BC winery CEO looks ahead after big changes
Christa-Lee McWatters has, literally, grown up in the BC wine industry, following in the footsteps of her late father, Harry McWatters, who passed away earlier this year. As a child, she worked at her family's various wineries throughout her school years. Then, in 1995, she became a sales representative for Sumac Ridge Winery. In 2015, she joined Encore Vineyards, where she is now the president and CEO. Brands under the Encore name include Evolve, the McWatters Collection and Time.
A few weeks after her dad's untimely death, McWatters made the decision to move her own winery, Evolve to Time Winery, her father's legacy property in Penticton, British Columbia. The decision wasn't easy, but was necessary as she sought to simplify her workload as she steps up to help fill the role her father played. Earlier this week, she shared some of what's been going on in her life in the past couple of months.
Q: You've had a lot of decisions to make after your father's death. Tell me a little bit about what visitors can expect, now that the wineries have been combined into one space?
A: When people arrive today at Time Winery in Penticton, they have a choice of heading to the tasting bar, sitting down and eating, or doing a flight, or a visit to the winemaking area for a barrel- or bubble tasting. Evolve Cellars wines are available in their own space in the cellar and on the food menu at Time. We are working on a few experiences to offer that involve the Evolve Wines in the cellar including“sabre school” for $40, where people learn to sabre and then enjoy the bottle.
Q: As wine lovers, what can we expect from the BC harvest this year?
A: Harvest this year has been one of the more challenging ones. Rain in September and an early frost meant that careful attention to the vines was needed, but everyone seems to have their fruit in by now. With the cooler weather, we had, we can expect lower-alcohol wines. And expect to see some great rosé, come spring 2020.
Q: We know you are a big Champagne and sparkling wine fan. But overall, what is showing the most promise from your perspective?
A: I am always excited about bubbles, but maybe that is me being biased. People are loving our new Time Brut and are happy they can now get the Evolve bubbles in Penticton as well.
Q: Where do you want to see the wineries in the next five (or 10!) years?
A: My blue sky includes open provincial borders for all Canadian wines. I also am excited to see so many more offerings of special tasting experiences and food offerings at BC wineries, and I expect this will just get stronger over the next decade.