Whistler winemakers launch One Barrel 

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Sometimes when it comes to wine the heart and the palette can work together to overpower the brain.

This seems to be the case with Eric Blouin and his wife Annie Trépanier of Whistler. The wine enthusiasts are about to deliver 25 cases, which equals 300 bottles, of a new Pinot Noir wine called One Barrel.

Blouin says he just wants to produce single barrels of wine that are special to him.

"Although it's definitely not viable financially and most people think we've lost our minds, our goal with One Barrel is simple; we want to showcase the true nature of terroir through small production, handcrafted, site-driven wines from growers who value respect for the land, sustainable practices and focus on quality," says Blouin.

The pair is currently in Argentina working toward producing their next batch of One Barrel for their company called Blouin Trépanier Négociants. Chatting from Argentina over a less-than stellar voice-over-Internet line, Blouin confirms that he and Annie just might be crazy.

"There's a lot more passion involved in the One Barrel project than there is any logical sense," Blouin says from south of the equator. "We decided that we wanted to have a go of it and we did."

He's clear — there's no profit in One Barrel. The 300 bottles, which are mostly all sold, have been picked up for $59.99 a bottle by restaurants in Montreal, Vancouver and Whistler and by people on One Barrel's mailing list.

The bottles are being labelled, boxed and prepared for shipping to B.C. in time for a tasting event scheduled for late Nov. 28.

The former Bearfoot Bistro sommelier says wine production has always been something that has turned him on. He learned about this idea from other wine makers he has met through his career as a wine importer, and with the support of his wife, they jumped into the One Barrel initiative.

The Pinot Noir was produced from grapes grown in Oregon's Willamette Valley at the Libra Vineyard. Bill and Linda Hanson grew the grapes on their small property then Blouin and Trépanier oversaw the blending and production of the wine. The product sat for 20 months, though it moved in progression between a once-filled, twice-filled and neutral French Oak barrel.

Blouin explains that they are working with the Hansons because the vineyard has two different exposures, two different kinds of soil and what he calls the perfect kind of slice of awesomeness. The Hansons have their own small production label.

"I was just super stoked that I was allowed to make a single vineyard bottling out of it," says Blouin. "It's got a lot of life in it so I'm hoping that it is going to age well too."

The grapes were harvested on Oct. 8 and 15 in 2010, aged, then bottled in July of this year. According to Blouin, the alcohol content is 13.5 per cent.

With the debut barrel now in bottles, the keen new wine maker is planning for the future. Vintage for 2011 and 2012 are already in production at Libra's facility, the same vineyard that produced this year's bottled product. The apprentice, or the young Padawan as he calls himself, is now working with his wife to source another grower in another location for future One Barrel projects. Blouin also likes to call himself a "terroirist" and he has his sights set on producing a barrel of wine using grapes from southern Washington that will be trucked to Oregon for processing.

He's also looking at sourcing international grapes.

"There's been talk of Spain," Blouin gushes. He has a friend who can get him some "badass" grapes from that country. The reason for being in Argentina is to seek out opportunities in South America.

While there's no money in it, Blouin insists making wine is a very cool thing to do and it is good for the soul. Apparently, what Blouin's soul wants is a piece of land in Argentina where he can get to work on producing more than just one barrel at a time.

The 2010 vintage has already been tasted and, according to Blouin, the reviews are positive. Two wine experts in Whistler have reportedly sampled the wine.

The only way to get a bottle at this point is to visit one of the restaurants that bought cases. The only way to get future vintages is to get onto the One Barrel mailing list, which is found at the project's website (http://onebarrel.ca).

Producing large quantities isn't a priority but Blouin goes to great lengths to ensure the product is of great quality.

"One Barrel allows us to introduce hidden gems that come from small growers that are often overlooked or vineyards that are usually blended with others in larger productions," Blouin says.

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