Gerry Dee pops the cork on Wine Festival

September 14, 2016 | St. Catharines Standard
by Bill Sawchuk

The Grape Growers of Ontario picked an interesting pairing for its annual celebrity luncheon Wednesday.

Canadian comedian and actor Gerry Dee entertained hundreds of grape growers, winemakers and guests with his stand-up routine at Club Roma Wednesday.

“I should probably drink more wine than I do. I have kids who are nine, six and three years old,” he said. “The three-year-old is a bit of an idiot.”

Dee is the creator, executive producer and star of one of the longest-running Canadian sitcoms, Mr. D, now in its sixth season on CBC, and he placed the highest of any Canadian several years ago on NBC’s Last Comic Standing show by finishing third.

At the annual wine festival luncheon, little was off limits after he was introduced by town crier Mark Molnar and Matthias Oppenlaender of the Grape Growers of Ontario.

“Matthias, thank you,” he said. “This is the first time I have ever had two introductions. The town crier said the exact same thing — and you repeated it. I couldn’t understand either one of you.

“This probably isn’t the best gig for the town crier, when he starts hacking and coughing through his one job.”

Dee was born and raised in Scarborough and played varsity hockey and golf while studying kinesiology at York University and education at St. Francis Xavier University. He had a 10-year teaching career which, along with his family, provides him with much of his material, before making it in comedy.

He had fun with the jacket given to the festival’s Grape King, which comes with a crown emblazoned on the breast pocket over the words Grape King.

“Just so you know, the only people in the country who care about the green Grape King jacket are the people wearing it,” he said. “No one else knows what it is — or wants to wear it.”

Dee said his job was to entertain the guests. He’s no expert on wine.

“I just try to make them laugh,” he said. “I’m not going to give them a speech on grapes. It’s different than doing standup, but really, these events are how I got started.”

The event is a kickoff for the 65th edition of the Niagara Wine Festival, which gets underway Friday in Montebello Park. The annual Grande Parade in downtown St. Catharines is Sept. 24 at 11 a.m.

The Pied Piper Parade for kids is Saturday at 11 a.m.