British Columbia

B.C. wine industry pioneer Harry McWatters dies

Harry McWatters, the founder of Sumac Ridge and See Ya Later wineries, died Tuesday in his Summerland home at the age of 74.

McWatters founded Sumac Ridge and See Ya Later wineries in B.C.'s Okanagan

Harry McWatters died in his Summerland home on July 23, 2019. (Town Hall Brands)

The B.C. wine industry is mourning the loss of an industry giant after Harry McWatters, 74, died in his Summerland home Tuesday.

McWatters, who spent more than 50 years in the industry, founded the well-known Sumac Ridge and See Ya Later wineries among others.

Town Hall Brands, which counts McWatters' Encore Vineyards as a client, called his death a shock.

"Harry's sudden passing comes as a surprise to everyone as he was only last week celebrating the success and anniversary of his downtown Penticton winery, TIME Winery & Kitchen," it wrote on its Facebook page.

Harry McWatters founded the Okanagan winery, See Ya Later Ranch. (See Ya Later Ranch)

Christine Coletta, the owner of Okanagan Crush Pad Winery, was a longtime friend and colleague who met McWatters over 35 years ago.

"Harry was larger than life for anyone that met him. He was a tireless cheerleader [for B.C. wine]," Coletta said.

Coletta said McWatters worked in a volunteer capacity, involving himself in many association and trade organizations to help promote the industry and put Okanagan Valley wines on the map.

But Coletta also remembered McWatters as a good friend with a mischievous fondness for practical jokes, recalling the time he had surrounded her house with men's underwear signed by prominent people as a prank for her 40th birthday. 

"He had taken months and months to collect undergarments and then strung them up on rope, and then surrounded my house with them," she said. 

"I mean that just goes to show you the lengths that he would go to for a great giggle."

According to his publicist, details for McWatters' memorial service are still being finalized.

Listen to the full interview with Christine Coletta on Radio West

Harry McWatters, the founder of Sumac Ridge and See You Later wineries, died Tuesday in his Summerland home at the age of 74. 7:06

With files from Radio West

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