I N M E M O R I U M
Quench your thirst!
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More than 50 years in B.C. wine
McWatters got his start in the wine business in B.C. at Casabello
Wines in 1968, taking the helm of their sales department. A decade
later, he took the role of director of marketing and moved to the
Okanagan; already planning to subvert wine and winery regula-tions,
which had been described as “suffocating,” according to
noted BC wine expert and historian John Schreiner.
Among his long list of accomplishments, one of his early
milestones was in the creation of BCWI in 1990. He served as
founding chair until 1995 and remained on the board until 2007.
The BCWI represents member winery operators and grape grow-ers,
and exists to market the wine and wine regions of B.C. It acts
as an advocate to the government on behalf of a growing indus-try
that contributes more than $2 billion in provincial economic
The BCWI oversaw the creation of VQA Canada in 1990, a
trade association that delineated and enforced the development
of national wine standards for Canadian wines and wineries.
McWatters also served as its founding chair. Since that time, the
number of wineries in British Columbia has grown from 17 to 281,
while BC VQA wine is the second-best selling category in B.C.,
with approximately 19 per cent (by volume) of the market, ahead
of all wine-importing countries.
Of McWatters’ time as chair of these two ground-breaking
organizations, Schreiner said that Harry “had the ability to make
unreasonable regulations sensible, or to wiggle around pointless
rules. In doing so, he was always breaking ground that made the
(industry) easier for his peers.”
Such legislative victories included increasing, then doubling
the maximum production of estate wineries to make them finan-cially
viable and softening the rules around minimum acreage for
estate wineries. He also skirted the rules that eventually allowed
wineries to have restaurant licenses and sell food alongside
glasses of wine. These, among many other accomplishments, have
earned McWatters more than his fair share of supporters and
detractors along the way.
McWatters may be best known as the founder of Sumac
Ridge Estate Winery (1982), now one of the most recognized wine
brands in B.C. He sold the winery to Vincor (now Arterra Wines) in
2000, ultimately retiring as vice president of the company on April
30, 2008. His retirement was extremely short-lived. The very next
day he launched Vintage Consulting Group Inc. and the Okanagan
Wine Academy, which ultimately led to the formation of not one,
but three different labels.
Throughout his examined endeavours, the breadth and mag-nitude
of his impact will continue to have an effect on British
Columbia, and ultimately Canada, for decades to come.
Now, under the ENCORE Vineyards umbrella is TIME Winery,
Evolve Cellars and McWatters Collection.
Today, these three winery labels are popular on the B.C. wine
scene and have been capturing critical acclaim and many awards.
Two years ago marked McWatters’ 50th vintage in B.C., and
2018 marked the opening of the Time Winery facility in downtown
Penticton, the south Okanagan’s first downtown winery.
In July 2019, Time Winery celebrated its first anniversary
and McWatters sabered-opened the first sparkling wine from
We had no inkling that for many of us that would be our last
shared glass, but for all of us, I am sure we can all deal with his
departure a little easier seeing him there with Darrien, Christa-Lee
and his love, Lisa. He was looking very well and was so happy.
I’d like to earnestly thank everyone who took the time to read
this and for considering the remarkable life of the incomparable
His impressive life exemplifies what it means to be a father,
leader, innovator and a Canadian. I am blessed to have been part
of his inner circle, and I miss him so much already.
This tribute originally appeared on the Town Hall Brands blog and is
reprinted here will permission.
Courtesy of Chris Stenberg
FALL 2019 § POURED CANADA § 51