Stoner Metal Band Red Fang Toasts New Year With Their Own Brand of Red Wine
Band's custom blend joins hard-rock-related offerings like Dave Mustaine's She-Wolf.
In the video for “Blood and Cream,” from Red Fang’s 2013 album Whales and Leeches, a panicked Fred Armisen runs into the Portland, Oregon, dive B-Side Tavern and announces that hordes of beer-craving zombies are on the loose. Those cans of Tecate and Pabst Blue Ribbon that make cameos throughout are befitting symbols of Red Fang’s laid-back, blue-collar appeal, but now the stoner rock band, like other enterprising metal men before them, continues to prove that wine is an equally democratic beverage with its just-arrived Red Fang Red 2016, which made its official debut at a Jan. 13 wine-release party. (The wine’s year refers to when its grapes were harvested.)
Starring Oregon’s flagship pinot noir grape -- bolstered by a little skin-fermented Gewürztraminer and dark-hued tannat for a depth that exemplifies the band’s audacious approach to music -- the blend was made in partnership with Portland’s Teutonic Wine Company. Red Fang drummer and oenophile John Sherman was already familiar with Teutonic’s small-production German- and Alsatian-style wines when Barnaby and Olga Tuttle, the heavy-metal-loving husband-and-wife founders of the industrial-inspired winery and tavern (“I grew up listening to stuff like Black Sabbath,” Barnaby points out) approached the band about collaborating. Although wine was new turf for fellow members Bryan Giles, Aaron Beam and David Sullivan, they were all revved by the prospect.
“Heavy metal offers a release of tension from your day, your life, and wine is the same. I love the idea of making something a little bit different from what people expect,” says bassist-vocalist Beam. “We helped with all the different steps, from tasting samples out of the barrels to harvesting, which seems super mysterious if you haven’t done it before.”
Barnaby attests to how focused and diligent the band was throughout the winemaking process. “The biggest surprise is how quickly they learned and how hard they worked even after all their late nights. These four guys did all of the bottling, and bottling sucks. It’s the least favorite part of the job,” he explains.
As suggested in the “Blood and Cream” video, the connection between beer and heavy metal is a natural one, and it’s led powerhouses like Iron Maiden, Kiss and AC/DC to pursue mainstream-friendly brew brands of their own. In recent years, some bands have also ventured into the wine realm. Consider Slayer’s aptly named Reign in Blood California Cabernet Sauvignon or Motörhead’s Shiraz from Southeastern Australia. Former Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate of Operation: Mindcrime has long been passionate about wine and started making it over a decade ago, first launching Insania red and white expressions with Walla Walla, Wash.-based Three Rivers Winery. Then he joined forces with organic German winery Rinklin for his 2015 Pinot Noir and 2016 Pinot Gris.
Maynard James Keenan of Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer fame fled Los Angeles for quirky Jerome, Ariz., more than 20 years ago, where he is the owner and winemaker of tiny Caduceus Cellars. In an underground cement facility dubbed "the Bunker," he turns out a limited selection of wines, like the easy-drinking 2014 Chardonnay-Malvasia blend Dos Ladrones and the 2015 Airavata, an aromatic Garnacha.
Megadeth co-founder Dave Mustaine debuted his Mustaine Vineyards label in 2012, originally with California’s Fallbrook Winery, then with South Coast Winery, and has been racking up accolades ever since. His most recent release, the crisp, fruity 2016 She-Wolf Tempranillo Rosè, earned the double bold for best of class region at the 2017 California State Fair Wine Competition and the platinum/best in show at the 2017 San Diego International Wine Competition.
Mustaine, who’s more inclined to hole up with a glass of sweet tea than wine at his Nashville home, says his first bottle, “Symphony Interrupted” Cabernet Sauvignon, was introduced “as a social lubricant for a performance I was doing with the San Diego Symphony. I felt wine was the common denominator of the heavy metal and classical music worlds.” Success was immediate, encouraging him to pursue a wider portfolio, and now he’s looking to expand production to potential locales like Argentina and Australia. “We don’t want to ever do this for the money,” says Mustaine. “It’s an art, and there’s as much pride for the label as there is the music.”
Teutonic’s Barnaby also thinks heavy metal’s ongoing infatuation with the vineyard is a boon to a changing wine world. “The previous generation created snobby, elitist stuff, and I want to explode and ruin that,” he says. “No one should ever feel intimidated to have good food or good wine. When you’re at a metal show, no one is better than anyone else. It’s a liberating environment.”
Red Fang is currently touring solo before joining Black Label Society and Corrosion of Conformity for a slate of North American dates beginning Jan. 26 and then heading to Latin America on March 3 for nearly two weeks of shows. (For tour dates, go here.) The band is also writing “a bunch of new riffs and music,” notes Beam. Still, the group is contemplating a more wine-centric future. “Working with Barnaby and Olga on this was a dream, and I can’t wait to see what we can come up with next time,” adds Sherman. “I’m a big fan of what Teutonic does with Riesling and Pinot Gris, so who knows? Maybe there’ll be a Red Fang White next year. Anything is possible.”