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JASON OLIVA [WINE]

Created in 2010, JASON OLIVA [WINE] is Jason's foray into the wine industry.

Jason's vision started with a creative goal: to annually produce an exclusive, limited edition, vintage wine that showcases Jason’s artwork in the form of a wine label. Each bottle is hand signed and numbered by Jason.

 
 

The big idea.

In 2010, Jason commissioned South African winemaker, Dirk Roos, to make his dream a reality.

Together, they forged a bond and set out to create something special. 

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I was so impressed with Dirk’s wines when I tasted them. He was visiting NYC to promote his family’s vineyard and we were at New York Vintners, chatting, when he mentioned he had yet to have an American Hamburger! So I dialed up Charly’s in the financial district and we soon found ourselves alone, eating burgers and drinking all his handcrafted wine in the New York Vintners offices.

Dirk explained his ‘earth conscious earth friendly’ wine making philosophies, which were all about limiting the use of machines, handcrafting, being conscious of the planet combined with his love of art and culture. He was so passionate about it all and we became fast friends…as far as starting a wine project was concerned, I knew my wait and search for a winemaker was over.
 

The writing was on the wall.

Jason’s desire to form a company that offered his own brand of wine started over two decades ago in 1988, when he read about one of his artistic heroes, Keith Haring, being commissioned by Chateau Mouton Rothschild to add to their history of artist created wine labels.

 
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It was the late 80’s. I was in high school creating wine labels for an assignment when I discovered Keith’s label for Mouton. It really hit me that wine labels can be anything you want them to be from a visual perspective. I knew that one day I wanted to see my art represented in the form of thousands of little paintings, adorning beautiful sculptural bottles.
 
 

First art show. First wine label.

A decade or so later and directly influenced by Haring, Jason painted and printed his own labels for the wine that was going to be served at his first art show in New York City. Many of the empty bottles that were taken away by guests at the end of the night are still on display in collector’s homes to this day.

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I think I scraped the labels off of four cases of Two Buck Chuck and replaced them with hand painted labels and some that I printed on my home printer. It took ages to do! I remember after the show — at around 2:00am — thinking that I needed to clean up all the empty bottles, only to realize that the show guests had taken almost all of them home. I managed to keep just one for myself. To this day. I see those bottles I originally made on display at collectors homes.
 

Turning the winemaker/artist relationship on its head.

In 2010, Jason met South African winemaker Dirk Roos at New York Vintners in Tribeca, NYC.

Not only did their meeting reignite Jason’s interest in showcasing his artwork through the medium of a wine label but it also occurred to him that perhaps, with Dirk’s skills as a winemaker, he could flip the Rothschild/Haring idea on its head. In other words, instead of the winemaker commissioning the artist, Jason the artist would commission Dirk the winemaker to produce the bottle of wine on which his artwork would appear.

 
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I could wait a 1,000 years for Chateau Mouton Rothschild to call me to do a label — and it would never to happen. So I said, “Screw the gatekeepers, I’ll do it all myself!

 

People had been commissioning Jason to make paintings for years, and he had grown to understand the amount of trust and freedom that I am granted during that process. He also recognized the enjoyment that people get out of commissioning artwork. So Jason thought the best way to further explore those ideas and learn more about his position in the world as an artist was to flip it. Get on the other side of that notion and experience what it would be like to commission another artist – i.e, Dirk.

 
 

A dream realized.

In 2012, Jason Oliva [Wine] was launched.

Years of hard work gave birth to Jason's first vintage — [Stripey Horse] 2008.

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It all happened so fast. I told Dirk, ´I want you to make the greatest wine you can. I’m going to put my Zebra painting on the label, and I will call it Stripey Horse.´ Dirk really dug it. He took the image of the Zebra and tried to incorporate his feelings about the character of the animal into how the blend would taste.

He immediately understood how the art would inspire the winemaking and the winemaking would inspire the art, in return. It was truly like two jazz musicians riffing back and forth. I can’t tell you how pleased I was with the whole process.

 

Stripey Horse (2008) arrived in New York City on June 14, 2012. And what a day that was! The wine went on to be lauded with excellent reviews. Stripey Horse won several tastings against a number of prestigious wines. The 250 bottle, 20 Magnum (limited edition release) sold out immediately. Collectors purchased individual bottles, multiple bottles, cases, and magnums for gifting, sharing, storing, saving for special occasions and — of course — drinking.

It was an amazing day when the wine finally arrived in NYC. I wanted to carefully unload every case myself and could not wait to hand sign each bottle. The wine itself tasted awesome, and the bottle looked stunning. It was a moment that took almost 25 years to accomplish, and the excitement that followed from my art collectors and other wine enthusiasts was a crowning achievement of my professional career. I was ready to do it again and again, year after year.
 

A vintage for every letter of the alphabet.

After successfully releasing two vintages of wine, it was time for Jason to share the grander goal with everyone.

Jason Oliva [Wine] will release 26 vintages over 26 years. Each bottle subject woill represent a letter of the alphabet. [Stripey Horse] represents the letter 'Z' for Zebra. Astronaut represents the letter ‘A’.

 
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Everyone kept telling me you can’t change the blend every year and you can’t change the label every year...to me keeping things the same year over year seemed boring. I like the art world and collectibles where things were limited and there could be one of a kinds. I also liked the idea of people joining us on a journey that had a big audacious goal...all the great stories had a beginning a middle and an end so I decided to give Jason Oliva [Wine] an end...it would be only 26 vintages and when it was done we would have and amazing vertical of 26 years of stellenbosch grown, Bordeaux style blended wines...myself and Dirk would be in our 70’s and have created this record of wine making in the region with nothing left to do but enjoy them.