Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Celebrity wines

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Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Celebrity wines

Last night, Wayne Gretzky was all over our kitchen. The week before, we had Mike Weir over twice for dinner, and next month Dan Aykroyd will be over for lunch. No, I'm not the Great One's off-ice drinking buddy or a booze brother to the Blues Brother. But I can dream, can't I? So can you. Owning a winery may be chic, but selling wine in the global market is tough. A celebrity name on a bottle can lure consumers away from their regular brand. When Okanagan Valley winery Ex Nihilo Vineyards announced it had been authorized to produce Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones' icewine, their phone rang incessantly for weeks. The media wanted interviews, everyone else desperately wanted an exceptionally collectible bottle, and would gladly have provided a credit card number to clinch one. Here's a roster of Canada's celebrity vineyards.

Mike Weir Estate Winery

Jordan Station, Ont., 905-562-0035, 877-262-9463; weirwines.com; themikeweirfoundation.com

Canada's top professional golfer founded his winery in 2004 to swing support for Canadian children's charities through The Mike Weir Foundation. Weir wines are produced by Creekside Estate Winery, where Rob Power and Craig McDonald have made their mark as winemakers for Weir and Wayne Gretzky. The pair also won the 2008 award for Ontario Winemakers of the Year. The first time it teed up for competition, Weir's 2002 Meritage took top honours at the Cuvée awards. Whites include Pinot Grigio ($15), Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc ($16 each). The portfolio also includes Cabernet Merlot ($19), Pinot Noir ($22), Cabernet/Shiraz ($25), a superb Vidal Icewine ($55) and a commemorative bottling of his Masters Championship: a stunning 2004 Cabernet Merlot at just under $95 for a magnum (1.5 L).

Dan Aykroyd Wines
Vineland, Ont., 905-562-5685; danaykroydwines.com

Dan Aykroyd has played many roles, but his latest -- and potentially longest-running -- is as a Canadian wine ambassador. At one stop earlier this year in Eastern Canada, Dan autographed bottles for more than 1,500 people who had turned out for a local wine promotion. A full range of his Discovery Series wines -- Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Merlot and Cabernet Shiraz ($15 to $17) -- is available in most provinces. The thespian's Signature Reserve series is sold at LCBO stores and at Lakeview Cellars in Vineland, Ont. It includes a barrel-fermented 2005 Vidal Icewine ($80), recently named Wine of the Year at the Ontario Wine Awards. A 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (as yet unpriced) will be available at a new winery slated to open in Vineland in 2009.
 Wayne Gretzky Estates
Vineland, Ont., 905-562-4945; gretzkyestatewines.com; gretzky.com

Gretzky may be the biggest name in hockey, but these days, he's also scoring big in liquor stores. His Niagara-grown and -produced wines have become the fastest-selling VQA wines in Ontario. Wayne doesn't come home at night with purple feet, but he regularly tastes with Rob Power and Craig McDonald, and approves final blends. This winery, partnered with Creekside Estate Winery, has introduced a white and two reds. No. 99 Unoaked Chardonnay ($14) has graceful manoeuvres, gliding smoothly past the glottis into the esophagus. He scores! No. 99 Merlot and No. 99 Meritage ($16 each) rough me up a bit in the corners, they're both still young; by the end of next season, they should be in top form. Of all the products in the portfolio, the tastiest is No. 99 Vidal Icewine ($45). A portion of the profit goes to the Wayne Gretzky Foundation in support of youth hockey programs.

Bob Izumi Wines
St. David's, Ont., 905-682-8310, 877-269-6833; coyotesrunwinery.com; fishingforever.ca

Most Canadians recognize Bob Izumi as the TV fisherman from 20 years of syndicated radio and television broadcasts, but few people know he's also a terrific cook (his dad was a chef) who enjoys good wine. A few years ago, Bob teamed up with winemaker David Sheppard of Coyote's Run Winery to reel in a pair of special, food-friendly wines. The angler is hooking for his nonprofit foundation, Fishing Forever, which is committed to renewing and preserving Ontario's fishing waters for future generations. Bob Izumi White ($16) and Bob Izumi Red ($22) are bold-tasting premium blends. The white offers clean, crisp lemon-pear flavours complementary to most grilled fish. The red is ideal with gamey meats like bear, buffalo steak, moose sausage or beaver stew.
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Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Celebrity wines