Wayne Gretzky goes back to his pre-Olympic work: promoting wines, curling

Wayne Gretzky goes back to his pre-Olympic work: promoting wines, curling

Wayne and Walter Gretzky: His wish is our command (Image: Karon Liu) 

Bedlam ensued at the Royal York Hotel last week as Wayne Gretzky mingled with guests, signed autographs and sipped wine from his very own label: 99 Estates, which makes 12 wines, ranging from chardonnays to rieslings to icewines. The event, held for members of the hotel’s loyalty program, was intended to promote the Great One’s vino and remind the world of two things: that proceeds from sales go to support young hockey players and that Canada is really great at curling. “My American friends came up with a theory that we created curling so that we could win a gold medal,” said Gretzky. “I said to them that they should make a third division that’s coed so that we can win another gold there.”

We took a break from the fandemonium and spoke with winemaker Craig McDonald, who teamed up with Gretzky in 2007 to form the label. “There’s always skepticism attached to a celebrity product,” he says. “But if this was a quick cash grab, we wouldn’t be here two years later. The celebrity brand in general has raised the bottle’s profile, but people continue to buy it because it’s made locally and a quality product.”

Amid the swarm of Gretzky fans, we spotted Roots founder Michael Budman and Walter Gretzky—both decked out in Roots varsity jackets. We were pleased when Gretzky Sr. caught us off guard by asking to have his picture taken. “Hey, you’ve been taking photos all night,” said the Great Dad. “Someone should take a photo of us!”