Time Estate founder Harry McWatters
I never thought I’d use Harry McWatters’ name in the same sentence as Jim Croce’s. But there I was, walking home from the official launch of the BC pioneer’s new winery, Time Estate Winery, quietly humming to myself Time in a Bottle!
Harry and I have shared more than a few meals over the years. And usually they involved an occasion of some significance, such as this. (And I should add that a couple of the plates at Brix Restaurant made for some of the best wine matches I’ve enjoyed in some time.)
It’s almost 20 years to the day since BC wine pioneer McWatters undertook, at the time, the largest vineyard planting in Canada, on Black Sage Road. Not only that, he and legendary viticulturist Dick Cleave opted to plant Bordeaux varieties, which most gave little hope of being able to ripen on a regular basis.
As Harry himself says, more than a few people at the time thought he was “nuts,” including Gray Monk owner George Heiss who said (in time-less fashion):
“When you get stuck with those grapes give me a call!”
Not only are the two still friends to this day but guess who now buys a portion of those same Black Sage turned Sundial grapes for Gray Monk’s top tier red blends.
The march of time
It’s here that the story gets a tad confusing.
Even though Sumac Ridge was sold to Vincor (and later purchased by Constellation Brands), Harry was shrewd enough not to let go of everything. While some thought he had “sold out”, the landmark vineyard itself remained a shared ownership: It was jointly held by Constellation and McWatters.
More recently it was physically divided when the partnership was dissolved. Constellation has the rights to the Black Sage name, so McWatters called his portion “Sundial” in anticipation of Time Estate Winery. I could go on about what Constellation has done to Sumac Ridge but I won’t, for now at least.
Time to focus on Meritage (Video)
Hear what Mcwatters has to say about his new venture and the vineyard that reflects the Meritage make up for both red and white wines.
“Hopefully, this is the last time I’ll be doing this” he said. But as he notes, “Wine is all about time and place.”
“And I don’t have much time left,” he quipped.
Not too many people in the history of BC’s modern industry have a grasp as good as McWatters’ when it comes to understanding just what might be the right time and place.
A winery for its time
This project has all the right ingredients.
The impressive, gravity fed winery is designed to be as unobtrusive in its natural setting as possible. In addition to its functional features it will include four luxury suites as well as a reception area and commercial kitchen for events catering.
Time in the bottle
Needless to say, having made the first vintage in 2011, McWatters already has Time in the bottle. He poured the three wines which make up his production: a red Meritage, a white Meritage and a barrel aged Chardonnay. The facility will also produce the existing line of McWatters’ collection wines. It wouldn’t surprise me to see an “icon” wine at some point, however.
Meritage is very close to McWatters’ heart, as with Sumac Ridge he was the first Canadian to adopt the California-developed name created in response to Bordeaux’s legendary blends.
And he never fails to still gently give me the gears about how (at the time) I questioned the wisdom of using an “American” term. He notes, somewhat wistfully, that Sumac under Constellation, has dropped White Meritage, because, he’s been told, it’s perceived as being too closely connected to him.
• White Meritage 2012 (79% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Semillon: melon, citrus and tropical notes). Superb with Brix Restaurant’s spot prawn ceviche, with grapefruit, ginger and grapefruit. It’s good to see this former Sumac flagship return. $25 91 pts.
• Chardonnay 2011. Vanilla and oak on top, creamy, soft buttery palate with tropical, melon and citrus hints, toasty notes and moderate acidity. $27.99 89 pts.
• Red Meritage 2011. (60% Merlot, 25% Cab Sauv, 15% Cab Franc) Black and red fruit on top with some perfumed notes before a plush blackberry and cassis toned palate. Allow to open in the glass or hold. $29.99 90 pts.
This story appears in condensed form in the North Shore News