Harry McWatters a pioneer of the B.C. wine industry was the recipient of the Spirited Industry Professional Award at the Vancouver International Wine Festival. Submitted photo

Okanagan wine pioneer honoured

Okanagan Valley wine pioneer Harry McWatters was given an award at the Vancouver Wine Festival.

Hailed as the Okanagan Valley’s great wine pioneers, Harry McWatters was presented the Spirited Industry Professional Award at the Vancouver International Wine Festival.

McWatters, the CEO and president of ENCORE Vineyards Ltd., is a 50-vintage veteran of the wine industry. He has been credited with building B.C.’s wine industry into the award-winning, internationally-recognized business it is today.

Related: Time has built Okanagan wine industry

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

McWatters was recognized in front of a crowd of 340 peers in the Canadian wine industry at Celebrating Excellence: the 14th annual Awards Lunch on Feb. 17.

“I’m humbled, I’m honoured, and very proud of all you producers and merchants for making Canada a great wine producing country,” said McWatters.

Starting his investment in the B.C. wine industry in 1968 as a sales manager at Casabello Wines in Vancouver, McWatters moved to the Okanagan in 1977. He founded Sumac Ridge Estate Winery in 1980 and See Ya Later Ranch in 1995. Numerous firsts followed before the two wineries were sold to Vincor (now Constellation Brands) in 2000.

“Harry McWatters is, quite simply, the Robert Mondavi of British Columba wines,” said Tony Aspler, Canadian wine journalist and wine competition judge.

This year, McWatters celebrates 50 vintages in the B.C. wine industry, and showing no signs of slowing down, plans to open the new TIME Winery facility in a revitalized historic building in downtown Penticton this year, which will produce wines under the TIME Winery, Evolve Cellars and McWatters Collection labels.

Related: Urban winery coming to downtown

“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,” notes Rhys Pender MW, wine educator, judge, writer and winemaker.

McWatters started in the wine industry at a time when there was just 14 wineries in B.C. and 3,400 acres of grapes in the ground. Today B.C. is approaching 300 wineries and in excess of 11,000 acres of grapes.

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