Harry McWatters is a legend in the world of the British Columbia Wine Wine Industry. He is perhaps best known as the founder of Sumac Estate Winery in 1980 and as the director of the British Columbia Wine Institute from its beginning in 1990. He also founded See Ya Later Ranch, Harry has been and remains a vital leader in developing quality standards for wine growing, winemaking, and wine marketing in the province.
In Spring of 2000, Sumac Ridge Estate Wine Group was sold to Vincor Canada (now Constellation Brands) and McWatters continued as president of Sumac Ridge and See Ya Later Ranch as well as Vice-President of Vincor Canada. Harry “retired” as President of Sumac Ridge Estate Winery effective April 30, 2008; On May 1, 2008, Harry established Vintage Consulting Group Inc. and the Okanagan Wine Academy. He is currently co-owner of Time Estate Winery on Black Sage Road in Oliver, BC.
Harry started at Casabello Wines in 1968 heading up their sales department. In 1978, he was promoted to Director of Marketing and transferred to the Okanagan Valley, Harry has been a driving force in the development of British Columbia's wine industry. In 1980, he led a group of wineries and local businesses to establish the Okanagan Wine Festival Society and acted as founding president. The society completed its 30th annual fall wine festival in 2010 and is listed as one of the “Top 100 Events in North America.” In 1990, he was appointed by the province of British Columbia to chair the newly formed British Columbia Wine Institute, a position which he held for five years and served as a Director for 17 years. An industry association that represents winery operators and grape growers, the institute was formed to help guide industry through the trade challenges presented by GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement).
In addition, he is the founding chairman of the British Columbia Wine Information Society. He is also a Director of the Canadian Vintners Association, founding Chairman of VQA Canada and is the founding Chairman of the British Columbia Hospitality Foundation.
Harry was also instrumental in founding VQA Canada, a trade association that spearheaded the development of national wine standards for Canadian vintners and served as the first Chairman. In June 2001, Harry was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Okanagan University College in recognition for the pivotal role he played in the development of both British Columbia's and Canada's wine industry.
The establishment of Sumac Ridge is quite significant as it became one the of best known wineries in Canada. In 1992 a 115 acre vineyard on Black Sage Road was purchased. Here one of the largest vineyard planting in Canada began, Harry and legendary viticulturist Dick Cleave opted to plant Bordeaux varieties, which most gave little hope of being able to ripen on a regular basis. The vineyard is now one of the best in the Okanagan.
Sumac was the first to develop a commercially successful Okanagan sparkling wine; the first to have a winery restaurant; the first winery in Canada to begin using Meritage on its Bordeaux blends; and the first Okanagan winery to release a $50-a-bottle of wine. The winery also helped to popularize Gewürztraminer, the largest selling Canadian Gewürztraminer is Sumac Ridges' Private Reserve.
Harry was also instrumental in founding VQA Canada, a trade association that spearheaded the development of national wine standards for Canadian vintners. He served as their first Chairman.
In June 2001, McWatters was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Okanagan University College in recognition of the pivotal role he played in the development of both British Columbia's and Canada's wine industry.
Upon retiring from Vincor he almost immediately set up
Vintage Consulting Group Inc., a wine industry talent pool he assembled in Penticton. The business also includes the Okanagan Wine Academy in Summerland.
In 2011 he released the first wine bearing his name,
The McWatters Collection 2007 Meritage.
In 2003 Dr. McWatters was awarded the Order of British Columbia, for outstanding achievement
Harry marked his 50th vintage on August 28, 2017, with the very first crush at the new TIME Winery facility in downtown Penticton, BC
Sadly, Dr. Harry McWatters passed away on July 23, 2019.