Friday, June 29, 2007

A Mouse in the House at Walla Walla Village Winery

I was 10 years old when I first saw a Stanley Mouse creation. In fact, that's exactly what it was: a mouse. Well, actually, it was a rat -- a "rat fink," in fact. Mouse's popular "Rat Fink" character, borrowed (or perhaps stolen) and then made famous by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, enlivened my brother Terry's hot rod magazines. He was 16 years old, and other Rat Fink characters, in sticker form, decorated Terry's first car, a 1951 green Chevy two-door sedan. She had "three on the tree" (for you youngsters, that means a three-gear manual shift on the steering column) and six cylinders, with baby moon hub caps and a jacked up front end with spring spacers so it rode high in the front. Our dad loved that car and would invent reasons to take it out for a spin. This was all many baby-moon hubcaps ago, alas, when Walla Walla's drive-ins buzzed with car hops and boys in their rides dragged down Main Street between midnight and dawn.

When I turned 16 myself, I saw Mouse's work again -- but different this time. No more "Rat Fink"; now he was drawing, yikes!, skeletons! He had moved to San Francisco and fell in with the counterculture, drawing posters for dance-concerts with his partner in art, Kelley. Most famously, he borrowed a 19th-century book illustration drawn by Edmund Sullivan and applied it to a September 1966 poster advertising a dance-concert at the Avalon Ballroom featuring the Grateful Dead. The "skeleton and roses," as the icon was named, became one of the most famous images in rock and roll history. Mouse used it again later on an album cover for the Dead. He also drew album covers for Journey, the Steve Miller Band, and other rock groups.

Thirty-some years later I saw Mouse's art yet again, this time on a Walla Walla wine label.
In the spring of 2003, winemaker Joel Clark of Walla Walla Village Winery released his very first wine, “Solstice” Gewurztraminer. I still remember tasting this highly praised aromatic semi-dry wine. My glass was filled the sweet smells of a rose garden. The other thing I remember about this popular Gerwurztraminer was the colorful label with the familar style -- in fact, a Stanley Mouse original. Then Mouse drew a second label for the winery, for the 2003 "Equinox" Cabernet Sauvignon.

During this past May's Spring Release weekend, Joel and the Walla Walla Village Winery presented a gallery showing of the art of the "Rock and Roll Rembrandt." Stanley Mouse originals from Joel's collection as well as that of Jim McGuinn, who owns the Hot Poop, Walla Walla's only "Bing Bang" music and stereo store in town, graced the tasting room's walls, and it was big fun indeed to admire the fantastic images while sipping Joel's typically aromatic, not to mention delicious wines. I enjoyed visiting with Joel and his mother Barbara, too. They've given the Walla Walla wine community something unique, something that no other winery in Washington State has: a direct connection to one of the legendary artists in modern American pop history.

5 comments:

winedeb said...

Cool and very interesting post Catie! I totally enjoyed!

joel said...

meltThank you so much for the kind words Catie. It was nice meeting with you and I look forward to future visites. Thank again.

-Joel Clark

Lloyd said...

Walla Walla Village Winery, needless to say, ROCKS! Lloyd Benedict, AmericanWinery.com

Scott Landwehr said...

Very much enjoyed your post...great read!

Catie said...

Joel informed me that the "Equinox" label was project that he and a friend did using Stanley 's Solstice artwork. However, Stanley just designed a current " Walla Walla Village " oil painting for their newest label.

Lloyd, you're right - WWVW rocks! Thanks everyone for taking the time to check this blog out!