At last week’s Vancouver International Wine Festival, among the Italian, Spanish, American and other global wine offerings, 26 British Columbian wineries poured their latest releases. As I perused the aisles both day and night over the three consecutive days the International Festival Tasting room was in full swing, I couldn’t help but notice the proprietor of one of our newest partners, Time Estate Winery, standing at his table cheerily pouring samples, shaking hands and greeting people. In can be exhausting pouring at these events, this one in particular has you on your feet in that tasting room for over 18 hours over those three days. Nonetheless, the proprietor was enthusiastic to share the story of his wines coming from the South Okanagan’s Black Sage bench. After all, many would argue that he was the guy who put that part of our wine country on the map. You see, this proprietor is no industry rookie. Nope, his name—Harry McWatters—is legend around these parts, for more than a few reasons.
After working in industry sales and marketing in the 1960’s and 1970’s, he helped establish the Okanagan Wine Festival Society in 1980. A few years later he was an integral part of launching (and building) the British Columbia Wine Institute. Along with directing the Canadian Vintners Association, he was also a key part of developing the Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) program, not to mention a founding member of the B.C. Hospitality Foundation, a treasured local charity providing financial support to those in the industry facing a major medical crisis.
Oh, and in the midst of all that, McWatters founded the pioneering Sumac Ridge Estate Winery in 1979, and guided the winery to well-acclaimed heights for many years. Though he sold the winery early this century, he remained winery president until retirement in 2008. Of course, in this industry where passion is strong, it’s rare for a retirement to stick for any significant amount of <cough> time.
Which brings us to TIME Estate Winery/the McWatters Collection, and Evolve Cellars - the newest projects by Harry McWatters where he continues to toil amongst the vines on the Black Sage bench, the sandy and sun-drenched (unofficial) sub-region of B.C. where some of our bigger whites and more rugged reds hail from, and the area that became a marquee name on his watch. There aren’t many people who know this land, this terroir, more intimately. Over the years since his initial 1992 plantings, many lauded wineries have sourced fruit from Black Sage; it’s a fundamental place when we talk quality Okanagan wine.
Plenty of wisdom and knowledge comes to many of us over time, and it’s a good thing for our industry when veterans like this opt against putting their feet up after many successful decades, instead beginning new, exciting chapters, and continuing to share wisdom, knowledge and, yup, time.
Take advantage of the winery’s free shipping offer when purchasing a minimum of six bottles before March 15th, and make sure you tuck in a couple of these!
A classic blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon that’s ripe with juicy, tropical fruit, cradled by well-integrated oak; delicious now, yet can lie down for a few years, too.
From 23-year-old vines comes this opulent Cabernet Franc that has basked in the sun, resulting in well-rounded red and black fruit with a subtle undercurrent of earth and pepper.
Evolve Cellars, 2014 Pinot Blanc - $18.99
From McWatters' Evolve Cellars project in Summerland on the west side of Lake Okanagan comes a Pinot Blanc that's just as it should be; bright and refreshing with Granny Smith apple, nectarine and distinct minerality. It certainly couldn't hurt to crack a bottle of this at brunch with friends. You might want to make sure you have a second one in the fridge, just in case.
Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. Track him down at KurtisKolt.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @KurtisKolt.