BCWI CEO MESSAGE
A TRIBUTE TO HARRY MCWATTERS
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.
President & CEO, British Columbia Wine Institute