get a job – in BC wine country

Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm
Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm, July 2014 – author photo

 

You’re so lucky to live in the Okanagan. I wish I could.

Guess what? You can.

In 2006, my fella and I decided to leave the big city. I was working in human resources at Vancity Credit Union and he was (still is) a merchandiser with Canadian Tire. Our combined income was probably what many expect a single person to live on in Vancouver. So when looking to purchase a home with a garage (my fella wanted the garage, not the home), we chose to move somewhere else. One year later we’d sold our condo, found jobs, and bought a home.

I miss Vancouver. I love the Okanagan. There’s nothing wrong with holding those sentiments simultaneously. Did I give up a skookum gig with an upward career trajectory? Yes. Are we living in the same fashion here? No. We could if we wanted, but we didn’t move to replicate our urban life. There I didn’t write. Here I do. That’s difference enough.

My first gig on moving to the Okanagan was in a winery tasting room. I washed and polished glassware, swept the floors, and cleaned the bathrooms. Daily cashout included sipping a glass of wine. In my second week I found a rattlesnake curled up behind the front tire of my car – so I lingered on the patio with another glass of wine.

When I was inevitably laid off at the end of the season I found a job, this time in an office for administrative-y type work. That kept me going while I finished university (I drove to Vancouver every other week for the first year we lived here, to complete my undergraduate degree) and while I stretched my writing wings until I could eventually dive into the unfamiliar world of freelance work.

The timeline: five years.

This time of year, many of my Okanagan business friends are hiring staff for the season. While I can’t help you make the decision to haul stakes and join us in the wilderness (the tasty, BC wine wilderness), I’m happy to share with you some of the awesome gigs available at lovely places where you could work with nice people.

Local Lounge * Grille (Summerland): Top of the food chain for service and quality, with a stellar new executive chef on board as of April. Relentless in their pursuit to deliver excellent customer service, this is an ideal environment to excel at over-delivering. Hiring for both front and back of house, email your resume to employment@thelocalgroup.ca.

Miradoro Restaurant (Oliver): Flawless dining experiences, for both service and cuisine. Restaurateur Manuel call-me-Manny Ferreira and executive chef Jeff van Geest bring their A-game to every day. They cultivate one of the most engaged and proud teams in hospitality. Hiring server, server assistants, and back of house, email resumes to info@miradoro.ca or stop by in person. (PS: Tinhorn Creek is also hiring in the wine shop, vineyard, and for grounds maintenance)

doLci Socialhouse (Osoyoos): A brunch/mid-afternoon/evening watering hole, frequented by locals and recently refitted from the former “doLci Deli”. Now with a focus on small plates, evening specials, and local beer/wine/spirits, doLci is the answer to the ongoing Okanagan question of what do we do in the evening?. Answer: hang out here. One more thing: house cured bacon. Now hiring servers and cooks, apply to lunch@dolcideli.com.

Wine Jobs: They’re everywhere right now. Search for a particular winery you’d like to work at and check for employment listings. Or, visit one of these aggregate sites:

  • Wine Plus+: MW Rhys Pender posts BC wine jobs shared with him
  • WineBC.org: the British Columbia Wine Institute posts BC wine jobs on behalf of member wineries
  • Wine Jobs Canada: MW James Cluer posts wine jobs from across Canada

The next time you think I’m lucky to live here, know that yes indeed I feel that I am – but I (and those living here) work very hard to stay here, so luck really has nothing to do with it.

~ Jeannette

BC Bubbles for NYE (and days beyond)

For much of the year, the sparkling wine shelf in our local liquor stores receives barely more than a cursory glance. During the holidays we’re expected to sidle up to 750ml of bubbly with ease and select the right fit for our evening of extravagance and decadence. No pressure, right?

Many of us have wine anxiety even when the stakes are lower and there’s less glitter involved. If it’s not a world we spend much time in, standing in front of an endless row of stylish labels with words like cava or methode traditionelle can easily make us feel overwhelmed.

Let’s simplify the playing field: when selecting a sparkling wine this year, choose one from BC. We have talented folks crafting delightful bubbles in our own backyard. Let’s celebrate with them.

Bella Ancentral 2014

Traditional Method (champagne-style)

Made in the method of sparklers from Champagne, these bubbles tend to be full-bodied with varying degree of dryness. Our BC winemakers can use different grapes than what’s permitted to make champagne in France (chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier).

