It's not every winery that allows visitors to sample the latest vintage and then strap on a pair of skates to enjoy a great Canadian pastime.
But it's exactly what one would expect of a winery named for the man whose feats on the ice have secured his status as a living legend.
Earlier this month — after an unseasonably warm late fall, the highly anticipated ice rink finally opened at Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery and Distillery.
The winery had intended to open the attraction earlier but despite some 40,000 feet of glycol tubing chilling the concrete surface on which the ice sits, there's still a need to have weather on their side.
Mother Nature picked a good weekend to co-operate, though, as opening coincided with the annual Christmas Parade which attracted thousands of locals and visitors, the latter of which made a point of stopping at the highly visible Hwy. 55 attraction.
Estate manager Tim Coons estimates they had around 500 visitors on opening day.
The rink — which doubles as an decorative pond in the warmer months — is surrounded by rubber flooring, allowing people to keep their skates on as they go back and forth between the rink and the outdoor Whisky Bar Patio, which is amply heated and serves up wine, cocktails and a winter culinary menu. During the week, the menu is limited to fare such as chili and soup, with more substantial offerings on the weekend.
"It's just more comfortable for our guests," Coons said, adding there's also a change room right next to the bar.
Admission to the rink is $5 a person with skates available to rent for $10, helmet included.
Coons said the winery has nicknamed the rink Wally's Coliseum after the backyard rink Gretzky's father, Walter, painstakingly built every year at their Brantford home.
"What we want to deliver here is an authentic Canadian outdoor experience, and there's no better name to associate that with than Walter Gretzky," he said.
The rink is open daily from noon to 6 p.m. and will remain open as long as the temperature stays below 7 C. Coons said the chillers should allow them to maintain a healthy ice surface well into March.
"It just allows us to maximize our season," he said.
"It's all about getting people outdoors over the winter instead of hibernating."