Growing up in the Southern Ontario town of Brantford, a young Wayne Gretzky rejoiced in the traditions of wintertime in Canada such as playing a game of hockey, followed by warming up with hot chocolate by the fire. Celebrating the first winter since its inauguration in 2017, Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery, invites you and your family to join the magic at the property this snowy season.
Through frequent events, special winter-themed food and cocktails, and outdoor skating, Wayne Gretzky Estates™ is the ultimate winter destination for families and visitors of all ages.
Wayne Gretzky wines began production in the Niagara Region under Andrew Peller Ltd. in 2012. With the intentions to build the Gretzky wine name as a “celebrity brand with a face”, the project for the 23,000 square-foot property with a winery and state-of-the-art distillery was born.
During the official ground-breaking ceremony in 2015, The Great One himself dropped a loonie into the centre of the outdoor water feature, which is transformed into a skating rink for visitors to enjoy over the winter.
Wayne Gretzky Estates is unique to the other properties under Andrew Peller Ltd. as it embraces not only a passion for wine, but reflects the ultimate Canadian dream. The facility integrates itself into the rural Ontario country, with a contemporary vision, with modern decor and adornments embracing Canada’s national sport, ice hockey.
The wines and whiskies keep the award-winning quality of Andrew Peller Ltd. by sharing the same vineyards, fields, facilities and expertise of the Trius winemaking team, with the Wayne Gretzky brand allowing room for a creative spin on the traditional methods. The Great One himself takes a keen interest in the property, facilities, and production of the wines and whiskies Wayne Gretzky Estates creates, sharing a personal relationship with both Craig McDonald and Joshua Beach, his Head Winemaker and Master Distiller.
The Right-Hand Men: Joshua Beach
Born and raised in Kitchener, Ontario, Joshua Beach completed his MSc in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt in Scotland. Additionally, he holds a degree in Computer Science which he has found useful to “round out the art of distilling with science”.
Prior to his position with Wayne Gretzky Estates Joshua owned a distillery in Vancouver with a partner. He admits Niagara is wonderful place to work as a Distiller, as the region is home to “some of the best agriculture in the world” with direct access to rye and corn.
Joshua was delighted to hear he’d be working at a distillery owned by every Canadian boy’s hockey hero. “Working for a celebrity-owned distillery as opposed to a smaller craft distillery gives great exposure and directive. We have the ability to showcase our products on the market. For Wayne, quality is key, therefore perfection is something we constantly strive for,” says Joshua.
As the estate has both a winery and distillery on site, there is a lot of valuable synergy between the two programs.
“Being able to source barrels from the winery to finish our products gives us the opportunity to get creative and experiment to give the whiskies extra character,” says Joshua.
Working with Craig and the Trius winemaking team, Joshua is able to borrow the expertise of “fantastically-trained noses” to give him a second opinion on the sensory when finishing the spirits.
In addition to whisky, the distillery produces “spirit of” products made from different grapes used in Gretzky wines in spirit form.
The Right-Hand Men: Craig McDonald
Craig McDonald leads the winemaking for Trius and Wayne Gretzky Estates and earned the title as Ontario Winemaker of the Year in 2008 and 2016. He came from an agricultural background, growing up in rural Australia in a region called Sunraysia.
He developed his skills throughout 32 vintages in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada, 17 of which were in Niagara, the place Craig calls “his kitchen ”.
“What makes Niagara special for winemaking are the challenges presented, there are never two vintages that are the same,” says Craig. “I believe that Niagara wine country has not yet reached its full potential, and we are still blazing a trail in winemaking… and I look forward to being a part of it.”
The wines produced at Wayne Gretzky Estates™ Winery are different of those produced at Trius or other properties of Andrew Peller Ltd, as they are bolder, richer, and more full-bodied. As he has a long-standing relationship with Wayne, the flavours are representative of what you would expect to be served by Wayne Gretzky himself.
“Wayne and I clicked straight away. In fact when we met, he seemed to take more of an interest in me!” laughed Craig.
“He is fascinated by the winemaking process and is always the first to ask questions about how production is going. He is extremely proud of his wine.”
Along with Master Distiller, Joshua Beach, Craig works constantly to strive for perfection combining the award-winning qualities of Trius wines with the original characteristics of the Gretzky Brand.
Like other spirits, the Vidal, Muscat, and Rosé all contain a 40% alcohol content, retaining enough flavour to showcase the essence of the individual varietals.
Inside Wayne Gretzky Estates:
As visitors enter the winery, they find themselves in the family room, a lounge area with sofas and a fireplace displaying an enlarged photo of the Gretzky family homestead. Framed jerseys and plaques throughout the winery display milestones in Wayne Gretzky’s career from junior hockey to his retirement.
Floor length windows surround the winery’s tasting lounge providing unobstructed panoramic views out to the vineyards. Inside the whisky tasting area, you’ll feel immersed in the charm of a rustic barn setting with present-day decor.
Open daily, the Whisky Patio Bar invites visitors to enjoy handcrafted cocktails by resident mixologist, Zac Kvas, and enjoy a selection of light fare from the menu prepared by Executive Chef Frank Dodd of Trius Winery Restaurant and Wayne Gretzky Estates. Try a gourmet soup or chili this winter, followed by a cup of hot chocolate by the ice rink.
Inside the retail boutiques you’ll find a selection of wine and whisky merchandise and hockey memorabilia such as souvenir Wayne Gretzky hockey pucks.
For private events, the estate’s barrel cellar is available for intimate tastings and catered functions, and rental of the skating rink can be arranged for parties over the winter months.