Earlier this year, on January 27th, I sat down with the dynamic Christa-Lee McWatters for an interview. Not only is McWatters the Marketing Director at Encore Vineyards (Evolve Cellars, McWatters Collection and TIME Winery) but is also in her second term as the Chair of the B.C. Wine Institute.
We sat down at Forage Restaurant on Robson Street in Vancouver’s West End and chatted over a glass of sparkling Effervescence. McWatters was like a breath of fresh air exuding passion and energy towards the ever-growing British Columbia wine industry.
There was much to talk about in our time together but first on the block was a subject near and dear to both of our hearts – bubbles. As the sparkling wine category is a popular B.C. wine trend, McWatters talked encouragingly about its’ continued growth:
C-LM: British Columbia does such a great job in the sparkling wine category. I feel that the consumer is catching on to the fact that sparkling wine is not just for celebration; it is a wine to drink every day. Over the past few years, we have seen the increase in sales of the sparkling category increase dramatically and I think that is going to continue. We see a massive acceptance of it and I think it has to do with some of the styles that are being offered in the category. B.C. does ‘traditional method’ sparkling wine very well but not everyone enjoys the flavour profile of the style. But then you look at the newer styles on the market with Charmat and Frizzante – they are a bit more approachable to the consumer and I think we are going to see this trend continue.
CC: What about rosé?
C-LM: Rosé is huge – we just bottled our 2017 last week – it is 100% Merlot. We are seeing different styles of rosé hit the market and I think that the category is going to continue to be strong because it is just so versatile. It is not just a summer drink – I am a believer in rosé year round. At Evolve, we sold out of our rosé in July last year so we upped our production this year. We are releasing it today but can foresee being sold out again by July.
CC: What is the price point for your Rosé?
C-LM: At Evolve, our Rosé is $16.99 and the Effervescence is $19.99. Our hope is to keep all of our wines at Evolve Cellars under $20. We want it to be consumer-friendly, easy-drinking, approachable and we want to get people trying something new.
CC: And how is the 2017 vintage looking?
C-LM: It is looking really good. I am happy with the quality so far. We have a new product launched this year with our sparkling Evolve Frizzante made with 100% Gewürztraminer – it is going to be ready late March. The Gewürztraminer grows on the Evolve property and we were looking to do something a little different and it worked to make it bubbly.
CC: Let’s talk about the TIME Winery in Penticton that is going to be opening this year.
C-LM: This feels like it has been a ‘forever’ project and I cannot wait to sell that first bottle of wine! We will have a soft opening in late April and a grand opening in November. The address is 361 Martin Street in an up and coming location in the heart of Penticton. It was the original movie theatre in Penticton which was built in 1955. When we took it over, it had four theatres. So, what we have done is divided the theatres up into four unique spaces: Theatre 1 is our fermenting room, Theatre 2 is our barrel cellar, Theatre 3 is our cellar and Theatre 4 will be an actual theatre with a big screen. We have taken out all the original seats and have purchased old church pews and will have them redone. There will be a small stage so we can do seminars for and with the wine industry.
CC: How did the concept to build a winery in urban, downtown Penticton come about?
C-LM: When the TIME Winery vineyard was sold we thought, what now? We are not going anywhere. My Dad (Harry McWatters) has a very pioneering spirit. He looks at how to do things differently and looked at downtown locations. The old PenMar Theatre fit all of our needs. I am beyond excited to open the doors of TIME Winery to the public.
I caught up to Christa-Lee McWatters last month in Penticton and she gave me a tour of the then, under construction, TIME Winery. What is unique about this property is that it has a working crush pad on-site whereas most other ‘urban’ wineries are mostly tasting and barrel rooms.
To find out more information on wines from Encore Vineyards, click below on the links:
TIME Winery will open to guests late April, 2018 and is located at 361 Martin Street.