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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Grape-growing posse are in a league of their own
The League of Farmers, from left: Marty Werener, Trevor Falk, Mark Lepp and Shawn Spiewak. The group has just released its latest vintage, a 2022 Cabernet Franc. Richard Hutton

For the quartet who make up the League of Famers, the wine industry has been a big part of their lives.

These four men – Shawn Spiewak, Mark Lepp, Trevor Falk and Marty Werner – have a longtime friendship, dating back to when Falk coached the others in minor hockey.

All of them are grape growers, so making their own wine seemed to be the next logical step for their group.

“The four of us all have Cabernet Franc vineyards,” Spiewak said. “I wouldn’t want to speak for the guys but, and I think that we all kind of thought that was the grape that we could showcase for Niagara.”

And that’s exactly what the group has done. Their first release came last year when they unveiled their 2020 vintage Cab Franc.

It was at the end of a long process, Spiewak said: “Our wines see about 18 months in French oak barrels, so, typically they’re released about 24 months after the actual vintage.”

For Werner, the group’s friendship and shared love of making wine has brought them together like never before.

“Probably the thing that I like the most about the saga is the four of us,” he said. “We all sort of live within a country block (of each other) and we like to have a reason to get together and hang out.”

In addition to the Cab Franc, the group also released a sparkling rosé this past summer, which combined the Cab Franc with a Vidal.

“We wanted something where people could enjoy something by the pool in the summertime and just enjoy something at a lower price point that would still showcase Cabernet Franc and us as a group of friends,” Werner said.

For Falk, the group complements each other.

“We all have our strengths and our weaknesses and I think we will just work as a team,” he said.  “And that’s exactly what the philosophy was when I coached them in hockey is we’re stronger as a team than we are as individuals.”

“I’m still trying to impress him,” Werner cracked.

Now, the group has released a 2022 Cab Franc. It is available to order from the League of Farmers directly at orders@northernwinemerchants.ca and at Barbea Wine & Snack Shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake and at Archives Wine & Spirits Merchants in St. Catharines. The wine retails for $42 per 750 ml bottle.

The new wine continues the group’s penchant for producing a small batch of vintages – 1,200 bottles are available – that offers something unique, Lepp said.

“I think the nice thing is that people, they know us and they know that it’s not a wine that you can get at the LCBO or pick up anywhere,” he said. “It’s something that’s a little bit more special.”

In addition to individual bottles of the new vintage, the group has put together gift boxes featuring three bottles of the sparkling rosé, two bottles of the new wine along with a bottle of the 2020 Cab Franc.

The $200 cost represents a savings of $10 over what it would cost to purchase the wines individually.

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