Gretzky celebrates opening of NOTL winery, distillery

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — It was an evening where party goers sought Wayne Gretzky’s signature blend, rather than his signature itself.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery marked its grand opening over the weekend, celebrating the completion of the winery, which started construction in the fall of 2015. In addition to a three-day celebration over the weekend, an opening night celebration was held last Wednesday, with Gretzky and his family attending.

“We are excited to kick off our official grand opening celebration and invite our friends, families and neighbours to our beautiful new Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery,” said Gretzky, at the opening night party.

Gretzky posed for photos with some of the hundreds who attended the opening and enjoyed the evening with friends, family and some friends from the hockey world. The evening was capped off with a large fireworks display.

The modern 23,000-square-foot facility includes a winery, distillery, tasting areas, retail and hospitality spaces, and barrel cellar. The facility also features an exclusive collection of Wayne Gretzky memorabilia as well as private family photos.

John E. Peller, president and chief executive officer of Andrew Peller Ltd. said the building was inspired by the Gretzky farmhouse in Canning, Ont.

“We were taken by this beautiful barn that still sits there today,” Peller said during the opening. “The barn was the inspiration for our architecture.”

Of course the building is nothing if not for a great product. Gretzky is impressed with the portfolio of whiskey and wine being created out of the Niagara-on-the-Lake facility.

“They do a wonderful job with the white wine, the red wine, the whiskey,” Gretzky said to the crowd assembled for the grand opening.

It’s come a long way since the Gretzky wine brand was launched 10 years ago in west Niagara, says winemaker Craig McDonald. In 2007, said McDonald, they originally launched with two wines. Now they’ve produced more than a dozen different varietals, including icewines.

“We have evolved so much since then. It is incredible,” he said. “It has been quite the journey. I’ve been with Wayne every step of the way. It’s been a great collaboration with our growers.”

Collaboration is also key when it comes to the distillery. Master distiller Joshua Beach says the co-operation of the winery and distillery teams is pivotal. All three types of whiskey, the Red Cask launched last fall, and the Ice Cask and the Ninety Nine Proof available exclusively at the distillery, come through collaboration, he said, having been finished in wine barrels.

“All go back to the type of wine involved in making that spirit. You couldn’t make these products without the contribution from the wine program,” said Beach.

Beach and McDonald also teamed up to establish two new artisanal spirited wines — Muscat Artisanal Spirited Wine and Vidal Artisanal Spirited Wine.

The distillery marks Peller’s first step into the spirits business. That came, Peller said at the grand opening, as a result of a chat with Gretzky at a bar.

“I told him, ‘the world is changing and needs a great Canadian whiskey’,” Peller recalled. “We wanted to do something new and innovative, not just the winery but also a distillery.”

While the grand opening celebration is over, the public is welcome to taste Wayne Gretzky Estates wines and whiskies at the new winery tasting room and distillery whiskey bar from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. In addition, guests can experience 45-minute guided tours and interactive sessions with the bartenders and hosts on the history of whiskey making, insider tips on how to create the ultimate whiskey cocktail and learn about Wayne’s dream of opening a world-class winery, as well as wine and food pairings.

For more information on the products, winery experiences, and more, visit www.waynegretzkyestates.com or call 1-844-643-7799

By: Scott Rosts, Niagara This Week

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