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

the rise of farm dinners

For many, the bulk of our food shopping is done in fluorescent-lit grocery store aisles with a weekly foray to the coveted local farmers market – if we’re lucky. We live anywhere from 4 to 8 process steps away from that vegetable in the ground or fruit on the tree. (don’t get me started on meat – read my thoughts about it here)

There are fewer chances to interact with food in the way we’re meant to – how we’ve been doing so for generations, until the last century. Not everyone can reside close to where our food comes from; and let’s face it, most of our food no longer comes from the farmer down the road.

With the growth of the Okanagan wine industry comes a rise in agri-food tourism. This is a good thing. It gives area farmers a chance to get their wares in front of folks who have substantial buying power – and therefore, consumer influence.

There are some folks doing it right. The Coverts are an Okanagan farm family going back several generations. Today, Gene and Shelly Covert operate the now organic farm and own Covert Family Estate winery. They get it: farmers markets, accessible and good food, mindful farming… you name it. They’re also helping change the face of wine, and I’ll bet they don’t even realize it. For consumer purposes, we’ve romanticized wine production – in the real world, farming isn’t all that pretty.

Gene’s just as likely to be out fixing irrigation as he is to be in the lab testing wine, and the last time I was at the farm Shelly was in a homeschooling session with their two boys. There’s paperwork and payroll, especially in the busy summer season when farm workers multiply exponentially, and their organic home delivery program doesn’t run itself.

So where does the winemaker dinner fit? Instead of adding to the facade perpetuated by so many, this is where the Covert family brings us in – all in – to their real world. (dressed up, yes – but farm glam, not city glam)

Weathered picnic tables line the patio, no linens required. Simple place settings reflect the afternoon sun and illuminate the dinner table. A fish is in the outdoor smoker, and a pig is roasting on the spit. Farm-fresh carrots and potatoes accompany the meal with no fanfare – just great taste.

We sit shoulder-to-shoulder and are served family-style on large sharing plates. Wine is poured, but not glorified. Guests are encouraged to sip and indulge at our own speed. The fish and pig are dressed table-side, right in front of us.

Dusk falls, and voices rise. We celebrate the miracle of pig fat – as a seasoning on vegetables or in the chewy goodness of ‘crackling’. We’re sated, and leave feeling like we’ve just enjoyed a lovely family meal. If Gene or Shelly were to ask any of us for help on the farm the next day, the answer would have been a resounding yes because that’s what family does.

As we invent new ways to remove ourselves from the mess of nature, it’s people like the Coverts who remind us why that might not be what we need. The farm dinner could be one solution to a problem we haven’t even begun to realize is staring us in the face, every day.

Pork fat is the answer – to almost any question. Here, our pig is adding juicy goodness to the roasted potatoes.
If I never see another white linen table cloth, I won’t be sad. The weathered grey of these picnic tables is beauty.
As pretty as it is, it’s not a prop – this old truck serves as a field guide for farm tours. It’s not afraid to get dirty.
The spring salmon goes from smoker to table side. No interruptions.
(l-r) Gene Covert, Derek Uhlemann, and Jeff Van Geest: the three people at the heart of feeding and watering us.
Roast pig, with potatoes and carrots (seasoned with salt, parsley, and pig drippings). Wine: Covert Farms 2007 Rosé (left), Tinhorn Creek 2011 Rosé (right). Did I say delicious? Delicious.
Two of the most badass chefs you’ll ever want to feed you.

my wicked-awesome okanagan: part I

I live in a pretty stellar place. An acquaintance referred to it as “living in the best bread basket in Canada”, and I’m inclined to agree. More than inclined.

Due in large part to the surroundings, but also as a result of having gained the friendship of excellent people, I’m spoiled. Fairly regularly, at that. Great food, beautiful wines, and rockstar company. It’s true, and I’m grateful.

As of June 2013, a few hundred bloggers will visit my oasis. Sweet!

To whet a few appetites, I’m counting down the weeks (and days) to their arrival with photo-essays of what life is like in these parts – so they’ll be as stoked as I am about what goes on around here.

Cheers,

~ Jeannette

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Communal Table Dinners at Miradoro (Tinhorn Creek Vineyards)

During the shoulder seasons, executive chef Jeff Van Geest hosts the ultimate dinner parties on Tuesday night. I’ve attended two this season – and caught the most recent on camera-phone. The theme: forage. Everything was foraged from the local hills and valleys, that day or the previous day. (except the cattails – wild harvested the previous day from the greater Vancouver area, by a visiting chef)

Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
first course: raw cattails with mustard aioli (wood ivy and dandelion)
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
second course: halibut elderflower ceviche, garnished with prickly pear cactus, arrow leaf balsamroot stems, wild chrysanthemum, and biscuit root flower
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
third course: snail ravioli with in nettle sauce, wild mustard greens salad
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
fourth course: grilled quail with wild watercress and chicken “cracker”
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
fifth course: hay ice cream (seriously delicious), tree fruit blossoms, heart nut cake, with last season’s cherry preserve
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
there was wine. plenty of it. at one point there were four glasses in front of me – just another Tuesday night in the Okanagan

The best part: my house is a seven minute drive from this.

Now that’s what wicked-awesome Okanagan means.