Okanagan Life Part 1: Arriving in the valley

Getting into the year 2011 I am looking back not just on the last year, but the last two years.  The last two years I spent living in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.  I decided to move out west after graduating from Niagara College’s Winemaking and Viticulture program in the summer of 2008.  I drove out with a friend at the end of September.  I had no job lined up for when we arrived.  It was odd time of year to be looking for work in the wine industry.  Wineries have hired their crush team for the fall and are letting go of their summer front of house staff.  This didn’t faze me as I was determined to be out west to taste the wines, learn about the area and experience another one of Canada’s wine regions.

The view and vineyards at Greata Ranch, Summerland, BC.

After little success finding a job, my friend and I decided we would pick grapes for some cash.  We picked Chardonnay at Greata Ranch in Summerland for a day.  The scenery was amazing, the vineyards stretched down to Lake Okanagan, the warm sun cast over the mountains and the water.  This grape picking business was alright.  Later in the week we knocked on some winery doors in West Kelowna to inquire about grape picking.  We were told to visit the guys at Rollingdale, as they might be looking for some help.  We drove down the dusty driveway to a quonset hut with a Willms press out front.  As we got out of the car a man strolled down the pathway from the vineyard, this was Steve Dale, proprietor and head vitner.  We inquired about picking grapes.  He said there wasn’t any picking going on (the estate fruit was for icewine) but we could stay for the day to help bottle 2007 Luminescence Chardonnay – if we didn’t mind being paid in wine.  We happily agreed.  Steve showed us into the winery.  It was full of barrels and tanks, a tiny brown bar from someone’s basement in the 70’s was at the entrance.  The bottling line was just getting set up so we killed some time by tasting through the wines at the bar and then some samples from barrel too.   Finally the line was set and we got to work on the four spout filler, corker and heat gun.  The time flew by as we bottled away.  It was a warm fall day but not too warm, so the large garage door was open at the front of the quonset hut and the tunes on the computer speaker sound system were groovin’.  Occasional customers stopped in to purchase wine and check out the bottling in action.  Just as many wine industry comrades stopped in on the friendly winery to catch up and taste the newly bottled wine.  I didn’t know it at that moment, but Rollingdale Winery and the team of four people who run the operation would later become a big part of my life.

A rainbow over Rollingdale, West Kelowna, BC.

Barrel tasting inside Rollingdale. Left to right: Peter owner of Cellar-Tek, Steve proprietor of Rollingdale, Kyp Vineyard Manager at Rollingdale, myself, Jeff, Krimo formerly with Mercier Cooperage.

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About allisonvidug

Allison has been professionally passionate about wine and food for eight years. In that short time, Allison has traveled across Canada to work at some of the finest establishments focussed on premium wine, food and service. Her travels and education has allowed Allison the pleasure to live in some of Canada’s most beautiful locations such as the Okanagan Valley, Niagara Peninsula, the Southern Gulf Islands, Toronto, Lake Louise and Muskoka. Some of Allison's favourite things include; wine, gin, whisky, cheese, mushrooms, cooking, hosting, growing vegetables, cottaging and dogs. Allison has seriously invested in her education of food and drink. She is a graduate of the Food and Beverage Management Diploma Program at George Brown College. She also holds a Diploma in Viticulture and Winery Management from Niagara College. Allison has fine tuned her wine and spirit sensory skills by completing certificates with the International Sommelier Guild and the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. Allison is currently completing here WSET Diploma, one of the highest levels of wine education.
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