There is a certain blue-collar aspect to any art form that no matter how high society its patrons may be, or how educated the background of any given artist, keeps it from a complete takeover of the bourgeois. Musicians have calloused fingers, dancers have worn feet, and even in an age of digital design, artists often stain their hands. While philosophizing and intellectual discussions about art often take place among the academic elite in air-conditioned galleries or opulent concert halls, the process of making art retains a workman quality.
Three glasses into a five flight tasting at MAWL, I realized David Scales understood this, when happy circumstance found me in his cozy little wine shop on that particular Friday evening. The synthesis of music, art, wine and his love for all three became quite clear when speaking him. He told me a story about an unassuming customer with paint stained hands who turned out to be one of the most famous auto body artists in Southern California, which instantly gave me the impression that the young man who had been pouring wine for me, looking more like a guitar player for a band in Silverlake than a wine connoisseur, was more artist than sommelier.
Despite David’s enthusiasm for wine, his passion for art in general made the most lasting impression on me. An idle question about the art on the walls of MAWL sent him into an explanation of his philosophy about the similarities between the two,
"If you talk to any winemaker, they will absolutely tell you it is an art,” David explained, with very little prompting, "You reflect on it, you analyze it, you discuss it with friends.”
That communal aspect is ultimately the over-arching philosophy behind MAWL, birthed from the realization that like most other artistic industries, in the wine business it is the consumer who is more often more passionate about the product than the distributor. In a day and age when the gallery system is incorporated and major record labels make decisions based on the bottom dollar rather, David decided to do what many other artists have done, go independent.
And if he feels more like an artist with the passion with which he speaks, then like many before him, he has faced the same challenges most young artists face when reacting against the establishment. While the success of his store has been due to an organic outgrowth of many of the same activities he enjoys with his friends, MAWL newsletters often highlighting local concerts and art openings having nothing to do with the store, David has in some sense still had to prove himself to mainstream Southern Californian wine society.
He attributes his success at keeping his store thriving while maintaining a healthy irreverence to his infectious enthusiasm. "I’ve been able to translate my passion to people,” David says of the loyal patrons that have kept MAWL going strong for the past three years, many of which may not be used to the lack of pretention that defines him.
Ultimately, David isn’t selling a product as much as a lifestyle. "The luxury of everyday things, whether it’s art, music or wine,” he says. All of the art in MAWL is for sale, in fact, the first thing he will tell you when asked about the store’s art are his plans to expand the space available to incorporate an equal amount for gallery as for wine display. When he launches into his future plans for a live music venue, it becomes clear that in his mind, art, music and wine are synonymous.