Wayne Gretzky is a name that pretty much everyone knows so when you hear that Wayne Gretzky himself opened a winery in Niagara-on-the-lake.. you know it’s a big deal and you set your standards pretty high for what to expect. I’ve lived in Toronto all my life and have never visited Niagara-on-the-lake. Until now. This little wine country on the lake exceeded all my expectations and so did Wayne Gretzky’s Winery and Distillery.
My first impression of Wayne Gretzky’s Estates is that it’s very grand. The building is beautiful and modern with floor-to-ceiling windows. I love that the structure itself resembles a barn. Towards the back of the building are acres and acres of vineyards, as far as the eye can see. It was gorgeous even though the end of their harvesting season was here.
Wayne Gretzky’s Winery operates under Andrew Peller Limited who produces wines for a handful of other great wineries. Some of their wineries are Peller Estates, Trius Winery, Sandhill and Thirty Bench Wine Makers who are located here in Ontario and in British Columbia.
We were greeted by Zac Kvas, their in-house mixologist, who welcomed us with a delicious whisky-based cocktail. (made with my favourite fall crop, pumpkin!) You can tell how passionate Zac is as he’s smiling from ear-to-ear as he talks about Wayne Gretzky’s No.99 Whisky.
We got a mini lesson from Zac on cocktail making. Why people choose to make cocktails with Vodka v.s. Whisky and the simple answer is.. it’s all about the flavour. The Wayne Gretzky No.99 Whisky has notes of oak, caramel and vanilla with a hint of nuttiness. We even learned that you could smoke a cocktail with a traditional kitchen smoker to enhance the flavour of the whisky or cocktail. Cool right?!
Moving onto dinner, I was super excited to hear that the menu at Wayne Gretzky’s Winery is seasonal. They always use farm-fresh ingredients that are local and in-season. They offer Wine & Whisky dinner pairings so that you get a chance to taste their winemaker, Craig McDonald’s favourite wines.
The Menu for the Evening
Fall Minestrone Soup with spiced cheese straw, house prosciutto and fresh mozzerella.
Whisky: Indiana Jones and the Fennel of Doom
A Cocktail made with cucumber, basil and fennel.
Ontario Lamb Three Ways
Whisky caramel pecan crusted lamb shank, grilled lamb sirloin and Merguez sausage served with Icewine Red Cabbage, white bean and chorizo cassoulet and roasted heirloom carrots.
Whisky: My-Mint of the Lambs
A smoked whiskey cocktail with cherry
Gretzky Creamed Whisky Cheesecake Bar with Caramel popcorn, dark chocolate and toffees pear.
Wine: Wayne Gretzky Estate Vidal Icewine 2016
Whisky: Wayne Gretzky Creamed Whisky on ice
If you can guess, my favourite course was dessert, I can’t even describe to you how delicious this Creamed Whisky cheesecake bar was. I need to attempt to remake the bar so I can share it with you.
The next morning, we took an early trip back to Wayne Gretzky’s Winery where we met Craig McDonald, their winemaker. It was 9 a.m. when we tasted wine and it was goooood. We visited the barrel room where Craig casked and aged all the wines. We sampled a few Sauvignon Blancs at different stages in the fermentation process. Some that were just casked and a couple that were fermenting and on its way to become delicious white wine.
The Whisky tasting was led by Master Distiller, Joshua Beach, who knows all you can know about Whisky. From the ingredients to the distilling process to the different grains and what you can and can’t drink during the distillation process. He was a wealth of knowledge. We tasted all three of Wayne Gretzky’s Whiskies side-by-side so you can really see and taste the difference from the different ages. I won’t get into detail about the distillation process because it’s very technical and science-y but if you’re a whisky fan, Wayne Gretzky’s Winery & Distillery does offer Wine and Whisky Tours! You can book it here.
I had such an amazing experience, thank you to all the wonderful people at Wayne Gretzky’s Winery and giving us a behind-the-scenes tour of the beautiful winery. A lot of passion, hard work and love goes into the crafting of Wayne Gretzky’s wines and whiskies and maybe you’ll get to meet Wayne when you visit!
Have you visited Niagara-on-the-lake before? Does anyone not know who Wayne Gretzky is?! ( haha ) Let me know in the comments!
Thank you to Wayne Gretzky’s Winery for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.