It’s been nearly five years since Canadian pro golfer Mike Weir launched his line of Niagara wines, and still he has no place to call home.
No official Weir winery for the PGA player’s fans to make a pilgrimage.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
When Weir first launched his brand with then-partners Peter Jensen and his wife Laura McCain-Jensen in spring 2005, there was talk of building a retail store in St. Davids.
But Weir and the Jensens broke up in 2008, and the golfer partnered instead with Chateau des Charmes Winery in St. Davids to make his Chardonnay, Cabernet Merlot and other wines.
Still, no winery of his own.
But in November 2008, Weir and his winery president, Barry Katzman, unveiled plans to build a winery mecca on a 15-acre parcel of land next to the Whirlpool Golf Course in Niagara Falls. The shovels were expected to be in the ground last summer. No dirt has moved yet.
Trouble is this public course is operated by the embattled Niagara Parks Commission.
The self-financing provincial tourism agency has come under fire for months for giving Maid of the Mist tour boat operators a 25-year contract extension without taking competitive bids.
Weir’s winery was put under a microscope afterward with some questioning the deal because Katzman is the son of Archie Katzman, a St. Catharines businessman and longtime parks commissioner.
All parties insisted Archie bowed out of commission talks whenever the winery issue came up.
And now a staffing shakeup. Parks chairman Jim Williams resigned last month after disagreeing with Tourism Minister Monique Smith over the tendering process deadline for the Maid of the Mist contract.
Now, Katzman’s dad, Archie, is the acting chairman.
All of the commission’s ups and downs have left Weir’s Niagara winery in limbo, said Barry Katzman. Projects like Weir’s have been put on the backburner.
The Niagara Parks site is still the one the Weir camp prefers, and Katzman said they’re willing to wait until the commission sorts itself out — for a while anyway.
“I understand what they’re going through,” Katzman said. “They’ve been up front with us that they’re going through all kinds of issues with the minister and ministry they report to. Their senior staff is preoccupied with that and that’s put a drag on the speed that we’d like to see things move at ideally. We’ll just have to stay tuned.”
Katzman said other people have approached the golfer with alternative sites ever since the winery was announced.
“We don’t have a backup plan that is currently underway or anything. We still covet the parks location.”
Meanwhile, plans are steadily progressing for a Weir winery and golf course — designed by the Brights Cove, Ont., native — in Vernon, B.C., he said. There have been several meetings with Weir’s partners Wesbild — the company behind B.C.’s Predator Ridge Golf Course — and plans have been drawn up.
“We’ll definitely have that facility up and running in the Okanagan some time in the future.”
Proceeds from the wine go to the Mike Weir Foundation, which helps disadvantaged children.
Posted By MONIQUE BEECH
This article was originally published here