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

writing, wine, and beautiful automobiles

In February I celebrate working the freelance writing thing for six years. It’s crazy. And pretty awesome.

Freelancing has been my sole source of income since June 2012. That’s no small feat, considering my partner isn’t in a position to shoulder more than his share of our expenses – mortgage, car/home insurance, health care, utilities etc. I know writers who don’t need to rely on their income from writing, and I’m happy for them – I’m just not one of them.

The landscape of this life is a patchwork of individual projects, pitching assignments to publications, and finding the elusive regular/ongoing contract. It’s tedious and tiring, but flexible and rewarding in ways not measured by a bank balance. After several years of juggling competing deadlines and surviving lean ‘quiet’ months, I’ve managed to assemble a less jumbled combination of contracts and regular stints. Translation: the times are a-changin’.

endings

Orofino's 1.6 Mile Dinner with Joy Road Catering
Orofino’s 1.6 Mile Dinner with Joy Road Catering

As I make my way into a few more structured contracts, I’m bidding farewell to a few regular gigs – including one that has been dear to my heart since 2011: EAT Magazine.

Under the guidance of brilliant writer/editor/wine professional Treve Ring, I wrote more than 30 articles for EAT’s digital presence and a number of others in ink. At times the writing world can be cold, but Treve (and publisher Gary Hynes) provided me with a warm place to test my writing chops and push boundaries – my own included. I’ll miss writing with EAT, and I hope to contribute occasionally. I have Treve & Gary to thank for things too numerous to list.

beginnings

fangirl time with pro driver Patrick Carpentier
fangirl with pro driver Patrick Carpentier (photo credit: Voth Photography)

For the last year I’ve been working with the lovely group at South Okanagan Motorsports. They’re the folks building Area 27 – a private Motorsports club & track outside of Oliver on land owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band. With my dad an auto body tech and painter, I saw many cars at an early age and have been in love with beautiful automobiles ever since. (16-year-old me had an enormous crush on Jacques Villeneuve)

Things are moving quickly for Area 27 so I’m dedicating more time to them. It might seem an exclusive group, and it takes more than a few bones to join (it is a private club), but the people involved are some of the kindest I know. I arrive with my beater of a ride and park in a lot stacked with cars most only dream about, but no one cares that my ’91 Accord has a belt squeal or exhaust leak. (I’ve also met Richard Spenard, Patrick Carpentier, and Trevor Seibert – which is totally rad)

the wine part

don't assume the valve can be opened
don’t assume the valve can be opened

After making more than a few trips to Covert Farms in the past few years, I’m smitten with the place. In September 2014, I signed on to work harvest as cellar hand; I had no experience but oodles of theoretical awareness. Why work harvest? I’m a writer – I like to know my subject matter. It was gruelling, cold, wet, and exhausting work. It was also engaging, rewarding, fascinating, and addicting.

Since then, the dynamic duo of Gene and Derek have decided to keep me around for a couple of days per week. It’s a small operation experiencing enormous growth, which means people wear many hats and flexibility is required. My having other freelance contracts makes it easier for them, and they can be flexible and adapt to my crazy schedule. It’s win-win.

Lastly, there’s a super rad contract that I’ll be announcing mid-February. No details until then, sorry.

Keeping my hand in the pot, I’ll continue with a few bits-and-pieces contracts that are meaningful and interesting. It’s been a tough slog to get here and I know the challenges are far from over. I’m fortunate to work with wonderful clients who trust me to tell their stories – and there are many more to come.

I’m grateful to each of you who has supported me, fed me, proofed for me, listened to my crazy ideas, and helped me on this wackadoodle path that is freelance writing. You’ll probably end up as characters in a novel that I never publish.

Here’s to a year ahead of writing, wine, and beautiful automobiles.

~ 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