WINE EXCELLENCE Harry McWatters, sometimes referred to as “the grandfather of the B.C. wine industry,” was a key figure in the growth and development of wines in this province. He was also a kind, humble and gracious man. (Summerland Review file photo)

COLUMN: Remembering the character of a wine legend

Speaking with Harry McWatters was a pleasant experience

Harry McWatters has been described as a visionary, a pioneer and a leader in the British Columbia wine industry.

His death last week, at the age of 74, has been mourned here in Summerland and throughout the province.

The list of his accomplishments is impressive. It includes founding Sumac Ridge Estate Winery in Summerland, See Ya Later Ranch in Okanagan Falls and Time Winery in Penticton.

He was also instrumental in forming the B.C. Wine Institute, the Vintners Quality Alliance Canada, the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society and the B.C. Hospitality Foundation.

His knowledge, which he was so very willing to share with others, was a factor in the growth of the British Columbia wine industry. Many have described him as their mentor and have spoken highly of the advice and guidance he provided.

READ ALSO: B.C. wine industry legend Harry McWatters dies

READ ALSO: McWatters celebrates fifty years of winemaking

His tireless work has been an important factor in the growth of this industry. Harry was a driving force in the growth of the entire British Columbia wine industry.

When I started working at the Summerland Review in the mid-1990s, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery was one of only two wineries in Summerland and the list of B.C. wineries was not long. Today, Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive has 19 winery members, and provincewide, there are 370 licensed wineries, according to the B.C. Wine Institute.

Harry played a key role during this growth and some have referred to him as “the grandfather of the B.C. wine industry.” He was also hugely influential in the growth of wine regions outside of the Okanagan, including Lillooet.

In addition to these incredible accomplishments, I will always remember Harry for his character, perhaps even more so than for his many achievements in the world of wine.

READ ALSO: Celebration of life scheduled for B.C, wine industry pioneer

Above all else, he was a kind, humble and gracious man.

I remember calling Harry many times over the years, for information on stories about the grape harvest, ice wine, changes and additions to the winery and awards for excellence given to Sumac Ridge.

Speaking with Harry was a pleasant experience.

He was extremely knowledgeable about wine, while all I knew about it was that it came from grapes and was sold in bottles.

Slowly and patiently, and over many years, Harry took the time to answer my questions, in terms I could understand.

When I’d speak with him about an award the winery had received, he would tell me about his staff and the role they played in making these award-winning wines.

Over the years, as the wine industry and Sumac Ridge Estate Winery both grew, I still found him to be accessible and personable.

Each time we talked, he treated me with respect, something I’ve always appreciated and valued about him.

He showed the same dignity to others.

In the years I’ve known him, I don’t recall ever hearing him speak badly about anyone or about any group of people. He was never insulting or condescending.

Last week, after learning of his death, I spent some time looking through back issues of the Summerland Review from the 1990s and early 2000s, reading stories and remembering pictures I had taken of Harry. This was a time to remember and reflect on someone I appreciated and admired.

It was always a treat to have an interview with Harry, and I’d feel good afterward.

While his many wine-related accomplishments are impressive, for me his kindness and character are the qualities which have defined him.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

To report a typo, email:
news@summerlandreview.com
.



news@summerlandreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelowna accepting applications for Artist in Residence program

Artists from all disciplines are welcome to apply

Central Okanagan receives less funding per student than B.C. average

In 2019, Central Okanagan received almost $500 less in funding per student

Okanagan Symphony Orchestra presents ‘Old Friends’

‘Old Friends’ features highly-regarded pianist Ian Parker

Unsolved crimes in the Central Okanagan

Unsolved crimes in Kelowna, Lake Country, West Kelowna

Kelowna welcomes first LQBTQ+ cocktail lounge

Friends of Dorothy lounge is located in downtown Kelowna

UPDATE: Protesters say they will maintain blockade near Chase “as long as it takes”

Signs at protest site say in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

EDITORIAL: Thoughtless posts to Facebook cause real harm and stress

At the risk of resembling a broken record, it needs to be… Continue reading

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Trans-Canada Highway closed between Salmon Arm and Sicamous

Drive BC reports the closure is the result of a vehicle incident.

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

VIDEO: Vernon man says stranger breaks in while family slept

Resident shares doorbell cam footage in hopes to ID suspect who raided his home and fridge

One dead in multi-vehicle collision involving logging truck on northern B.C. highway

DriveBC says highway expected to remain closed until 8 p.m.

B.C. teacher gets 15-year ban after lying about having sex with just-graduated student

Teacher had been dishonest with the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

Highway 97 petition founder encouraged by public’s reaction

Printed out, the list of 26,000 names creates a stack of paper four inches thick.

Most Read