The ‘Grandfather of British Columbia Wine’, Harry McWatters, passed away peacefully in his Summerland home on July 23, 2019 at the age of 74.
Best known for his wine industry contributions, he lived a full life outside of the public eye. A family man, Harry is survived by his soul mate and wife Lisa Lalonde; his two children, Christa-Lee and Darrien; his first wife Cathie of 40 years; and grandsons, Brendan and Connor. He is also survived by his siblings, Beth Jackson, Vic Eggins, and Ronine Sharp; nieces and nephews; and a large extended family.
Kind, humble and generous personifies Harry. He loved his family, friends, and a good joke. If you become Harry’s friend, you were his friend for life. Harry loved a good party. His favourite things were to spend time with his family, snowmobiling at Hatheume Lake, and fishing at Langara Lodge.
Harry exemplified hospitality: generous with his time, knowledge, and passion. His entrepreneurial spirit was embodied in his larger than life persona. Harry knew marketing and how to relate to people from a very young age. With a vision and confidence, Harry has been a driving force in the British Columbia and Canadian wine industry for more than 50 years, starting at Casabello Wines in 1968. In 1980, Harry became the founder of British Columbia’s first estate winery, Sumac Ridge and followed with See Ya Later Ranch. He was a pioneer in establishing the Okanagan Wine Festival Society. In 1990, Harry was appointed by the province of British Columbia to chair the newly formed British Columbia Wine Institute. He was the founding Chair of the British Columbia Wine Information Society, founding Chair of Vintners Quality Alliance of Canada spearheading national wine standards, founding Chair of the British Columbia Hospitality Foundation, and a long term Director on the Canadian Vintners Association. Most recently, he was the President and CEO of ENCORE Vineyards (Evolve Cellars in Summerland and TIME Winery & Kitchen in Penticton), and loved working alongside his children to see these projects come to life and thrive as they are today.
He is a member of the Order of British Columbia, inductee to the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame, two-time Jubilee Medal winner from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, and the recipient of the Vancouver Wine Festival Spirited Industry Professional Award. He was the Marketer of the Year for North America for all agriculture products and received numerous awards of distinction for his tireless work in the wine industry and beyond.
Harry’s business acumen and collaborative approach was a natural fit for many significant appointments, including as a director and former chairman of the Fortis Board, the BC Progress Board, Chair of Experion Holdings, Brock University Viticulture Institute Co-Chair, Canadian Culinary Championships chair, and many others. He made an impact on many in the industry who counted him as a coach, mentor and friend.
Harry was a member of Rotary for 50 years as well as a member of the DeMolay and Masonic Lodges. Harry was philanthropic and helped raise money for many worthwhile causes. Most recently, he was a member of the Sovereign Order of St. John.
His wish is that we all raise a glass of British Columbia VQA wine in celebration of living life out loud.
A celebration of Harry’s life will be held on Friday, August 9, 2019 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, 21 W Lakeshore Drive, Penticton, BC at 1:30 p.m.
In Harry’s honour, donations may be made to the BC Hospitality Foundation, PO Box 34543 Pemberton Plaza PO, 1268 Marine Dr., North Vancouver, BC V7P 1T0 and the Alzheimer's Society of Canada, 20 Eglinton Ave. W., 16th Floor, Toronto, ON M4R 1K8.
Condolences may be directed to the family through providencefuneralhomes.com 250-494-7752.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Harry McWatters, please visit our floral store.
Alzheimer Society Canada
20 Eglington Avenue West, Toronto BC M4R 1K8
BC Hospitality Foundation
PO Box 34543 Pemberton Plaza PO 1268 Marine Drive, North Vancouver BC V7P 1T0