Grape Grower of the Year (2003-2004)

David Johnson

Featherstone Vineyards, 3678 Victoria Ave, Vineland.
The farm is located on the Beamsville Bench, near the top of the escarpment.

23 acres in total; 19 planted

Originally an accomplished amateur winemaker, David Johnson's passion eventually led him away from his day job - running a gourmet food shoppe - and into the vineyards of Niagara. He now tends to 23 acres of vines and the vinification of the harvest at Featherstone Estate Winery.

David's background farming in Oxford county and his studies in agriculture at the University of Guelph have served as a base for understanding the viticultural practices involved in growing quality grapes. Featherstone has distinguished itself in Niagara by being completely insecticide-free since 1999.

Featherstone is a husband-wife operation, with both David and his wife Louise involved full-time on the farm and in the winery. David is responsible for the farming and is the winemaker. Louise is involved in running the tasting room and doing the administration.

Grape varieties planted:
8 varieties of vinifera: Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, 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.

Do you see changes anticipated in farming practices?
In terms of technologay, the use of GPS and soil mapping will improve appropriate varietal selections and fertilizer application. The use of on-site weather stations will improve, and reduce, spray scheduling. I foresee reduced dependancy on traditional use of chemicals and more creative methods for controlling mildew and pests. Regulatory issues around manure application will also force changes.

Comments on the Grape & Wine industry:
Growers and wineries could be   more integrated in helping to fulfill each other's needs, as each is integral to the other's success. Growers must develop more sales avenues for their juice (home wine market, export). Wineries must continue to develop and promote VQA products, beyond icewine, both domestically and internationally. If farming is kept as a viable industry, farmers will in turn protect their land and maintain Niagara's limited green belt for generations to come.

Louise Engel / David Johnson- Featherstone Estate Winery & Vineyards
3678 Victoria Ave
Vineland, Ont, Canada
L0R 2C0

Tel: 905-562-1949    Fax: 905-562-3989