By: Megan Pasche
Dan Aykroyd is a man who has brought entertainment, in the form of music and laughter, into the homes of millions around the world; and in recent years, his portfolio and passions have expanded even further to include not only producer of an award winning array of wines, but co-founder of the extremely popular Crystal Head Vodka.
His relationship with Niagara Wine Country, officially started in 2005, when he partnered with the Diamond Estates Group, which is a agency based in Toronto that owns several Canadian wineries, including two in Niagara: Diamond Estates Winery and DeSousa Wine Cellars. Aykroyd worked closely with Diamond Estates head winemaker, Tom Green, for two years, before releasing his first wines in 2007. A full listing of Dan’s wines can be seen later on in the article.
But, let’s go back a bit first.
Dan Aykroyd was born and grew up in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. His father worked in the government as a policy advisor to the Prime Minister, and his mother worked as an administrative assistant. Dan’s original plan was to become a priest, but by the time he turned 17, he decided to instead head to University for Criminology and Sociology. He eventually left the university before obtaining his degree and went to work for CityTV in Toronto. He also worked as a standup comedian in various nightclubs around Canada, as well as ran an after-hours speakeasy called Club 505, which was located in Toronto.
His love of music was nurtured and developed all throughout his time in Ottawa, and he spent much of his time attending concerts to see many of the great Blues artists of the day. During the 1960s, Dan saw such acts as James Cotton, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Woof, The Doors, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells…the list goes on.
[box type=”shadow”]“Heaven to me is percussion and bass, a screaming guitar and a burbling Hammond B-3 organ. It’s a soup I love being immersed in.” Dan Aykroyd.[/box]
His comedy acumen also continued to grow during that time, and soon enough he became part of the Second City Comedy Troupe in both Toronto and Chicago. He was then chosen to appear on the first season of Saturday Night Live, which debuted in 1975. He was not only a writer for the show, but was the youngest cast member on the first four seasons. He had several roles that made him popular on SNL, including his dead on impersonations of people such as Jimmy Carter, Vincent Price, and Richard Nixon. He also had several recurring characters, such as the father in the Coneheads family, one part of the “Wild and Crazy Guys” duo, and of course Elwood blues, part of the wildly popular Blues Brothers.
Aykroyd initially conceptualized The Blues Brothers with his good friend, John Belushi and Paul Shaffer, who was the music director on Saturday Night Live at the time. It started out as kind of a SNL novelty, but quickly grew into much more. The Blues Brothers were soon a full-blown musical act, and were touring, playing shows and releasing hit albums. The Blues Brothers were nominated for a Grammy in 1979, and they starred in a 1980 movie of the same name. 1982 saw the death of John Belushi, a couple of weeks before he and Aykroyd were due to present an Academy Award. The Blues Brothers still tour nowadays, with Aykroyd making appearances in the part of Elwood, and James Belushi, John’s younger brother, playing the part of Brother Zee. In 1992, Aykroyd was one of the co-founders of the House of Blues, which has evolved into a chain of 13 live music concert halls and restaurants.
Aykroyd has also starred in numerous movies throughout the years, including The Great Outdoors, Ghostbusters, Driving Miss Daisy, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, Grosse Point Blank, My Girl and quite a few more. Aykroyd actually co-wrote several movies, most notably Ghostbusters, which was one of his biggest hits. In real life, Aykroyd is fascinated with the world of parapsychology, and this lead to the writing of Ghostbusters. His family has always been involved in exploring the spirit world: His great grandfather was a mystic, and his dad recently wrote a book entitled A History of Ghosts, which gives a detailed account of the family’s history in Spiritualism.
He has been married to his wife Donna since 1983. She is also an actress, and they starred together in the movies Doctor Detroit, Spies Like Us and The Couch Trip. Dan and Donna have three daughters: Danielle, Stella and Belle. Dan Aykroyd was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, and in 1998, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
In terms of his interest in the wine industry, Dan first developed his love of wine during his Saturday Night Live years and while working on The Blues Brothers movie. Aykroyd has said he always takes the time to visit local wineries when he is travelling, and make a point to talk to winemakers and sample their wines. It seemed like a natural evolution to start producing his own wine. He partnered up with Diamond Estates, and went on to create a portfolio of world-class wines.
