Kevin Watson, son of 1989’s Grape King, did his late father proud when he became the second grower in the family to be honoured with the prestigious title. Since then, he’s worked hard to ensure that he continues to uphold the Watson Family’s reputation for excellence.
The title of Ontario’s Grape King is an honour indeed, considering that the winner is crowned by the province’s grape-growers themselves. Since 1959, they’ve voted for the specialist whose attention to detail and passion raise the bar in Ontario’s vineyards. And the Watson Family has been so honoured not just once, but twice.
The story begins when the Watsons settled on 45 acres outside Niagara-on-the-Lake and went into the business of raising hogs. The stony soil at the Watson acreage, however, with its mix of clay and sand loam, was destined to produce grapes of the highest quality. With his keen farmer’s sense, John planted his first vines of Vidal there in 1979; a mere 10 years later, he became the first Watson Grape King.
Kevin, his son, took over in 1995, doubling the farm’s holdings and significantly expanding its operations. Today, Kevin and his wife, Cathy, produce 13 varieties, from vines that include some of the province’s earliest plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes that spring from Watson soil are some of the most sought after in the province; most are sold to large winemakers, such as Jackson Triggs and Inniskillin.
With a keen sense of entrepreneurship, Kevin is also serving the expanding market of hobby winemakers; his grape juice, processed onsite, is consistently sold out to enthusiasts everywhere.
Kevin is an avid winemaker, so he knows firsthand what’s needed to produce quality wine.
“It wasn’t very fulfilling for my father and I to just grow a grape, put it in a truck and watch it go down the road,” he says. “You really want to taste what you have done all year long. That’s why we do it, that’s what helps us create the best product possible and that’s why I love this industry.”
The secret to his success? “All agriculture is the same,” he says. “If you have a love for it and a desire for it, you’ve got it half beat. It’s not always about percentage returns every year…it’s about the love of watching something grow.”
He also knows that the strength of the province’s wine industry is key. Kevin says education will help consumers and governments truly understand the benefits of supporting Ontario wines, and with this kind of support, our viticulture industry will enjoy a long and fruitful empire.