B.C. wine legend Harry McWatters dies in his home in Summerland

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      Family and friends are in shock over the sudden and unexpected death of Encore Vineyards president and CEO Harry McWatters.

      He died in his home in Summerland on July 23 while he was sleeping, according to the Time Winery & Kitchen Facebook page.

      "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 & Kitchen," the post states.

      McWatters was in his mid 70s.

      Encore also owns Evolve Cellars, which was created in 2015, and the McWatters Collection, which was launched as his namesake brand in 2011.

      McWatters formed B.C.'s first estate winery, Sumac Ridge, in 1979 in Summerland.

      He became the first chair of the B.C. Wine Institute in 1990.

      In 1992, McWatters bought the Black Sage Vineyard in Oliver and three years later, he launched the See Ya Later Ranch Estate Winery.

      Sumac’s Sauvignon Blanc was the first B.C.–grown Sauvignon Blanc to gain certification from the VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance).

      “Absolutely a challenge,” McWatters told the Straight in 1997. “The secret lies partly in the Black Sage vineyard and partly with the way we controlled the vines’ vigour.” 

      Three years later, he took control of Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards, formerly known as Le Comte Estate Winery.

      Over his winemaking career, McWatters won many awards and honours, including the Order of B.C. for his contributions to the industry.

      When he sold his wineries and vineyards to Vincor International in 2000, he told the Straight that this wasn't going to be the end of his winemaking career.

      "They asked me what my long-term career goal was, and I said 'Never to retire.' "

      So he remained with Vincor as its vice president until 2008.

      But even that didn't mark the end of his illustrious career, as he later launched the Time Estate Winery.