Wines of Canada

Grape King

The Grape King represents a 60-year old tradition in Ontario’s grape and wine industry. The title of Grape King, or Grape Grower of the Year, is bestowed upon an Ontario grape grower who exemplifies excellence in the vineyard. The Grape King is announced each year as the outstanding grape grower in Ontario. Nominees are suggested by fellow growers and Brock’s CCOVI, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food decides the winner. The Grape Kings serve as ambassadors for growers across the province and represent them nationally and abroad. They also get to ride in the Grape and Wine Festival parade.

Tom Davis Ontario's first Grape King 1956

Michael Lemick Jr. being crowned Grape King in 1959. Prior to 1995 Grape Kings received a “Royal” cape adorning their accomplishment rather than the blazer that is worn on current kings.

Nominees for Grape King must have a working knowledge of vineyard management and the grape growing industry. Nominated vineyards are judged by industry experts from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the University of Guelph, and are rated on a point system based on the following criteria: Cultivars, Diseases, Insects, Weed Control, Soil Management, Canopy Management, Overall Quality of Vineyard, Outreach, and Miscellaneous.

Each year the Grape King receives a jacket and chains of office to be worn throughout the year while attending industry and government events, such as the Legislative Wine Tasting, Cuvée and Niagara Wine Festivals. The Grape King also represents Ontario grape growers at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival in British Columbia, a trip sponsored by Farm Credit Canada, the Grape Growers of Ontario and the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival.

The Grape King is an ambassador and an advocate for all grape growers across Ontario as the grape and wine industry continues to move forward.

Grape King Erwin Wiens 2023

Erwin Wiens
Erwin Wiens

2022-23 Grape Growers of Ontario and Farm Credit Canada are pleased to announce that Benjamin (Ben) Froese of Willow Lake Ventures Inc. in Niagara-on-the-Lake has been chosen by his peers as the 2022 Grape King.

John Fedorkow Grape King 2019
John Fedorkow - photo credit Grape Growers of Ontario

2019 Grape King John Fedorkow. The owner of Fruithaven Farms in St. Davids will officially become the industry's ambassador Wednesday, following the annual Grape Growers of Ontario luncheon. He grows eight varieties on his 75 acres for Peller Estates and Creekside Estate Winery.

John Fedorkow is the first King in our organization’s history to hold the title for three consecutive terms. First selected as Grape King in 2019, John had limited opportunities to fully experience the role due to COVID-19 pandemic and the pause in industry activities. John graciously accepted the Board’s request to extent his tenure as Grape King. 

John Fedorkow was born and raised on a mixed tender fruit farm in St. David’s, and graduated from the University of Guelph in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.

 Chris Van de Laar

Chris Van de Laar of Niagara-on-the-Lake has been chosen by his peers as the 2018 Grape King

Doug Whitty, president of 13th Street Winery

Doug Whitty, president of 13th Street Winery and Whitty Farms, has been chosen as the 2017 Grape King by Grape Growers of Ontario.


Doug Whitty, of Whitty Farms and 13th Street Winery in St. Catharines  2017 Grape King

2016 Jamie Quai-Quai du Vin Estate Winery -
45811 Fruitridge Line, RR 5 
St Thomas, Ontario

2015 winner Jamie Slingerland
Director of Viticulture, Pillitteri Estate Winery

Bill George Jr. 2001 - 2002.

George Family Farm Vineyards, Lakeshore Road, Beamsville 80 acres. The land has been owned by the family since 1796.

Grape varieties planted:
Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

Farming philosophy:
To grow top quality. We’ve stayed with Vitis vinifera varieties and will continue to do so. You have to try and produce the best you can to compete in this industry. We’ve come a long way, and quality will continue to sell.


Daniel Lenko 2002 - 2003

Lenko Family Farm Vineyards, Regional Road 81, Beamsville 30 acres

Grape varieties planted:
Nine to ten varieties of mostly Vitis vinifera grapes; some European hybrids for Icewine.

Grower for:
Daniel Lenko Estate Winery, featuring proprietor-grown, VQA appellation, estate-bottled wines. Signature Series: Old Vines Chardonnay, Old Vines Merlot.

Farming philosophy:
To feed the vineyards and create large, healthy vines with a lot of tillages and large row spacing, embracing traditional North American viticultural techniques and terroir.


David Johnson 2003 - 2004

Featherstone Vineyards, 3678 Victoria Ave, Vineland. The farm is located on the Beamsville Bench 19acres.

Grape varieties planted:
8 varieties of vinifera: Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Gamay

Grower for:
Featherstone Estate Winery, featuring proprietor-grown, VQA only, estate-bottled wines.

