Q & A with Dan Aykroyd
Former SNL cast member and Blues Brother launches a line of wines with Canada's Niagara Cellars.
Launched to fame in the early days of Saturday Night Live, Dan Aykroyd has been acting since high school. As Elwood Blues in the Blues Brothers movies and other characters, he has seemed quintessentially American. But Aykroyd could not be more Canadian, as he was born on July 1 (Canada Day) in Ottawa, the capital city, with a grandfather who was a Mountie. Today, he's embracing that heritage by launching the Dan Aykroyd Signature Reserve and Dan Aykroyd Discovery series of wines with Niagara Cellars in Ontario.
Wine Enthusiast: You certainly seem to love wine these days. Was it always that way?
Dan Aykroyd: I grew up with wine-very bad wine! It was not good wine at all-just the local plonk. My father was a government employee, and he did not have money for anything else.
WE: How did you find your way to the good stuff?
DA: [Blues Brothers guitarist] Steve Cropper was my mentor. [House of Blues founder] Isaac Tigrett, too. Cropper turned me on to big bold Napa, Sonoma and Washington State reds. In the old days of Saturday Night Live, I used to drink Beaujolais Nouveau—that's what I knew about wine then. And Mateus rosé, very unsophisticated! Then I really started enjoying Bordeaux, like Margaux and Corton-Charlemagne whites.
WE: You have two lines of wines about to be released. How did that come about?
DA: I'm partnered in the Patron distributorship in Canada. I had wondered why we could not get it in Canada, so I offered to help finesse it. When I met with [the other partners], I found out they have four vineyards, and all kinds of great products. They said they wanted to do a signature line of wines based on my palate.
WE: So how are you choosing your wines?
DA: I will taste, and then put my name on the ones I would drink. The wines will be very good value: under $30, some under $20.
WE: Do you like wines from Canada?
DA: I like the ice wines. Niagara wines are comparable to Sauternes—and a fraction of the price. The Vidal Ice Wine I'm doing is velvety, sweet. You can't drink it all night, but with a smoke or with cheeses after dinner, it's really delicious.
WE: Are all your wines coming from Canada?
DA: We're going around the world, including Israel—I love their wines—France and Napa. We'll have vintners make custom wines for us. It's the perfect mix of celebrity, food, wine and entertainment. We're having a ball with it.
WE: Do you relate well to the people at Niagara?
DA: Murray Watson, the principal of Niagara Cellars—what I loved about him right off is that we sat down and had some wine. Then said he wanted a little steak to complement the wine-the opposite of the usual approach: the wine came first. Choosing your food to complement wine is what I've done for years.
WE: Any favorite foods-or food fantasies?
DA: Here's my last meal: it would open with an iceberg lettuce salad with blue cheese and tomato wedges. The wine would be Corton-Charlemagne or Puligny-Montrachet. I'd move on to grilled shrimp with garlic with Gewürztraminer to play with flavors, maybe a bottle from the Niagara Peninsula. Then a T-bone steak with peas, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and horseradish. With Château Brane-Cantenac. Finally, Black Forest cake with caramel butterscotch ice cream and Niagara Vidal ice wine. And some cheeses after that. I'd finish with Patron XO over ice and a nice Cuban cigar.