A Tribute to Harry McWatters: A BC Wine Pioneer

Harry McWatters with a bottle of his Time Estate Red Meritage
Harry McWatters with a bottle of his Time Estate Red Meritage

It was truly a sad day in the BC wine community yesterday, July 23, 2019, when we were all shocked by the sudden passing of Harry McWatters.  A pioneer who helped lead the wine for quality BC wine.  I met with Harry casually during the Vancouver International Wine Festivals, where he was always busy, but always smiling.  I had a chance to interview him once and also his daughter Christa-Lee.  Both mentioned each other in their interviews with me.

Harry had his latest venture TIME Estate Winery well underway.  In fact, TIME Winery was having an Open House on July 12 in downtown Penticton where they were celebrating their 1st anniversary with the launch of a sparkling wine.

Others have known Harry for much longer than me, plus had the chance to work with him on Boards or Committees over time.  Miles Prodan from the BC Wine Institute released a statement about Harry, which I have below for you to read, as Miles had much more interaction with Harry.



Dear Members and Colleagues,

The BC Wine Industry is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Harry McWatters yesterday. Harry was a true British Columbia wine pioneer, whose influence has been momentous in the evolution of our industry.

Our deepest condolences go out to the McWatters family and friends.

With vision and confidence, Harry was a driving force in the British Columbia wine industry for more than 50 years. In 1980, Harry founded British Columbia’s first estate winery, Sumac Ridge, where he later produced the first British Columbia sparkling wine made by the classical method (Steller’s Jay Cuvee 1987). He was also a pioneer in establishing the Okanagan Wine Festival Society.

In 1990, Harry was appointed as Founding Chair of the newly-formed British Columbia Wine Institute where he played an instrumental role in establishing BC VQA – laying the groundwork for detailing and maintaining high standards of quality and transparency for the BC Wine Industry. Harry remained Chair of the BCWI Board until 1997 and continued as a Director through 2007.

Harry was also the Founding Chair of Vintners Quality Alliance of Canada, founding Chair of the British Columbia Wine Information Society, founding Chair of the British Columbia Hospitality Foundation, and a long-term Director on the Canadian Vintners Association.

A dedicated advocate of BC VQA Wine, Harry was key to the BC Wine Industry’s growth from the first estate winery to more than 280 grape wineries operating in the province today. His drive, ambition and command for excellence has helped build an internationally-recognized wine industry – an industry that contributes more than $2.8 billion to the provincial economy, supports 12,000 full-time jobs, and attracts roughly one million visitors annually.

“This year set a benchmark for the BC Wine Industry with BC VQA Wine reaching an all-time high of 19.25 per cent of wine market share in BC (litres),” says Miles Prodan, President & CEO of the BC Wine Institute. “Harry McWatters’ contributions and commitment to quality cannot be understated in the success of the entire industry.”

For his business and community work, Harry received numerous domestic and international awards and lifetime achievements in the areas of winemaking and marketing, business development and entrepreneurialism. Among these achievements, he received the Medal of the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; the Order of British Columbia (outstanding achievement); induction into the British Columbia Restaurant Hall of Fame; and the Canadian Vintners Association Award of Distinction, to name just a few.

Next year, as the BC Wine Industry celebrates its 30th anniversary, we will look back on these achievements and raise a glass to Harry.

Cheers to you, Harry. You are a true pioneer of our industry who will be deeply missed. The industry won’t be the same without you.


Miles Prodan
President & CEO, British Columbia Wine Institute

My Articles about Harry McWatters and Christa-Lee McWatters-Bond

Evolve Cellars Viognier and McWatters Collection Chardonnay
Evolve Cellars Viognier and McWatters Collection Chardonnay

I had the privilege of tasting and writing about the wines produced by Harry and Christa-Lee, as well as interviewing both of them.  Here is the link to my articles; both interviews and my wine tasting reviews.  Please raise a glass of BC wine to Harry this week.



Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.