Whitty crowned Grape King
A man whose wines have “elevate the entire Ontario grape industry” was himself elevated to become the industry’s monarch.
Doug Whitty, owner of Whitty Farms and 13th Street Winery, was selected as the 2017 Grape King, and honoured with the title during a ceremony at his St. Catharines winery Wednesday afternoon.
“I believe that a key component to our continued success as an industry is related directly to our ability to work creatively together with all our partners so that enjoyment of local wine and food experiences are more fully recognized as an important part of Canadian culture,” Whitty said in a media release. “I am pleased yet humbled by this nomination. I have learned a great deal from other grape growers. It will be a great honour and privilege to represent them as Grape King this year.”
Grape Growers of Ontario chairman Matthias Oppenlaender said the organization is thrilled to have someone with Whitty’s experience and commitment serve as Grape King and ambassador for the grape and wine industry.
Farm Credit Canada’s agri-business and agri-food senior director Trish Botter said the Grape King title recognizes “exceptional quality, expertise and leadership in this industry.”
“Doug Whitty’s 13th Street operation helps elevate the entire Ontario grape industry and is proof that Ontario vineyards are more than capable of competing on the world stage,” she said.
As Grape King – a tradition dating back to 1956 – Whitty will serve a national ambassador for Ontario’s grape and wine producers for the next year, representing the industry at events across Canada.
His reign will begin this weekend, representing the industry at the Mayor’s Grape Stomp on Saturday, and in the 66th annual Grande Parade week later during the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival.
Niagara Grape and Wine Festival executive director Kimberly Hundertmark called Whitty a “an incredible ambassador for our grape and wine industry,” whose family was previously recognized with the 2015 RBC Winery with Heart award, recognizing their commitment and passion for the community.
Whitty is the second in his family to earn the Grape King title.
In 1986, his uncle Rodger Whitty wore the crown and cape that at the time was part of the title. The royal attire has since been replaced by a chain that carries the names of past Grape Kings.
Grape Growers of Ontario CEO Debbie Zimmerman pointed out that as a third-generation grape grower in Ontario and the second of the family to be crowned Grape King, “Doug is experienced in all aspects of the industry.”
During his reign as Grape King, Whitty’s family farm started by his grandfather in 1908 will celebrate 110 years in operation, now producing 55 acres of vinifera wine grapes.
The Fourth Avenue farm has also become home to community activities, including the annual Grapes of Wrath Mud Run, supporting the Canadian Cancer Society Wheels of Hope program.
Whitty donates his property as well as his time to the event, spending about a month each year building the course with help from friends.
Doug Whitty of 13th Street Winery was crowned Grape King for the 2017 Niagara Wine Festival on Wednesday.