Wine Review: Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra and Arizona Wine

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And You Thought Arizona Was Just a Desert With a Giant Hole In It

Been meaning to write a post on this wine for awhile now. The Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra is made by Caduceus Cellars, owned and operated by Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of the bands Tool, Puscifer and (the now disbanded) A Perfect Circle. I’m going to just come out and say this to get it out of the way:


Tool is far and away my favorite band on the entire planet, so it was only natural that when I saw Mr. Keenan had started his own winery and vineyard in the stunning Verde Valley of Northern Arizona, I had to try the wine.

Note: While Caduceus Cellars is an Arizona winery, the Merkin Chupacabra is made from California Cabernet and Syrah (hey, he had to start with something, right?). But you can buy his 100% Arizona fruit wines online at the website.
Northern Arizona is the epitome of “burgeoning wine country,” and based on the the wines I have tasted from this region, Arizona is going to be a major, major player in both the High-End and the more vital “Value Wine” world. The flavors are as stunning and complex as any other wine region (maaaaybe not Italy, but that’s because I also think Italy rocks). Beyond all that, what will truly set this region apart for wine makers and wine lovers is that these flavors are NEW. Brand new. Like nothing you have ever tasted.

Cheers to Mr.Keenan and Eric Glomski (owner of Page Springs Cellars, one of the first Arizona wine makers to bring attention to the region) for the success of their vision, because if this California-fruit wine is any indication of their combined talents, we will be seeing quite a change in the U.S. wine world (now get going on the next Tool album).

So, let’s get into the juice:

Disclaimer: DECANT THIS WINE. We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again: IF POSSIBLE, DECANT EVERY RED WINE YOU DRINK, NO MATTER WHAT.

COLOR: I’m not sure if this is filtered or not, but this looks like tomato juice on an iron binge. Seriously deep, dark, rich burgundy colors. You’ll be smacking your lips right away.

NOSE: Black stewed cherries and grandma’s basement. An odd, yet delicious combo.

TASTE: Every summer when I was a boy I would go to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in tiny little Munich, North Dakota (population approx. 350). Those days spent there were some of the best in my entire life. The flatness, the quiet, the landscape, the farm, the machines, the people and of course, the food. I basically loved everything about the place (of course, I’ve never experienced a winter there, but that’s another post on another site). Now this will sound strange, but it’s the one thing that popped into my mind when I tasted the Merkin Chupacabra: This wine reminds me of North Dakota.

I know, I know. I don’t understand it either, but it did. The smell of basement, the flavors of dark cherry, the slight mint, the brief and out-of-left-field-flavor of baked bread. It reminded me of a dessert my grandmother used to make that I am going to spell wrong called “Cherries Jus” or something like that. Basically, it was sweet, creamy cherry soup, served warm. It was delectable. This wine’s structure is solid, with awesome, awesome fruit and good balance of tannins to the sweetness. It’s not too dry in the least. The alcohol is there only to support and intoxicate, and believe me, you will be intoxicated by this stuff.

WITH FOOD: While it seems almost sacrilegious not to savor this on its own, I am a firm believer that food came before wine and so all wines should be able to pair with foods. In this case, you could do worse than a traditional filet mignon, roast lamb, ostrich steak or even buffalo.

BEST PRICE: $19.98 at!

Further Info on Arizona Wines/Wineries:

4 Responses to “Wine Review: Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra and Arizona Wine”

  1. i went to a wine bottle signing Maynard held in North Jersey. This wine is some of the best i’ve tasted, but this is of course strongly biased due to my fascination with TOOL. Good post. keep it up.

  2. Wine Welfare Says:
    June 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Thanks, Bryan! I’m strongly biased towards Tool as well, but it is true that he’s making fantastic wine down in Arizona. Let me know if you try anything else or if you want to write a review of anything. As long as it’s under $20. Thanks for reading!

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  4. […] Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra and Arizona Wine – Wine WelfareMar 11, 2010 … Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra wine review from Wine Welfare: A funny little cheap wine review blog for the Under-$20 crowd. […]

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