So, I’m not going to lie. I’m sitting on the beach at Osoyoos, British Columbia, writing this. I’m about to start the third week of what I affectionately call my “BC Wine Sabbatical”. I can’t believe I’m already starting my third week!
So the idea to spend the summer in Wine Country in British Columbia was a bit of a joke at first. When I completed my exam for the Advanced Certificate (Level 3) of my WSET training, everyone asked when I would start the 4th (Diploma) level. After managing to become pretty wound up over the level 3 exam, the thought of 2 years of courses, that is basically done by correspondence was enough to make me hesitate. Plus, it’s $7000. I could do a lot of travelling and actually spend time in vineyards learning from the ground up. Wait a minute….
…I could spend some time in vineyards (insert light bulb cartoon here). Since I hadn’t taken any actual vacation days since starting at Sherbrooke (that’s nearly 3 weeks), maybe I could go to BC? Why don’t I work in a winery in BC? I wonder if Sherbrooke would be ok with the idea of me running away to BC for the summer? And so the wheels in my head started turning a little faster than they normally do. I made a few inquiries, and lo and behold, I’m sitting on a beach in Osoyoos trying to focus enough to write down some thoughts. I’m not going to lie, the pieces for what I was, at that point, calling my ‘bat shit crazy summer plans’ fell into place relatively easily. Probably the easiest thing ever for me, truthfully.
Even though I know that several of the Sales Agents would have helped me find a job, this was something that I needed to do on my own. Should the unthinkable happen, and my plans go wrong, I didn’t want anyone else’s name to be involved. I’m pretty familiar with a lot of the BC Wineries (at least what we get in Alberta, anyhow. It’s no secret that the ‘good stuff’ rarely makes it into Alberta!) I was pretty lucky with my initial dip into job pool. I started applying at wineries in which I respected the wine and enjoyed. Luckily, I was contacted by Le Vieux Pin quickly, and the ensuing conversations with the Tasting Room Manager left me feeling like I had made a good choice, and I would enjoy working with Le Vieux Pin.
If I can get a touch more personal here, I have to admit, I don’t actually think I was truly aware of what I was doing until I had been here in Oliver for 3 or 4 days. Then it hit me that I did not know a soul here. But thank god for the miracle of texting, and for various social media outlets (@spiritedtara for those of you who want to hear about my adventures. Occasionally hourly. Sometimes with chickens! I’m not kidding. More on them in a future blog, though). This way I can still keep in contact with everyone in Edmonton. However, it IS tourist season, and both weekends that I’ve been here, there have been some Edmonton friends in the valley doing some wine touring here. Why wouldn’t you come here if you enjoy wine? Oliver is the Wine Capital of Canada. It says so on the Welcome to Oliver sign.
In a nutshell, here are some completely random observations from my first 2 weeks in Wine Country:
You literally couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a winery in and around Oliver. Once you move towards Penticton and Osoyoos, it’s not the case. Well, until you cross over onto the Naramata Bench… Oliver shuts down early. That’s hard for this city girl. But the best Indian food I think I’ve ever had is on Main Street. Most Calgarians leave during Stampede and come to Wine Country. Winemakers are people too. They shop at the same places in town as everyone else. This leads to me to a lot of wondering when I’m at the grocery store (I tend to think of Winemakers like some people think of rock stars. With a lot of awe and respect). Between the fruit orchards and the grapevines, I haven’t seen a cow in 2 weeks. But I did find Spring Creek Ranch Alberta beef being served in an Osoyoos restaurant. Coincidentally that restaurant was called the Lizard Lounge Wine Bar. Seriously. I might end up spending more money on wine over the next 9 weeks than I ever have spent on wine before. There must be a way to claim some if it on my income tax, since this technically is my job/career….