Canadian wine industry toasts vintner Harry McWatters

The Vancouver International Wine Festival presented Harry McWatters, president/CEO of Encore Vineyards in Penticton, British Columbia, with its Spirited Industry Professional Award on Feb. 17, 2017. (Photo by Voth Photography/Courtesy of Town Hall Brands)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The 39th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival took time Friday toward the end of its nine-day celebration to pay tribute to iconic British Columbia vintner Harry McWatters.

He received the VanWineFest’s Spirited Industry Professional Award in front of more than 300 attendees of the Celebrating Excellence Awards Luncheon at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s Parkview Terrace.

“Harry McWatters is, quite simply, the Robert Mondavi of British Columba wines,” said Toronto-based journalist Tony Aspler.

The annual SIP Award is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the sales, service or promotion of wine in British Columbia.

“Harry has been instrumental in building the BC wine industry into something that is producing serious, quality wines that are growing in reputation around the world,” said Rhys Pender, a native of Australia who became Canada’s youngest Master of Wine. He’s now an educator, author and vintner in the Similkameen Valley.

This year, McWatters, CEO/President of Encore Vineyards, will celebrate 50 vintages in the BC wine industry. He and his daughter Christa-Lee McWatters Bond plan to open their TIME Winery project in a historic building in downtown Penticton. The facility will produce wines under the TIME, Evolve Cellars and McWatters Collection labels.

“I’m humbled, I’m honored, and very proud of all you producers and merchants for making Canada a great wine producing country,” McWatters said as part of his acceptance speech.

McWatters approaches 50th vintage in BC

The 2017 vintage will be the 50th in British Columbia for Harry McWatters. (Photo by Christopher Stenberg/Courtesy of Town Hall Brands)

He spearheaded the BC Wine Institute and the Vintners Quality Alliance, two programs critical to the development of the modern British Columbia wine industry. McWatters helped develop the Black Sage Bench into perhaps the important vineyard site in Canada and sparked the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society.

In 1968, McWatters began his career in the BC wine industry as sales manager at Casabello Wines in Vancouver. He moved to the Okanagan Valley in 1977 with his family, founding Sumac Ridge Estate Winery in Summerland in 1980 and See Ya Later Ranch near Okanagan Falls in 1995. Both wineries were sold to Vincor – now Constellation Brands — in 2000.

McWatters also set the standard in the Pacific Northwest wine industry with the Cellar Door Bistro at Sumac Ridge, the first on-premise restaurant of its kind in the region.

In 2002, the recipient of the Order of British Columbia was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. A decade later, British Columbia’s Speaker of the House presented McWatters with the province’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.







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