Diamond Estates Wine is located on 30 acres of property located at 1067 Niagara Stone Rd in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and is a great place to visit year round. Visitors can even check out the “cellar floor experience” which will give them a first hand look at the winemakers at work. In winter, the experience is available by appointment only. Dan Aykroyd’s wines are available right from Diamond Estates, as well as at the LCBO.
A Breakdown of Dan Aykroyd’s Wines
Dan Aykroyd Cabernet Shiraz 2011
Ruby in colour, this wine displays a rich bouquet of dark berry fruit and peppery notes. The palate is smooth in texture, showing concentrated flavours of black plum and cassis, complemented by an undercurrent of spicy layers.
Alcohol content: 12.50%
Pairings: Goes well on it’s own, or with mild pepperoni pizza, mild to medium grilled Italian sausages or veal scaloppini.
Awards: Previous vintages have won Double Gold, 2 Bronze and Best LCBO Red
Dan Aykroyd Cabernet Merlot 2011
Dense red in colour, this is a medium bodied wine that exhibits a bouquet of dark, lightly peppered, ripe fruits. The wine is approachable despite its youth showing bell pepper, more fruit layers and spice on the palate. It is well balanced with good acidity.
Alcohol content: 13.00%
Pairings: Has a tame nature that allows it to be enjoyed on its own, or with mild pepperoni pizza, mild to medium grilled Italian sausages, veal scaloppini with mushroom, garlic and red wine sauce, cabbage rolls or ground beef lasagna.
Awards: Silver Medal, All Canadian Wine Championships 2013
Dan Aykroyd Chardonnay 2012
Bright yellow in colour, this is medium bodied wine that exhibits aromas of fresh apples and lime zest. The palate is bursting with flavours of orchard peaches and nectarines with slight oak character in the background. A refreshingly crisp and acidic finish, it’s a great summer wine.
Alcohol content: 12.50%
Pairings: Pairs well with grilled vegetables, chicken in creamy sauces or fresh rabbit terrine.
Dan Aykroyd Merlot 2010
Dark garnet in colour with a nose that displays medium bodied characteristics with leather, spice and dark berry fruits. Full tannins are integrated on the palate with earthy spices, black cherry, cedar and black currant on the finish and the backbone. The finish is smooth and long with hints of vanilla and red berry fruits.
Alcohol content: 12.50%
Pairings: Pairs well with T-bone steak grilled to medium rare and served with asparagus and roasted red peppers, pork tenderloin with tart cranberry sauce, medium cheeses, gourmet burgers and gourmet pizza topped with duck confit.
Dan Aykroyd Sauvignon Blanc 2012
This aromatic Sauvignon Blanc is clear, pale gold in colour bursting fresh aromas of peaches and gooseberries. The palate complements the nose with crisp citrus flavours of lemon-lime, grapefruit and nectarine, accompanied by slight grassy and mineral notes with a refreshing, well-balanced finish.
Alcohol content: 12.50%
Pairings: Pairs well with sushi, semi-soft cheeses, grilled shellfish, herbed vegetable and/or light chicken dishes, green salads, Thai food.
Dan Aykroyd Vidal Icewine Reserve 2006
A gorgeous copper colour, this Vidal Icewine displays a rich and fragrant nose of apricots, orange honey and peaches, with mingling aromas of butterscotch and toffee. The palate presents deep and complex flavours of sweet honey, ripe tropical fruits, butterscotch with delicate hints of lychee and ginger throughout.
Alcohol content: 12.00%
Pairings: Should be served chilled to approximately 12 C. It’s great on it’s own or when paired with rich foods like fois gras and soft creamy cheeses, including blue or Stilton, as well as sweet desserts and chocolates.