Harry McWatters, CEO of TIME Winery, enjoyed a glass of the winery’s first ever sparkling wine, TIME brut at the winery’s recently celebrated one-year anniversary earlier this month. The family of McWatters announced his sudden death on July 23. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

B.C. wine industry legend Harry McWatters dies

Among his accomplishments, McWatters founded the province’s first estate winery, Sumac Ridge Estate

The family of Harry McWatters, a legend in the B.C. wine industry and founder of multiple South Okanagan vineyards and wineries, announced his sudden death on July 23. He was 74 years old.

According to a Facebook post by TIME Winery and Kitchen, which was co-owned by McWatters, he passed away peacefully in his sleep in the comfort of his Summerland home. McWatters currently acted as president and chief executive officer of Encore Vineyards.

“Harry’s sudden passing comes as a surprise to all as he was only last week celebrating the success and anniversary of our downtown Penticton winery, TIME Winery and Kitchen,” stated the post. “Currently, we ask that you please respect the privacy of Harry’s family as they experience the shock and magnitude of this loss. Memorial details will be shared when they become available.”

Related:Five decades of making wines

McWatters’ involvement in the B.C. wine industry began decades ago, first as a salesman, then founding Sumac Ridge Estate Winery in 1980. Fifteen years later, he founded See Ya Later Ranch Estate Winery, and went on to sell both wineries in 2000 to Vincor Canada. At the time of the sales, he remained president of both wineries and vice president of Vincor Canada until he “retired” in 2008 to establish Vintage Consulting Group.

According to his profile with Encore Vineyards Ltd., a company for which he co-developed the business model, other accomplishments of McWatters include founding VQA Canada and serving as its first chairman, acting as the founding chair of the BC Wine Information Society and the BC Hospitality Foundation and recently launching TIME Estate Winery and the McWatters Collection.

“Harry received an honourary doctor of laws degree from Okanagan University College and, in 2003, received the prestigious Order of British Columbia for his service to the B.C. wine industry,” states the Encore Vineyards Ltd. website.

Leeann Froese, co-owner of Town Hall Brands: Vancouver Marketing & PR Agency, said she’s known McWatters both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She said that he was passionate not only about his businesses and the wine industry but also about giving back to the greater community.

“It’s been my honour to work with Harry for the past 20+ years. I’ve learned many things from him and he’s inspired many people,” said Froese. “Many of the people in the B.C. and Canadian wine industry owe him a debt of gratitude for the path that he’s laid.”

In the hour since the announcement about McWatters’ death was made on the TIME Winery Facebook page, hundreds of comments have flooded in, both expressing their utmost sympathies to the family and their many thanks to the legend himself.

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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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