Grape King

The Grape King represents a 66-year tradition in Ontario’s grape and wine industry that dates back to 1956. The title of Grape King, or Grape Grower of the Year, is bestowed upon an Ontario grape grower who exemplifies excellence in the vineyard.

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. They 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.

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.

Ben Froese 2022-2023

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.

The selection of a Grape King is part of Ontario’s grape growing history and an annual tradition that dates back to 1956.  While the regalia has changed from a crown and cape, the King wears a chain that carries the names of all of the Kings that came before.

The title of Grape King carries the distinction of being chosen based on vineyard management and knowledge of the industry, and serves as a representative for Ontario’s grape and wine industry at events across the country, starting with the Mayor’s Grape Stomp on September 17th in Montebello Park and in the 70th annual Grande Parade on September 24th at the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival.

Ben was born and raised on a tender fruit farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake. His father passed away tragically when he was in his late teens. Ben graduated Niagara College with a four-year business degree, and then travelled to New Zealand to accept a one-year co-op position in farming. 

Returning from New Zealand, Ben chose to take over the family business at the age of twenty.  Willow Lake Ventures Inc. was a family farm of peaches, strawberries and wine grapes. Ben decided to convert the entire farm into vineyards, which he has now doubled in size to 40+ hectares. As an Arterra grower for the past twenty years, he continues to grow several different varieties of wine grapes, including ice wine.

A current member of the Grape Growers of Ontario’s Growers’ Committee and Metrics Committee, Ben is also the Zone Rep for the Niagara-on-the-Lake Minor Lacrosse Association. When Ben is not out on the farm, he is often found coaching lacrosse or hockey in the community.

Ben is married to his wife Pamela, and they have four children Hunter, James, Lucas and Tessa. 

Ben Froese was officially installed as the 65th Grape King on Wednesday, September 14th. 

(pictured – credit Denis Cahill)

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