Bella Wines 2013 Sparkling Blanc de Blancs, Oliver West Side bone-dry (residual sugar: <3g/l), BC, $23.90

Arguably the first bubble house in the province (only producing sparkling wines), Bella is a study of place. Using chardonnay (for white) and gamay (for rosé), winemaker Jay Drysdale focuses on a single vineyard at a time. Best enjoyed with serious bubble lovers, and food – plenty of food.

Gray Monk 2012 Odyssey White Brut dry-fruity (residual sugar: 7.8g/l), BC/AB/+, $24.99 and up

The Heiss family established their winery in 1972, making them a cornerstone of our young industry. A blend of pinot blanc, chardonnay, and riesling, this brut is lovely combination of citrus and fruity notes that directs your palate toward sweet without oodles of sugar. Best enjoyed before a meal or with light appetizers.

Summerhill Cipes Brut NV off-dry (residual sugar: 11.2g/l), BC/AB/+, $26.95 and up

Any list of BC sparklers wouldn’t be complete without something from the folks who built a pyramid. A blend of riesling and chardonnay (with some pinot blanc), this wine is an example of winemaker Eric von Krosigk’s love for the bubble and sense of adventure. Versatile enough to enjoy before, during, or after a meal.

Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay 2008 off-dry (residual sugar: 11g/l), BC/AB/+, $24.99 and up

A staple in any BC bubbly lineup, Stellar’s Jay has a recognizable label and is a go-to choice for many. This blend of pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot blanc is readily available outside of BC and within the province. Bright fruit gives a perception of sweet, but the medium body provides good weight. Easy sipping on its own, or with festive fare.

Prosecco/Frizzante/Charmat

Ranging from dry, to off-dry, to sweet. Without getting too technical and speaking largely in generalities, here’s a breakdown: prosecco is most often a dry sparkling wine (originally from Italy); frizzante is a generic term that refers to a lightly sparkling wine with less bubbles than traditional sparklers; charmat style wines get their fizz while in larger pressurized containers.

Orofino 2013 Muscato Frizzante dry/off-dry, BC, $25

This wine was crafted out of necessity: winery owners John and Virginia wanted something special to greet guests with at their annual 1.6 Mile Dinner. It’s a great welcome-to-the-party beverage, an ideal match for foods with a little heat, and can be sipped with ease well into the evening.

Stoneboat Vineyards Piano Brut NV dry/off-dry (residual sugar: 9.5g/l), BC/AB, $24.90+

The only wine in BC produced with charmat tanks (specially pressurized to add carbonation once the wine goes through fermentation), the prosecco-inspired Piano is made from pinot blanc and muller thurgau. If someone could bottle summer, this would be it. Think back to days spent lakeside with the sun on your face and laughter in the air.

Cheers,

~ Jeannette

S and R 05

what’s in a name: designated viticultural areas

a golden view from Road 13 Vineyards, one of the wineries included in the proposed Golden Mile sub-appellation.

By international wine growing region standards, the Okanagan is young. This can be both a challenge and an opportunity: it’s not easy to be taken seriously, but it allows for a more generous playing field on which to innovate and invent. Yet to name the Okanagan as one region is misleading, particularly when there are such marked differences in soil and climate from tip (north Kelowna) to tail (south Osoyoos).

Enter designated viticultural areas, or DVAs; areas designated by distinguishable geographic features. At present, the entire Okanagan Valley is one big DVA. There has been increased chatter among wine-types about whether lumping all smaller growing regions into one large DVA does good service to consumer education, the growth of our wine industry, and accurate labelling.

In the current Okanagan Valley DVA, all wineries fall under the one big umbrella. Smaller producers and those with a site-specific focus aren’t permitted to list a sub-region on the label; if you grow in Okanagan Falls, you can’t label your region as such on the bottle. To include these areas (sub-regions) on the label, one would need to designate sub-appellations within the designated viticultural area. Europe has them, and California and Washington do too.

For those wineries in the pro-sub-appellation camp, having one big DVA can be restrictive for marketing/labelling in a way that will truly reflect their brand. It can also be somewhat misleading to consumers drinking a bottle of wine from what we think is one area of the Okanagan Valley but which is, in actuality, made from grapes grown in another. For example, most hearty red wines are ripened further south in the Okanagan DVA. How it happens isn’t a mystery – it’s a combination of climate, degree days, and terroir.

