Perhaps you have seen this quote before, but someone once perfectly said, “families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”
Indeed, the McWatters family has deep roots in the South Okanagan, with 50 vintages (and counting) invested in making BC wine one of the most sought-after products our province has on offer.
It is the family’s shared belief that they are just stewards of the land, and must maintain and protect it for future generations. That spirit guides everything that makes the McWatters Collection wines so special.
Harry McWatters is considered the grandfather of the modern BC wine industry, and he celebrates his 50th BC vintage in 2017 (he is the only one in Canada to be able to wear this title). In addition to founding the wildly-successful Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and See Ya Later Ranch (before later selling them), Harry is the founding chair of several landmark organizations including the BC Wine Institute, VQA Canada, the BC Wine Information Society, Okanagan Wine Festivals Society and the BC Hospitality Foundation. Currently the CEO and president of ENCORE Vineyards Ltd., this year Harry and his family will open a new TIME Winery facility in a revitalized historic theatre in downtown Penticton.
But here we talk about Harry’s family’s legacy label. The McWatters family launched their namesake wine brand in 2011 with a red Meritage blend (which includes ‘Bordeaux’ varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc) and a Chardonnay. These wines are the two pillars of the McWatters Collection, created from select grapes grown in the south Okanagan Valley. More than a name, this small portfolio is a testament to the family’s dedication and perseverance of spirit in helping create a wine growing region that we can celebrate every day.
Harry’s two children, Christa-Lee and Darren, were (literally) born into the wine industry, working alongside their famous father in the vineyards and the winery as self-described “cellar brats” in the 1980s. In fact, Christa-Lee made her first wine, a blend of Gewürztraminer and Riesling, when she was just nine years old. The children grew up, and although their career paths took twists and turns, they are both now working alongside their dad in the family business. The family has created a progressive new wine company called ENCORE Vineyards, with Harry at the helm, Christa-Lee in charge of sales and marketing, while Darren is the production manager.
The McWatters Collection wines were created for two main reasons: to capture the unique and delicious flavours that the soil and climate bring to wines in the South Okanagan, and to celebrate the family and community elements that bring each wine from grape to bottle.
Fans of big red wines will enjoy the bold yet elegant flavours of the 2013 McWatters Collection Meritage. It features velvety tannins, well-balanced fruit, and oak characteristics, with flavours of blackberry and cassis with dark black fruits and a supple texture. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, the wine is matured in small French oak casks for 15 months prior to bottling. Ready to drink now, this wine will age gracefully in your cellar… if you can wait that long.
A delightful counterpoint is the 2014 McWatters Collection Chardonnay, described as a classic new-world wine with a nod to its old-world past. Rich and elegant with well-balanced fruit and oak characteristics, it reveals notes of pineapple, tropical fruit, hints of honey, lemon zest, and buttered toast. Made entirely in small French oak casks, this opulent wine has a lingering finish and will again benefit from short-term cellaring, should you so desire.
Additionally, this Chardonnay was awarded a rare gold medal at the prestigious Chardonnay du Monde competition held in France earlier this year, one of only three Canadian wines to do so.
Production of all McWatters Collection wines has been strictly limited to fewer than 1,000 cases per year, which means that wine lovers must act fast if they hope to enjoy a bottle or two with friends and family.
Fans of wines that celebrate the foods grown around them, Restaurant 62 in Abbotsford has been pairing their menu items with the McWatters Collection Chardonnay for some time and is currently serving it by the glass and the bottle.
Founded in 2004, the restaurant has been the longest standing fine dining restaurant in the Fraser Valley. Chefs Matthew Nichols and Jeff Massey work with local producers to find the best seasonal ingredients, creating dishes whose memory lingers long after the plates have been cleared.
This means that the food at Restaurant 62 is always changing. By focusing on ingredients that peak with the season, the chefs allow the dishes to truly speak for themselves.
To pair with the ever-evolving menu, the team has created a wine list that features a selection from all over the world, with a spotlight on the latest vintages from across British Columbia. In fact, Restaurant 62 has won a Wine Spectator Award for Excellence every year for the last ten years.
When asked about their favourite food pairing with the Chardonnay, the chefs will likely suggest something new on the menu, utilizing ingredients at the height of freshness. In fact, the chefs will often incorporate items into the menu that were dropped off at the restaurant that same day. Restaurant 62 has become well-known for their inspired soups, which change with the seasons. Currently featured soups include the Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Soup (lunch menu) and the Local Harvest Carrot Soup (dinner menu), featuring Fraser Valley carrots and pickled Chanterelle mushrooms. Diners could also add a freshly-baked vegan or gluten-free baguette from Polly Fox, a popular Abbotsford bakery. Each of these hearty soups pair perfectly with the bright fruit notes of the Chardonnay.
Since the McWatters Collection wines will only ever be produced in limited quantities, the best way to find these wines is at Restaurant 62 or by ordering directly from the winery at encorevineyards.ca.