TORONTO (CP) _ Dan Aykroyd remembers the dark days of Canadian wines, when a bottle of sickly sweet Baby Duck or Baby Deer was about as much as a patriotic tippler could hope for.
"Oh God, they were terrible," the former "Saturday Night Live" star says on the line from the Niagara region, where he was at EastDell Estates to announce the launch of a new line of Dan Aykroyd-labelled wines in 2007.
"Really dreadful. But those days are over and I really believe that Ontario and Canadian wines can take their place in the international marketplace now. And I’m happy to be the head cheerleader."
Less than a year after announcing his $1-million investment in four wineries owned by Diamond Estates _ Lakeview Cellars, EastDell Estates, Birchwood Estates, and Thomas and Vaughan _ Aykroyd says he plans to launch two ranges of Canadian wines, one a super-premium line and the other mid-priced. The first vintage will be an icewine available in 2007. Others in the premium line will be a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay. The mid-priced line will include a Merlot, a Cabernet Franc, and a Riesling/Gewurztraminer blend.
"Canadian wines can compete with any in the world and at a much more reasonable price," Aykroyd said. "Even blue-collar, working-class Canadians have developed a sophisticated taste for a quality bottle of wine with their dinner. And now they can buy domestic wines to satisfy that taste, and at affordable prices."
Apart from his involvement in the wine business, Aykroyd is still heavily into music, continuing to tour and perform with Jim Belushi as part of The Blues Brothers. He even likes pairing wines with music, saying he’ll listen to Wilson Pickett and soul music while sipping his 2007 icewine, and Bavarian marching music while enjoying the Riesling/Gewurztraminer in his line of wines.
He also intends to turn many of his Hollywood friends onto Canadian wines, saying he’ll be sending them "cases and cases" from his own line. Who, in particular, will be on the receiving end of his generosity? Actress Catherine O’Hara, a close friend since their Second City days, will be near the top of the list, Aykroyd says, due in part to the buzz he’s hearing about her performance in the upcoming Christopher Guest comedy "For Your Consideration."
"I love that woman; she is like a sister to me," Aykroyd says. "I hear she’s absolutely fantastic in the movie and might even get nominated for it. I will drive the cases up to her cottage in Muskoka myself. I am so delighted for her."