It has been about 35 years since I laid my eyes upon Wiener Bennett.
Early on, myself and my friends figured he got tired of our teenaged act of taking the same putt 10 times til we made it when we were playing good ol’ Seaforth Golf and Country Club. He was an assistant pro at chez Doig, the Seaforth Club’s family owners.
Years later, we heard he had relocated down Sarnia way and had been a developmental support system for one Mike Weir.
We thought, “that Wiener, good for him.”
To us he was a mini Jack Nicklaus, same blonde coiffe, stocky build, and could he hit a ball?
Thing was, he seemed to line up his shot at about a 45-degree angle off the tee to the point one was sure he would end up in the trees. But he played his big hook perfectly and it would draw back in and end up right down the middle.
These days, he’s known as The Guv and is an esteemed part of the Weir Family entourage which was front and centre Saturday at the official opening for Mike Weir Winery.
There were a lot of neat little things I very much appreciated when I attended the opening.
That event was a perfect example of why the community newspaper industry is aces in my book, nothing like it.
Seeing Steve Bennett was a highlight for sure, so too was catching up with Barry Katzman. Barry and I go back to his days at Stoney Ridge, his first days that is, long before he caught on with Creekside Winery, which helped launch the Weir brand.
It was great to catch up and hear all that is planned for that new facility. As I looked around the tasting bar area, I could not help but think from what this new, hip and innovative place had transitioned.
When I moved to Niagara in 1995, the new Weir winery was Walters Estate Winery, operated by Buck and Sadie Walters. I remember being at their opening, too. They were so proud of their retail shop, with its timber hewn from the tree lot on their property and stone quarried from their own land as well; the quinetessential homegrown facility.
Then along came Susan O’Dell and David East, who converted the property to EastDell Estate and they pushed the property to another level. Dan Aykroyd and Diamond Estates held the reins briefly, which have now been handed to Weir, his brother JIm, Katzman and his new winery team.
But the star of the show, unmistakenly (aside from the wine, of course) is Mike Weir.
Meeting him for the first time confirmed for me the sentiments others have told me about the man: a class act.
For me, a perfect indication of this man’s character came right in the middle of his introductory speech as he thanked the throng of family and friends in attendance.
I have been to hundreds of these kinds of events over the years. In fact, I had just been at the grand opening of the new arena/library complex in Beamsville earlier that day.
Not once have I seen someone ask the crowd to pause and bow their heads in silence for a moment to think about loved ones not in attendance. It was a simple, yet classy move and that is Mike Weir.
He was very generous with his time, as was Wiener, er, The Guv, and Katzman at a time when he didn’t really have to be. The event was private for family and friends. Of course media was invited, but I must say I felt like a bit of an intruder.
It is going to be great to see how far these new caretakers of this well-known property can take Mke Weir Winery. No doubt they will be awesome ambassadors for Niagara and the wine industry, so welcome, Weir family, you are now members of the very exclusive ClubWEST.