Hi Berserkers,

The last tasting notes from my “celebrity” wine tour yesterday.


The Gretzky Estates “winery” is actually just a two story tasting boutique that was deliberately built to appear to house more than it actually does. There are no winemaking facilities on the plot and all the grapes are sourced and the winemaking done at Creekside. There are long-term plans to build that facility but right now Rob Power and the serving staff graciously stayed late on a Saturday for us which the tour appreciated. It was agreed that they wanted a professional appearance for the public which is why the tasting boutique was built first.

Rob was a great speaker, incredibly passionate and funnily candid about winemaking and the Gretzky venture itself. Among the stories he shared:

  1. They were not approached by Gretzky as Mike Weir and Dan Aykroyd approached Chateau des Charmes and 20 Bees, respectively. They went after Gretzky himself. As Rob put it, “No offense to anyone but does anyone really know who Steven and Chris are in the US? Europe? Everyone knows who Gretzky is. He’s an icon.”

  2. Gretzky told them point blank at their first meeting that his name alone would sell the first bottle of wine but they would never sell another unless they made a quality product. So make a quality product.

  3. He and several other expert Ontario winemakers, critics and industry types had a friendly get together with a large batch of blind where everyone was figuring they would easily be able to identify wines by vintages, varietals and right down to the actual makers of the wines. Everyone was WRONG – some winemakers not even identifying their own wines correctly! He laughs at this now but admitted to us it was both an eye-opening and humbling experience to see that once going in blind, even expert winemakers sometimes can’t distinguish wines necessarily any better than the average consumer. He uses experiences like this to inspire himself to make even better quality wines.

  4. Gretzky’s exact words on what types of wines he wanted: “Hockey Night in Canada wines.” Affordable, unpretentious, unsnobby wines that people could enjoy with dinner or while watching a game on TV.

  5. An important distinction between critics and winemakers – critics are obsessed with the aromatics of a wine. Winemakers obsess over the TEXTURE of a wine. A wine may have the greatest taste in the world but it’s no good if there is no body or structure to support it. This likely explains the “fading away” sensation I found in the Mike Weir/Dan Aykroyd/Steven and Chris Trend wines I tasted earlier in the day.

  6. Their marketing people begged them to use the word “Shiraz” instead of “Syrah”. When asked why, their simple reply was that it would get more sales. So they went with “Shiraz.” I have to admit, it is a much sexier word that “Syrah”.

  7. Out of every regular non-estate table wine they sell through the LCBO, they will see only $6.70 back from the bottle. No breaks at all despite being an entirely charity driven venture. Less than 50% of what they can sell it for at the winery. This is why they – and every other winery in Niagara – will not apply to the LCBO to distribute anything they think they can sell out via the winery boutique and online sales alone. Everything a winery puts in through the LCBO is a loss-lead for everyone involved.

  8. The other thing keeping winemakers up at night fretting away is striking the right fernherb in their wines – that is, the balance between sugar and acidity. More acid = dryer table wine. More sugar = sweeter table wine. The key is striking the right balance and too much one way or the other can be disastrous to a wine.


WAYNE GRETZKY 2008 UNOAKED CHARDONNAY $13.95 – Notes of pear, green apple and citrus, light body, flavors of apple, peach and pineapple. Clean and acidic on the finish. This was actually refreshing, not a word I normally think of for chardonnay. No bitterness at all in the finish. As someone who notoriously doesn’t like Chardonnay, I really liked this. Better than the Mike Weir unoaked Chardonnay from earlier in the same day. Recommend.

WAYNE GRETZKY 2008 RIESLING $14.95 – A dry style Riesling with a lemon-lime nose. Light body. Nice lemon-lime acidity start off with but then fades out at the end. This was not as good as the unreleased Mike Weir Chardonnay from earlier in the same day which was a recommend. We now have a complete reversal of the same two wines between Mike Weir and Wayne Gretzky, proving you can’t judge a variety by just one bottle of wine alone.

WAYNE GRETZKY ESTATE SERIES 2007 SHIRAZ CABERNET $22.95 – Berry nose, medium bodied, with a taste of cherries and coffee. Peppery tannins and oak take over at the finish. A wee bit bitter, probably needs some aging. Way better than I thought it was going to be.

WAYNE GRETZKY 2006 SHIRAZ ICEWINE $40– The staff kindly poured us some icewine which was not a part of the original tasting and didn’t charge us for it. We thanked them profusely. This was just lovely. When wine tasters say that Shiraz is like Cabernet Franc with black pepper and spice, they’re dead on and it really comes through in this icewine. Strawberry nose, spicy strawberry body, rich full body. If Cabernet Franc icewine is strawberry lemonade, this Shiraz icewine was a strawberry black pepper sorbet. Go ahead and Google it, it’s out there and that’s exactly what this tastes like.

OVERALL: A decent batch of wines. There was a very long lineup at the cash register at the end of the tasting. The venture has the exact same philosophy and attitude as the Mike Weir wine line, but the tour definitely seemed to like these a lot more.

Had I not already bought two bottles of the Shiraz icewine at the LCBO prior to this trip, I would’ve bought them here. After being told what the LCBO leaves them with, I immediately regretted doing so out loud. Rob graciously told me that a sale is a sale and let me off the hook.