The following press release was issued today by Hawksworth Communications, announcing the first proposed sub-appellation in the Okanagan Valley DVA: The Golden Mile Bench.

This is a substantial step forward in our young wine industry.

~ Jeannette

For Immediate Release

Golden Mile Bench Proposes to become Okanagan Valley’s First Sub-Appellation

Oliver, BC (May 21, 2014) – Wineries located on the Golden Mile Bench wine growing area near Oliver in British Columbia have submitted a proposal to become the first official sub-DVA “Designated Viticultural Area” of the Okanagan Valley DVA. An in-depth scientific analysis by scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre – Summerland (AAFC-PARC Summerland) has shown the area has a combination of landform, landscape position, mesoclimate, air drainage and soil materials that make it distinct within the Okanagan Valley, contributing to the production of unique wines.

A group of producers in the area have been exploring the concept of proposing a Golden Mile Bench DVA since 2009. After much discussion, debate and an in-depth study of the region’s terroir by Scott Smith, M.Sc. Soil Scientist with AAFC-PARC Summerland in conjunction with Dr. Pat Bowen, Ph.D. Research Scientist, Viticulture and Plant Physiology also at AAFC-PARC Summerland, the final boundaries were decided. Wine consultant, Rhys Pender MW of Wine Plus+ helped to compile the proposal.

With the Okanagan Valley DVA comprising around four-fifths of all British Columbia’s vineyard area, yet producing wines from many different mesoclimates and terroirs, it is a widely held belief that there is a need to break this large, single appellation into meaningful, scientifically unique sub-DVAs that produce distinctive wines. Golden Mile Bench is the first such application to the BC Wine Authority.

The proposal was submitted to the BC Wine Authority (BCWA) on May 20th. The BCWA will conduct consultations within the region and a vote by ballot amongst the relevant stakeholders within the proposed region’s boundaries. Once the due diligence has been completed and assuming the BCWA determines that all requirements have been met, it will then submit the proposal to the Minister of Agriculture for approval.

Any enquiries about the status of the proposal should be directed to the BC Wine Authority (http://www.bcvqa.ca).

A question and answer section with more details is included below.

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Questions & Answers:

When will the Golden Mile Bench DVA become official?
The proposal has been submitted to the BC Wine Authority who conduct the process as laid out in the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation. Assuming the Authority determines that the requirements of the Regulation are met, it will then submit the proposal to the Minister of Agriculture for approval. There is currently no existing time estimate.

Who conducted the scientific study to determine the proposed boundaries?
The boundaries were decided after in-depth analysis by Scott Smith, a soil scientist with the Pacific Agri – Food Research Centre (PARC) in Summerland in conjunction with Dr. Pat Bowen, a Viticulture Research Scientist also at PARC.

Will some vineyards or wineries be excluded from the new DVA?
As required under the Regulation, the area of the proposed DVA has been drawn up using a scientific basis. Some producers in the area have vineyards both in and out of the proposed DVA and some vineyards are even cut into two by the boundaries. Also, any winery who buys grapes from within the proposed DVA can use those grapes to make a Golden Mile Bench DVA designation.

Will there be more sub-DVAs created in the near future?
All those involved hope that this will be the start of creating a number of scientifically defined unique sub-DVAs that help tell the story of the unique regions of the Okanagan Valley.

What does a sub-DVA mean and how will it appear on labels?
When a sub-DVA is created, it applies to all of the vineyards within the defined boundaries. Any winery (not just those located in the sub-DVA) making wine from grapes grown within the sub-DVA could use the name “Golden Mile Bench” as an appellation of origin on the label of that particular wine.

Winery Contacts 
CC Jentsch Cellars – Chris Jentsch / jentsch@eastlink.ca
CheckMate Artisanal Winery – David Wilson / dwilson@markanthony.com
Culmina Family Estate Winery – Donald Triggs / donald.triggs@culmina.ca
Fairview Cellars – Bill Eggert / beggert@img.net
Gehringer Brothers – Walter Gehringer / w.gehringer@telus.net
Hester Creek – Mark Sheridan / mark@hestercreek.com
Inniskillin Okanagan – Josie Tyabji / josie.tyabji@cbrands.com
Golden Mile Cellars Inc. (Road 13 Vineyards) – Pam Luckhurst / pam@road13vineyards.com
Rustico Farm and Cellars Ltd. – Bruce Fuller / bfuller@rusticowinery.com
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards – Sandra Oldfield / sandra@tinhorn.com