Harry McWatters is a leader in the thriving British Columbia wine industry, and this year celebrates his 50th vintage! A serial entrepreneur from his early teens (which saw him making wine in his bathtub), he was founder of British Columbia’s first estate winery, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery, in 1980 and founder of See Ya Later Ranch Estate Winery in 1995. In the spring of 2000, Sumac Ridge Estate Wine Group was sold to Vincor Canada and Harry continued as president of Sumac Ridge and See Ya Later Ranch as well as fulfilling the role of Vice-President of Vincor Canada. Harry “retired” as President of Sumac Ridge Estate Winery effective April 30, 2008. The next day, he established Vintage Consulting Group Inc. to provide consulting services on all aspects of the wine business, from site selection of vineyards to marketing of the end product. He guides clients through the entire process, from the initial visioning and business plan through execution.
Harry began his business career at Casabello Wines in Penticton 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 continues to hold a very popular annual fall wine festival 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 then 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 2003, Harry was presented with the prestigious Order of British Columbia, for services to the British Columbia wine industry. He was 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 of the pivotal role he played in the development of both British Columbia's and Canada's wine industry. He was honoured with both the Gold and Diamond Jubilee medals from the Queen, and in 2017 was selected by his peers to receive the coveted SIP Award - The Spirited Industry Professional Award presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the sales, service or promotion of wine in British Columbia. Harry is the founding chair of the British Columbia Wine Information Society and of the British Columbia Hospitality Foundation.
Harry lives and works in his beloved Okanagan Valley, British Columbia and is currently the President & CEO of Encore Vineyards, which owns Evolve Cellars, McWatters Collection and TIME Winery. At the age of 72, he is converting an old theatre in Penticton to house the new state-of-the-art urban home of TIME Winery, and which, coincidentally, is 3 kilometers from where he started out 50 years ago at Casebello Wines.
- CHEERS! You're only as good as your last grape!
Harry knows that an award winning year in the wine industry is no guarantee that what worked in the past, will continue to work in the future. For 50 years, Harry has thrived in the challenging wine industry by constantly adapting to the changing political, social and technological landscape. He inspires audiences to think about change as an opportunity. By anticipating and planning for change, organizations create a culture where innovative and creativity can thrive.