Farming philosophy: I want to leave a smaller footprint in the vineyard- to use smaller tractors less often and to get away from a monoculture mind set. I want to grow diverse plants in the vineyard that have symbiotic relationships with each other


Livia Sipos 2004 - 2005

Crown Bench Estates Winery, 3850 Aberdeen Road, Beamsville.

Crown Bench Estates Winery is owned and operated by Livia Sipos and her husband Peter Kocsis. Livia and her husband purchased the vineyard in 1995 and is one of the oldest planted vineyards on the Beamsville Bench.

Grape Varieties Planted:
Many varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Vidal.

Farming Philosophy:
Livia believes that in order to produce good wines, you must start with good grapes. At the core of Livia's viticulture and winery philosophy is quality. Crown Bench Estates corporate mission states that "if you combine the very best in terrain, viticulture practices, oenological stewardship and administration, the pillars of a quality winery will have been established. In order to make great wine you must have quality grapes – there is no substitute."


Doug Hernder 2005 - 2006

Hernder Vineyard. 1287 Creek Road, RR#2, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Grape Varieties Planted:
13 varieties of hybrid and vinifera grapes concentrating on Chardonnay, Riesling and Vidal (for Icewine).

Farming Philosophy:
Strive to get the best quality of grapes possible


Matthias Oppenlaender 2006 - 2007

Country Tyme Vineyards and B&B, 753 Line 3 RR#2, Niagara on the Lake.

Realizing the potential for the grape and wine industry in Niagara, over the past 20 years, he grew the vineyards to approximately 220 acres along with another 80 acres of contracted vineyards. In 1991 Matthias became a partner in the business and in June of 2005 he purchased his own grape farm of 12 acres with a Bed and Breakfast to introduce people to the unique Niagara grape and wine region. He knew that by planting vitis viniferas grapes he would set the foundation for producing world class wines.

Grape Varieties Planted: 
Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Sauvignon Blanc, Baco Noir and Vidal.  Matthias produces premium grapes for Peller Estates Winery, with three different vineyard sites 1 in Queenston and 2 in Virgil.

Farming Philosophy: 
Making great wines start in the vineyard, that’s why Matthias aims to produce the highest quality of grapes possible. He grows mostly on heavy soil which reduces the yield naturally or when necessary reduces the yield ourselves to achieve high quality grapes. 


Kevin John Watson 2007 - 2008

1516 Line 2, Niagara on the Lake.

This year's grape king, Kevin Watson, is the second grape king in the Watson family. His late father, John Watson, was grape king in 1989.

The art of grape growing began in the Watson family in 1978 when John Watson planted his first grapes. Since that time, the vineyard acreage has increased to 80 acres.

Grape Varieties Planted:
Kevin Watson currently grows 12 different varieties for Vincor (Jackson Triggs and Inniskillin) with main varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.


Lou Puglisi 2008 - 2009

925 Line 2, Niagara on the Lake.

The art of grape growing began in the Puglisi family in 1974 when Lou’s late father, Joe Puglisi, planted his first grapes in the Niagara region. The present vineyard acreage is 60 acres.  

Lou grew up with a farming family which stems back 3 generations to his Italian roots in Sicily, Italy, a heritage rich in viticulture.

Grape Varieties Planted:
He grows the following 7 varieties: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Vidal.


Bill Schenck 2009 - 2010

Schenck Farms and Greenhouses,
1396 South Service Road, St. Catharines

In 1882 the first member of the Schenck family, Lou Schenck I, at age 20 became a fruit and vegetable grower. He began purchasing land in 1907 where the current farm is located. He would eventually end up with 200 acres, all for fruit and vegetables. The gradual shift away from vegetables to fruit was done in the 1920's and completed by the mid 1950’s. Growing of grapes on the farm dates back for more than 60 years.

Grape Varieties Planted:
Currently the Schenck family grows 5 varieties: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.

Farming Philosophy: 
In order to survive in this business today you have to be open to change. As market conditions change you have to be able to react quickly to the needs of the market. The consumer is your boss and you have to provide the product they require at price point in which they are willing to purchase. We work extremely hard to make sure that the product we produce is the best it can be and when it is no longer economically viable to grow, we move on to something else.


Debbie Murdza Inglis 2010 - 2011

Niagara Vintage Harvesters
696 Line 4, Virgil

Married to Rob Inglis.

Dr. Inglis is a second generation grape grower in the Niagara Peninsula.  Her parents, Stan and Doreen Murdza, purchased their first 10 acre vineyard in St. Davids in 1970.  In 1971, their farming company “Niagara Vintage Harvesters” was formed and grew to manage 200 acres of vineyards across the peninsula.  By the mid 70’s, the Murdza family was one of a handful of grape growers transitioning their vineyards to vinifera grape varieties, eager to be part of a new direction for the grape and wine industry.

