The art of wine: A Miami Beach collector's passions combine in a line of wines



Wolfes Wine Shoppe, 124 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, carries six Betts & Scholl wines, priced from $29 for an Eden Valley riesling to $68 for a Rhône blend; 305-445-4567.

Smaller selections are available at Epicure Market, Miami Beach, 305-672-1861; Cefalos Wine Cellar, Coconut Grove, 305-971-2400; and Vine Wine Shop & Tasting Loft, Miami; 305-759-8463. Details:



Lying on her back with her legs pointing skyward, the girl Gaskell drew with deliberately wobbly lines relates to her noted "Wonder" series of photographs, inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The photos are staged scenes of not-quite-grown-up girls performing peculiar actions that can look bonding or brutalizing.

Gaskell says the girl in the drawing reminds her of the scene in Lewis Carroll's story where an exasperated Alice finds herself tiny one minute and huge the next.

"She's sort of thrown herself on the floor like a child," says the artist, speaking by phone from her home in New York. "I wasn't illustrating the story. I was trying to help her get out of the story. It looks sort of like a bacchanalian aftermath," she says with a laugh.

Like the best contemporary art, Gaskell's drawing grabs viewers' attention and spurs them to think about what they are seeing.

When people ask what it means, Dennis Scholl jokes, "we always say it's a woman who's gone head over heels over our grenache."


The scene on the label is taken from London artist Julien's film True North, loosely based on the story of Matthew Henson, the black man who accompanied Robert Peary to the North Pole in 1909. The film was shot in Iceland, and the main figure is a stunningly beautiful black woman. In the image on the label, she is "this solitary figure on a glacier, which is a great idea for a cool white wine," says Scholl. "We liked the sparseness of the image."


When Betts & Scholl expanded their wine line to California, they wanted a California artist for the label. Their first choice was Raymond Pettibon, who has won international acclaim for the wry humor in his quirky, cartoon-like drawings.

"Raymond became famous early in his career for making album covers for punk rock bands," Scholl says. "So the idea of doing this is very Raymond-like."
A few months after they contacted him, Pettibon sent a drawing of a vintage '50s car enlivened with playful labels like "Pontiac Grand Cru" and "Lincoln Cabernet."


Lambie, an installation artist who works in Glasgow, Scotland, based his label on
Black Betty, a sculpture he fashioned from a black T-shirt incorporating the silhouettes of Richard Betts and Debra and Dennis Scholl in a mirror image reminiscent of a Rorschach ink blot.



When Richard Betts and Dennis Scholl decided to give original artworks to a dozen major customers last holiday season, they turned to Miami artist Jason
Hedges. It was a perfect match.

For more than six years, Hedges has made art with food and drink, "a crucial part of our existence" whose "beauty and significance have been overlooked," he says.

One recent piece, Untitled (Corks No. 1), is a 72-inch square composed of more than 6,500 wine corks. (About two dozen of them are from Betts & Scholl bottles.)

For the B&S commission, as with other wine-on-paper works, Hedges began by tasting the wine.

"That Australian grenache is delicious. It's not like some crazy wine that has to age for 20 years," he says.

Next he put his thumb over the opening of the bottle and poured the wine to create swirls and blobs on paper. After about a month, the wine evaporated, leaving what Scholl describes as "incredible penumbras and crystals."


If wine and art come together at all in most people's minds, it's probably in the plastic cups of cheap chardonnay poured at gallery openings. For Dennis Scholl, however, they are a sublime pairing that has taken the Miami Beach investor and art collector down a surprising path.

It began with a conversation in the Colorado woods four summers ago with hiking buddy Richard Betts, master sommelier at The Little Nell, a luxurious inn near Aspen, where Scholl and his wife, Debra, have a second home.

Listening to Betts mull over a new project he clearly had doubts about, Scholl asked him what he really wanted to do.

Make wine in Australia, Betts said.

"Gee, that's something Debra and I would do with you," he told his flabbergasted friend.

"He wasn't really promoting the idea. I just asked him what he was passionate about and he told me," Scholl recalls.

And so was born Betts & Scholl. Working with growers and winemakers in Australia's Barossa Valley, California's Napa Valley and France's Rhône region, the company expects to produce about 2,000 cases of grenache, riesling, syrah and Rhône blends this year.

The Scholls, who met as law students at the University of Miami in the late 1970s, are venture capitalists who seek out people with sharp ideas to fund and grow into profitable businesses.

Dennis Scholl's instincts told him a partnership with Betts could make a splash in a romantic but somewhat musty field.

"I felt that Richard had the potential to make the business successful because we were doing something a little different," Scholl says.

"We would shake things up in the wine world, which is very staid. When you go to a wine shop you see the same kind of bottles over and over. Very quiet labels, very important kinds of labels."

Look around the Scholls' two-story Miami Beach home, sparsely furnished to showcase their impressive collection of contemporary art, and you can imagine the next step in his thought process.

"We'll get contemporary artists to do the labels!" he recalls exclaiming to Betts, his face lighting up with almost boyish glee at the memory.

As the newly minted business partners brainstormed about what the labels would look like and which artists might work with them, they agreed on one rule: no hopping kangaroos, no waddling platypuses, in short, "no critter art."

Their first label, an elegant pen-and-ink drawing by New York artist Anna Gaskell for their Barossa Valley grenache, is the antithesis of such kitschy creatures.

Like the five other artists from whom they've commissioned labels -- Liam Gillick, Mark Grotjahn, Isaac Julien, Jim Lambie and Raymond Pettibon -- Gaskell is represented in the Scholls' collection. Their fee for the labels, he says, is a small honorarium and "a bunch of wine."

This relationship between art and wine has stayed comfortably loose. The collector and sommelier don't micro-manage or try to push for images that somehow represent the wines.

"We just wanted to have great contemporary artists on the label," says Scholl.

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