2022 is a year-long 75th anniversary celebration of the Grape Growers of Ontario, but no one is happier to mark that milestone that Ben Froese. The third-generation grape grower has been named Grape King, inheriting the chain of all the kings who have gone before.
“Ben is a dedicated grower who believes that great wine starts in the vineyard,” says Grape Growers of Ontario chair, Matthias Oppenlaender, commenting on the 40 hectares of grapes that Froese and his family manage near Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“The annual crowning of the Grape King is the recognition of an exemplary grower. Ben will be a wonderful ambassador for Ontario’s grape growers,” adds Debbie Zimmerman, CEO of the Grape Growers of Ontario.
“Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is pleased to support the tradition of naming an Ontario Grape King and with it, celebrating the best in the business like this year’s recipient, Ben Froese. Ben exemplifies all the best qualities of Ontario grape growers. He contributes to the innovation, product quality, shared knowledge and enhanced access to consumers that ensures the long-term success of this valuable agricultural sector.” said George Klosler, senior district director at. FCC.
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.
He 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 20. 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 20 years, he continues to grow several different varieties of wine grapes, including ice wine.
Source: Grape Growers of Ontario September 14, 2022 news release