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Harry McWatters: A Great Man, Mentor and Disruptor

Jul 24, 2019 bcrfauser01

The hospitality community in BC lost a great man yesterday. Harry McWatters made a huge difference to the wine industry, to hospitality and to restaurants over the last 50 years.

Harry was someone who took his role a a leader, a mentor and a disruptor seriously. Never one to shy away from an important or controversial issue, Harry helped build the wine industry as we know it today by making difficult calls and pushing to make change possible. He took BC wines from the era of sweet whites and dodgy reds to an industry leading, blazing phenomenon recognized around the world. Over the years, his wineries each made a contribution to changing the wine industry for the better. At Sumac Ridge, he created one of the first recognizable brands in wine in BC. At Time Winery, his idea of changing a movie theatre in downtown Penticton into a working winery is contributing to a thriving downtown dining scene.

How can you recognize the contributions of an industry champion like Harry McWatters? We thought sharing his passion and how he connected with our team over the years would be a start.

– When Harry was the first chairperson of the BC Wine Institute, he led the first wine trade mission to England including an event with the Queen. The protocol team ensured that everyone knew they were not to touch or speak to the Royals. Ian fondly remembers being at Harry’s side when Harry teased that he was going to go right over there and give Her Majesty a squeeze!
– Harry loved to share his knowledge and his passion. He taught Christina, our program manager in the Okanagan, how to correctly say Meritage – like Heritage.
– Harry gave Alison one of her very first jobs – working at the Sumac Ridge’s restaurant in the Okanagan.
– Harry welcomed Samantha to working in wine and food events. When she started with the Wine Festival, Harry’s was the first face she recognized and he always made her feel welcome and offered relevant and helpful advice and support whenever she called.

Ian joined Harry in the early years of the BCWI: “Harry was larger than life for me. His dedication and determination to get the pieces in place for the wine industry in BC to grow and to succeed has stuck with me for my career. He fought hard for things he believed in, and I hope I learned that from him in my years sitting alongside him at the BCWI.”

We were so glad to have Harry attend the 2018 Restaurant Hall of Fame as one of our first class of inductees into the Hall of Fame in 2006.

We encourage everyone to raise a glass in Harry’s honour.

If you want to share a memory or a photo of Harry McWatters with us, email our team and we’ll put it together so that we can share it with his daughter Christa-Lee and the family.