to this quirky town. Fast forward 20+ years, Keenan is still here, calling it home and running his business there.

"It was a no brainer for me," said Keenan. "There was an energy there, and I knew I was supposed to be there. I had dreams about being there. I didn't even know anything about it. I saw it in a dream, several times."

It was a roadtrip that forever changed his life.

"I opened a P.O. Box the same day," said Keenan.

Then, Keenan bought land, planted grapes, and, as he puts it, started turning blood into wine.

"Farming can be a very, very literally grounding and spiritually grounding endeavor," said Keenan. "It's a very spiritually thing. The vineyard is the church you are connecting with that higher power."

Keenan is now a vintner and musician, with a cult-like following. Two decades following the move, Keenan has helped turn this part of Arizona into a food and wine mecca. This, however, almost didn't happen.

After going to military school, Keenan, a small-town Michigan kid, got accepted int o West Point Academy, which is an prestigious invitation. Few would turn down the acceptance, but Keenan did, in order to pursue music.

"One of my classmates was in charge of several divisions in Afghanistan," said Keenan. He noted that he probably would not have gotten as far as his classmate did.

"I probably wouldn't have gotten as far as he was, 'cause I have too much of a big mouth, but I would have probably been a major," said Keenan.

Keenan's fans still track him down to the hilltop Arizona town, showing up at his wine tasting room where manager Brian Sullivan introduces Keenan's music fans to his wine.

"The fans come and they discover the wines and they become wine people," said Sullivan. "There are people who walk into the tasting room who have no idea, and if they don't have any idea, we don't talk about it. We just present the wines."

Maynard grows his grapes at vineyards all across Arizona, but each and every grape is brought to Jerome, where they are turned into wine. Keenan's business empire employs about 40 people, and it goes beyond wine and food.

"My main baby is the Caduceus Cellars tasting room in Jerome. My wife runs the Pussifer store," said Keenan. "In Clarkdale, we have the 40 Winework. Which is our co-op."

"A local wine, if done right, connects you to a place," said Keenan, a place that Keenan believes can compete on a bigger stage, with bigger wine-making states and countries.

"We are more like Italy and Spain," said Keenan. "We are still an infant state. We are still learning our way."

Keenan knows Gov. Doug Ducey is all about making Arizona a welcoming state for businesses, and he wants to hold a wine summit with the Governor, as a way to to make a billion dollar wine business for Arizona even bigger.