Canadian-born comic actor Dan Aykroyd, 54, is known for his roles in films such as Ghostbusters and The Blues Brothers, as well as from Saturday Night Live. Aykroyd has long been a passionate Bordeaux drinker and collector, and he is also a vocal booster of the Canadian winemaking industry. Nearly a year ago, he invested in Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits, a Toronto-based company whose holdings include four wineries on the Niagara Peninsula: Thomas & Vaughan Estate Winery, EastDell Estates Winery, Birchwood Estate Wines and Lakeview Cellars. Aykroyd and Diamond Estates recently announced plans to collaborate on two collections of Canadian wines, the Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series and the premium Dan Aykroyd Signature Reserve Series. Aykroyd spoke with Wine Spectator Online associate editor Laurie Woolever from the set of his next feature film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
Wine Spectator: How did you become interested in wine?
Dan Aykroyd: As a college student in Ottawa, Canada, I didn't have much to do with wine--other than what I could afford, which was the Andres series of wine in Canada, Baby Duck and Baby Deer, and the occasional bottle of Mogen David, which has a great label, but is not such a great wine with a steak, you know? It's nice with some matzo brie and chopped liver, but you wouldn't sit down and treat a Mogen David like you would a fine Bordeaux. So that was all I was exposed to.
My next exposure to wine was in New York, at Saturday Night Live. Everyone would go out to get the Beaujolais Nouveau. That was the big thing, and of course we'd drink far too much of it.
And then I wrote The Blues Brothers. I was just a beer drinker right until we started filming the movie, and then it was Steve Cropper who sophisticated my taste. He played in Otis Redding's band. He produced Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding. He's a giant entertainer, guitar player and a very prosperous man because of his songwriting royalties, so he's been able to indulge himself for years and buy great, great wine. Well, we get out to California, we begin shooting The Blues Brothers at Universal Studios. He had a house on Mulholland Drive, above the studio. One night we went over there, and he poured me some wine and said, "Try this, I just got it." It was a Napa Valley Cabernet, and it changed my whole perception of what I wanted to taste for the rest of my life. It was so deep, so fat and so full. From there he said, "How would you like to try something French?" And after French, it was Super Tuscans.
WS: Do you have a personal wine cellar?
DA:You know what? It's completely empty. I've gone through four or five of them. After a full summer of entertaining, you can imagine how it gets depleted. It's gone. I have a bottle of Château Trotanoy Pomerol that River Phoenix gave me, and I hesitate to open that, because it's special, but you can't let these reds sit around for too long. At 15, even eight to 10 years, I find these Bordeaux are fine, and then after that you take a chance. You open it up, and it could be salad dressing. You just don't know. But I've had very good luck. I've had to send very few bottles back. In fact, I used to never send them back, even when the wine was corked.
WS: Why is that?
DA:I thought, I'm not the kind of guy who sends back wine. I just thought, we'll order another bottle and leave that one to sip. But now I won't.
WS: Any thoughts on cork versus screw cap?
DA:You know, I haven't tasted enough good screw-cap wine to really decide yet.
WS: How did you come to invest in Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits?
DA: They were the distributor for Patrón tequila, which I'm the importer for in Canada. I wanted to have some leverage, and then I find out they have these four incredible wineries. They're very smart guys and they love wine and winemaking. The EastDell Unoaked Chardonnay, I would put that against any white in the world for a medal. I feel confident that now an Ontario white from Niagara can go against any white anywhere.
WS: Tell us a bit about the series of wines that you plan to launch in 2007.
DA:A Signature Reserve VQA Vidal ice wine, bottled at EastDell, will be the first to go out under my name. If Canadian wine is known for anything at all, it's ice wine. It's a great economic alternative to Yquem or a Sauternes or any of the other great dessert wines of France or Germany. You can get a Canadian ice wine for a fraction of the price and really, it's just as good in terms of sweetness and the velvety full flavor, the finish, the thickness of it. Of course, it will never be a Château d'Yquem, but this Vidal ice wine is going to be out there for under a hundred dollars. I'm not doing this for the ego of being in the wine business. I want the consumer to benefit from this.
WS: How involved are you with the winemaking decisions?
DA: I come from the marketing and promotion side, but I do have a good tongue. I know what I like, and I know what tastes good. I trust the vintners. They are second-generation or third-generation Niagara winemakers who just love what they do.
WS: Do you have any favorite wine-related memories?
DA: This isn't a memory, but if I'm ever to be executed, my last meal will start with EastDell Unoaked Chardonnay and a Caesar salad, then Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes with rosemary gravy, peas and a T-bone steak, Florentine style, with sliced garlic on top, and all of this will have a Château Margaux next to it. A mocha dacquoise for dessert, with ice wine, and at the very end, a nice blue cheese, a Stilton. They'd have to kill me after that meal, really. I don't think I would be able to walk. They could use me as a science experiment.
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