Whistler has a long history of attracting visionaries; the type of people with dreams others deem too crazy to succeed.
Whistler locals Eric Blouin and Annie Trépanier's vision for a small-scale winemaking operation could easily fall into that category. But, through the sheer force of perseverance, the husband-and-wife team is committed to seeing their passion project move to the next level.
"Everything's good with this project, except the financial," Blouin laughs.
A wine industry veteran, Blouin and his wife have always wanted to bottle their own wine, a dream that became a reality after they founded their own micro-production company, Blouin Trépanier Négociants, in 2010. Although their first vintage was a hit, the couple ran into every winemaker's nightmare on their second: bad weather. After going through the painstaking winemaking and ageing process, they decided at the last minute not to bottle a 2011 vintage that didn't live up to their standards.
"That was basically a year of work that went down the drain," Blouin says.
Now, Blouin and Trépanier are back at it, with plans to release the 2012 One Barrel Pinot Noir next month in a handful of Whistler and Vancouver restaurants, and to the exclusive mailing list of oenophiles who've come to love their product.
As the name implies, Blouin's operation is about as small as it gets, with only 25 cases — or one barrel — made available per vintage. It's a business model that won't rake in a fortune, as Blouin readily admits, so the focus has to remain on the wine itself.
"We can barely afford to do this, so we really can't afford to bottle average wine," he says. "If we're going to bottle it, it better be badass."
The pinot noir, made in Oregon's Williamette Valley at the two-hectare Libra Vineyard, has big, fruity notes with nice acidity, but is still "a very friendly style of pinot," Blouin says.
Evidently, some of Whistler's top sommeliers, who tasted the vintage in November, agree.
Araxi's wine director Samantha Rahn described it as "fuller body than the 2010, showing lots of character and a highly likeable style," while Alta Bistro's Eric Griffith highlighted "layers of flavours and intensity" that means it will age gracefully.
"There's a great wine community here, I guess you could call it a bit of a brotherhood or sisterhood," Blouin says. "This project is a chance to geek out together. Even though it's only 25 cases, they're the ambassadors, they're the ones who talk about it and that little bit of notoriety will hopefully allow us to have a bigger production on another project in the long run."
At press time, only 24 bottles of One Barrel are still available. Join the mailing list at www.onebarrel.ca to buy your own, or take a trip to Nester's Liquor Store next month. The pinot noir will also be available soon at Araxi, Bearfoot Bistro, Rimrock Café, Alta Bistro, Quattro and Hawksworth in Vancouver.