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Scratch and Sniff – the Art of the Wine Cellar

Not long ago, my wife Dolly said, “when are you going to clean up this bomb blast you call a shop?”

“What do you mean,” I said, warping an eyeball out from behind a skelter of sticks, where I was sorting wood shavings according to texture and color. “Every stick in here has a special purpose, and one day I will

know what that is.”

“Today is that day,


and I’ll tell you what that purpose is,” Dolly said.“It’s your excuse to avoid producing any art. Now, put a match to all these warped boards, and then get in front of your easel.”

“What!” I howled. “These are staves from wine barrels that have hosted fine vintages produced in cellars hereabouts. I have rescued them from an uncertain fate, namely, being made into bad furniture. Have some respect, woman!”

As it happens, my unappreciated wine barrel staves began their existence in a forest in France. One day a woodcutter named Gascon, who had just shaved with his freshly honed axe, tromped through the forest in search of work. He came across a magnificent oak, and said in his magnificent accent, “zees looks lak zee begeening of zee Bourdeaux magnifique!” With several deft strokes of the axe, he transformed the oak into a set of barrel staves and sold them to a cooperage in Bourgogne. The coopers added some heads and strapped the collection together with bands of steel, before slinging the entire affair onto a ship bound for Slumberland.

Once here, the barrel was filled by a winemaker from Transylvania with grapes originating in Bordeaux, grown in Chile, and pressed in Tuktoyaktuk, to create an authentic Okanagan wine aged in French oak.

Furniture built from wine barrel staves
Furniture built from wine barrel staves

When the barrel could no longer impart enough frenchness

to disguise the mongrel grapes, it was decommissioned, rejected by amateur furniture makers because of rot, and finally donated to my studio where it came under the critical eye of Dolly.

“Burn them or use them!” she decreed of my staves.

The furniture I built from the staves is only mildly precarious, unless one actually sits on it. But I was still left with the aforementioned skelter of leftover barrel parts.

“Sell that junk for what you can get, then get busy painting!”

She tossed a barrel lid onto my easel, and stomped out. Not bad, I thought, this idea of painting on a wine barrel head.

group of seven
Group of Seven

In my effort to add value to my barrel parts, I set out to find some lovely wine glasses with which to suggest that my unappreciated staves were worth much money. Enter the craftsmen of Baccarat, who make the Messina glass.

“What?!”  Dolly screeched. But I didn’t worry as she levitated only a few inches. “$180 for a wine glass?”

“I only need two,”

I enthused. “I’ll paint an obscenely rich composition of these exquisite glasses with that bottle of Château la Pompe onto that barrel head, for the discerning collector.”

“Château la Pompe? That means ‘pump house’ in French!”

“So? Who would know that?”

“Your ‘discerning collector’ might catch on.”

“It will be a twenty year old Cabernet-Sauvignon.”

“How would the collector know that from your painting?”

“Simple. They just scratch the barrel lid, and sniff.”

Click the 2 minute video above to watch Will produce these unconventional wine barrel paintings.

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  1. You are amazing!!!
    Love how Dolly pushes you, sounds lol my Hubby…

    I am Inspired


    • Will Enns Will Enns

      Dolly thanks you, Brenda, But I am not sure it is so much a compliment to me. Good thing I don’t have feelings, right?

  2. Great writing, Will! You should write books. 🙂

    And I love that Group of Seven!

    • Will Enns Will Enns

      Thanks, Sarah. Actually, I have a book in the works, but it’s a kids book. It’s written, and about 1/3 illustrated.

  3. Hi Will. Just when I think you have depleted your very unique ideas, you surprise me with another one. I have loved your paintings from the minute I saw the first one. They are all so good, that it almost impossible to pick out a favorite. You have to be my favorite artist of all time. So talented and so nice, and the best sense of humour. Love your emails. Will speak with you shortly.

    • Will Enns Will Enns

      Hi Marlyn,
      Thank you for those very generous words! I look forward to hearing from you soon, Maybe we can meet in person this time…

  4. Cathy Cathy

    I love your work!! Very unique as well!!

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