Grape Varieties Planted: 
Debbie and her husband Rob currently farm their 20 acre vineyard of Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Franc

Farming Philosophy: 
Debbie’s farming philosophy stems from the notion that great wine starts in the vineyard with quality fruit.  As a grape grower, she strives to understand the relationship between the site and the vines, and determine the efforts needed to ensure quality fruit production from year to year, while keeping the vines in balance and prepared for the winter months ahead for sustainable grape production.  Debbie is a true believer in sharing knowledge, assessing new technologies that can move the industry forward and using the resources that are available to the grape growing community to ensure a sustainable, quality driven industry.


Ed Hughes 2011 - 2012

Hughes Vineyards, Greenlane Rd, Beamsville

Ed Hughes interest in grape growing began in the early 1990’s when, as a cook, he attended a Sommelier course to study food and wine affiliations. In 1993 Ed purchased a 3-acre farm in Beamsville and began growing grapes there in 1995. In 1999, Ed expanded his operation by purchasing a well-established 21-acre vineyard that was planted with a combination of hybrid and concord grapes. Today Ed farms over 20-acres of VQA premium quality vinifera grapes.

As Ed’s interest in viticulture continued to grow, he enrolled in Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute program to learn how to improve the grape quality in his vineyard, with the hopes of starting a small family winery. Over the last 10 years, Ed has started to implement bio-controls in his vineyard and has investigated new ways to improve the sustainability of the vineyard, including developing a more natural ecosystem and experimenting with high density planting. In 2010, Ed was awarded the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence for his innovative work in the vineyard.


Curtis Fielding 2012 -2013

Fielding Estate Winery, Locust Lane, Beamsville


Curtis Fielding a competitive racecar driver on the Canadian circuit, he has become a natural grape grower as the General Manager of Fielding Estate Winery.

The Fielding family purchased a 20‐acre peach and pear orchard on the Beamsville Bench in the early 2000s, replacing all the trees — and a few rows of juice grapes — with high‐quality VQA vinifera vines in the summer of 2001. The unique Fielding Wine Lodge opened its doors in May 2005, and has quickly established itself as one of the finest wineries in Ontario, being named one of Canada’s Top 10 wineries by the Canadian Wine Awards in 2009.


Wes Wiens 2013 - 2014

Wiens Family Farms, Concession 6, Niagara on the Lake


Wes was born and raised on a grape and tender fruit farm in Niagara on the Lake where he, along with his parents and 3 siblings worked, learning the value of a dollar as well as gaining the innovative work ethic that has carried his family through the highs and lows of farming. 

In addition to numerous experimental plots for varietal, clonal and rootstock comparison, the Wiens family vineyards consist of 19 varieties planted on 400 acres which they supply to 4 local wineries.  

Whether providing grapes to the wineries they grow for, custom services such as planting, trellising and harvesting, or supplying the Canadian industry with grapevine nursery stock and expertise, the Wiens family has dedicated themselves to providing the highest quality in products and services specifically catered to the Canadian Grape and Wine industry


Kevin Buis 2014 -2015

Glenlake Vineyards, Lakeshore Rd, Niagara on the Lake



Kevin was born and raised in Niagara-on-Lake, and grew up on the family farm. He attended Denis Morris Secondary School then graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Guelph in 1986.

Following university, Kevin joined his brother Peter working on the farm. The farm was started by their parents, Peter and Margaret, in 1957 and consists of 400 acres of wine grapes and some tender fruit.

Kevin has been very involved in the agriculture industry, and has sat on various committees and boards over the years, including the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Advisory Committee and Ontario Tender Fruit Producers' Marketing Board. Kevin is a past president of the Niagara Peninsula Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, and presently sits on the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake Irrigation Committee.

The complete list of Grape Kings

Grape Growers of Ontario is the official organization that represents over 500 grape growers of 17,000 acres of vineyards in Ontario, Canada who produce grapes for processing.

Grape Growers of Ontario provides a variety of benefits and services to our members. We serve as the voice of our membership and an information resource for our growers, the general public, media, and our winery partners on viticulture and the relevant grape and wine issues affecting our industry.

Grape Growers of Ontario negotiates prices for all grapes sold to processors. While growers contract their grape sales directly with processors, prices must be no less than the minimum set through negotiations between the Grape Growers of Ontario and Ontario's grape processors

Brock's Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) has established itself as a successful, internationally recognized research institute on cool climate viticulture, oenology, wine business and wine culture

Ontario Wine Regions

resource : Grape Growers of Ontario, Niagara Wine Association.



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