A great wine experience

Pouring for patrons – working in a wine shop

You’ve probably noticed a plethora of job ads, social media postings, and other alerts from wineries throughout the Okanagan.

Not only is it pruning season in the vineyard, but hiring season is in full swing in the tasting rooms.

There is a strong demand for wine shop associates, winery hospitality managers, wine club coordinators and others who look after the customer experience after the wine has gone into the bottle.

It’s often seasonal work (May to October), and part-time. Both parameters are a challenge for those seeking “regular” work, not to mention the oft talked about housing issues for employees.

As the industry matures, though, these gigs have the potential to morph into year-round roles, likely with a break in January or February. And they can offer a lot of flexibility in scheduling, plus access to numerous events, industry discounts, and educational opportunities.

I’ve worked in a few tasting rooms over the last decade, and stepped behind the table for wineries at events so their staff could take a break, as long as I knew about the wines and could speak about them intelligently.

If you want to work out front in a winery, the first piece of practical advice I can give you is take a wine class.

Your application should go to the top of the pile if you have taken a WSET class or two. This is the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, and having the Level 1 certificate, usually a one-day class, will give you some basics. Getting serious about winery work?

Go for Level 2 and 3, and if you’re really, really serious and wine is your new career path, start saving tuition money for the WSET diploma.

While you’re at it, get your Serving It Right certificate. It’s easy to do online, and teaches you the basics of serving alcohol in B.C. It’s a requirement for many reasons, and believe it or not, it comes in handy for other purposes, such as when you need a special occasion licence to pour booze at a public event.

Have a look at a few classes at Okanagan College, particularly the Wine Sales Certificate program, or a few continuing studies sessions on food and wine pairing, wines of the world, as well as beer and spirits.

Well-rounded knowledge will help you direct guests to restaurants, nearby libations, or choose a wine to pair with dinner.

The second piece of advice? Get to know the wines of the establishment where you’d like to spend the summer. You’re preparing for a job interview. Do your homework.

  • How many wines do they make?
  • What do they not produce?
  • Are the grapes all grown on the property or other parts of the valley?

Never forget, this is a sales job, and you have to be able to read people. You’re not just selling the wine, but the culinary experience of the Okanagan, looking to create repeat visits.

More Okanagan Taste articles

About the Author

A creative thinker with more than two decades of experience in communications, Allison is an early adopter of social and digital media, bringing years of work in traditional media to the new frontier of digital engagement marketing through her company, All She Wrote.

She is the winner of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's 2011 and 2012 awards for Social Media Initiative, an International LERN award for marketing, and the 2014 Penticton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Hospitality/Tourism.

Allison has amassed a following on multiple social networks of more than 30,000, frequently writes and about social media, food and libations as well as travel and events, and through her networks, she led a successful bid to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton in June 2013, one of the largest social media wine events in the world, generating 31 million social media impressions, $1 million in earned media, and an estimated ongoing economic impact of $2 million.

In 2014, she held the first Canadian Wine Tourism Summit to spark conversation about the potential for wine tourism in Canada as a year-round economic driver.

Allison contributes epicurean content to several publications, has been a judge for several wine and food competitions, and has earned her advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

In her spare time, she has deep, meaningful conversations with her cats.

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories