PENTICTON, BC, Aug. 29, 2017 /CNW/ - Hailed as the Okanagan Valley's great wine pioneer, Harry McWatters marked his 50th vintage on August 28, 2017 with the very first crush at the new TIME Winery facility in downtown Penticton. McWatters is credited with laying down the foundation that would build British Columbia's wine industry into the award-winning, internationally-recognized, $3 billion industry it is today.
After making his own wine in the 1960s, McWatters worked as a sales manager at Casabello Wines in 1968, and then settled with his family in the Okanagan in 1979, and built British Columbia's first estate winery, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery, in 1980. It was here that McWatters marked a number of industry "firsts":
- the release of the province's first traditional method sparkling wine
- the first varietal Chardonnay
- the largest planting of Bordeaux vinifera on the Black Sage Road
- releasing Canada's first 'Meritage' (a red or white wine blended from Bordeaux varietals), making it a truly international term.
“This is truly a milestone, and it’s not just one for me, but for the industry. People didn’t believe that we’d one day have an industry like we do now, but we survived. Fortunately, there were a number of us that banded together, that were stubborn enough to say that we’re not giving up. We created the BCWI and VQA Canada in 1990, which brought about meaningful standards for our industry. My challenge to the industry of today is that we must continue to raise the bar so that we can make sure our customers have great confidence in what’s in the bottle.
— Harry McWatters
McWatters is the founding chair of several landmark organizations that continue to shape and support the Canadian wine industry, including the British Columbia Wine Institute (BCWI), VQA Canada, the BC Wine Information Society, the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, and the British Columbia Hospitality Foundation. Now the CEO and president of ENCORE Vineyards Ltd., the home to TIME Winery, Evolve Cellars and McWatters Collection, McWatters and his team are in the midst of opening the new TIME Winery in a revitalized historic theatre in downtown Penticton.
Lauded many times over, McWatters has numerous accolades:
- Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Okanagan University College (2001);
- Order of British Columbia (2003);
- Both the Golden (2002) and Diamond (2013) Jubilee Medals of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II;
- Inducted into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2005;
- 2017, the Spirited Industry Professional award at the Vancouver International Wine Festival;
- July 2017: the 2017 BCWI Award of Distinction, in recognition of his outstanding leadership, commitment and passion for the advancement of the British Columbia wine industry.