A rock star, a winemaker, and a fine artist walk into a bar. One turns to the other and says….
That may not have been exactly how it happened, but the unlikely trio consisting of Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows, John Wright, who co-owns Standing Sun Wines with his wife and General Hospital actress Laura Wright, and Felipe Molina, renowned fine artist, did create the ultimate experience for any lover of the arts. In June, their partnership comes to life in the form of a stunning art exhibit paired with limited edition bottles of a custom blend wines. The bottles feature Felipe’s artwork, which was inspired by the wine, hand signatures by all three of them, and Counting Crows lyrics scrawled on the label.
It’s a match made in artistic heaven.
The story of how they got there is almost as complex as the wine itself.
Felipe Molina hit the art scene in the early 90s, selling out his very first art exhibit in Manhattan and consequently, gaining a fan in the Counting Crows’ frontman Adam Duritz. Over the years, their working relationship grew into a friendship, with Felipe’s artwork becoming the album cover for the Crows’ New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Hall and eventually creating the visual experience for their most recent record, Somewhere Under Wonderland.
“In 2014, Adam hit me up by email to use one of the things that he had for the cover of Somewhere Under Wonderland. So the cover turned into ten paintings for the album. It turned into a big project, and that’s when we met face to face. Suddenly, we realized we liked each other and became friends,” Felipe explained.
Meanwhile, Adam had become heavily involved as a co-producer in a music showcase called the Outlaw Roadshow, where music blogger Ryan Spaulding and he would seek out promising independent musicians and bands to help them gain exposure. John Wright instantly saw an opportunity to pair his wine with the music, graciously donating cases to the artists and becoming an integral part of the Outlaw family.
And it was during the Outlaw Roadshow in New York City last fall that an idea started to form between Felipe, John, and Adam as they began to see the perfect union between the art, wine, and music.
“I’m in Adam’s apartment in New York and Felipe’s there and I’ve met him and I know that he’s done all this album artwork for the Counting Crows. Adam’s there, we’re all talking, and it’s fairly late at night on the last night we were there. This is after four nights of music in New York, hanging out and having a great time, talking about wine, music, and art. My winery has taken on this idea that wine, art, and music should be celebrated together, that there’s a connection and that each one makes the other better. I can’t enjoy wine in a box by myself. It’s the music, it’s the art, it’s the conversation. I feel the same way about the other two. Staring at a painting in a blank room, to me, is not as great as it is when I’m talking to someone about it with a glass of wine and maybe there’s music on,” John Wright explained passionately.
Years ago, after the first Outlaw Roadshow, John became inspired to start a music series and open a gallery at the winery. And last fall, he saw a perfect opportunity once he began talking with Felipe. “I said to him, ‘you’re an artist, I have a gallery, we’re friends now that we’ve hung out for four days’,” John pauses and chuckles, “‘and you should do a gallery show on the West Coast.’ So we started emailing and chatting after we got back. I’ve had this idea for awhile that there should be more collaborations between wine and art. So I tell him, ‘let’s do your gallery showing at my gallery, and let’s do your artwork on my wine.’”
Felipe flew out to the winery shortly thereafter at John’s request to ensure the connection between the art and wine was authentic. “We spent three days together tasting wine and having great conversations and basically bonding over wine and art. We also enjoyed music while doing that and involved Adam. We slowly involved him more and more, and he eventually came on fully. It came together on one of the highest levels it could: a true connection of three artists that do know each other. All three of us know each other’s craft and enjoy and support each other. It really organically grew through conversation, glasses of wine, and the idea of it,” John said.
Felipe admits, “I knew nothing about wines, really, except what a general consumer does. When I got to the winery, John had all these barrels of wine that he had been making and aging, and he started to sort of hold my hand through blending wines. It’s his blend, but he would put things together for me and ask my opinion of certain things. I would say, ‘this one tastes a little tangy’ or something, and he would explain why. He made this mix of red called GSM, and I liked it alot. I thought, ‘this is something I could drink all day’, and it became the red. John is the true artsman and the craftsman of the wine.”
From there, what took shape would eventually become one of the most unique wine pairings this year, an art exhibit at Standing Sun featuring Felipe’s work and the release of two limited edition blends (900 bottles of each) that have been crafted with the utmost attention to detail.
Felipe has been meticulously working on the artwork for the exhibit since December, with the inspiration from his initial visit to the winery fresh in his mind. “The wine did influence the art. I react to paintings and colors in a taste sensation. When I make paintings, I taste them in my mouth somehow. It’s hard to explain. It’s like I make a painting and it feels like I’m eating an orange. It’s sweet, it’s bright, it’s all happy, and that translates into colors. So with the wine, when I went back home and started working on the artwork, I had an idea of the joy of red wine, the complexity of the flavors, the sweetness of it, the darkness of it, the tanginess of it. I can truly use that to make a painting and choose the colors. Most people would not believe me,” Felipe laughed, “or think I’m crazy or nuts, but there is actually a thing called synesthesia where your senses get crossed. I didn’t taste the white wine and make a painting based on that taste. It was different. I don’t have a lot of experience with white– I generally don’t drink whites, so I didn’t take that memory back home with me. I thought of what we eat with white wine. I thought of fish, maybe chicken. And then I came up with cowboys and a bull, and I made this painting called “Cowboys.” If you look at that painting, it’s got a solid white background, which I rarely ever do. And the whiteness of the background made it very flat, first of all, very graphic, and also brought alot of air into the painting. Air and light– and that’s how the white wine tastes to me.”
“This is the strongest exhibit I’ve done in around ten years. I can’t really remember a time I’ve had a show this strong. This one– I like them all. I think they all have something to give,” Felipe said.
The exhibit will be open from June 5-July 5 at Standing Sun Wines in Buellton, California, with Felipe on-site for the opening night and weekend. If you can’t make it out the California, all the pieces from the show will be available on Felipe Molina’s official website here, and the special edition wine will also be available for order on Standing Sun’s Website here.