Dan Aykroyd is coming to Montreal. Does his wine taste funny?

If I was in Montreal, I’d be tempted to go. Dan Aykroyd, the famous Canadian actor of Saturday Night Live fame will be touring Montreal, today and tomorrow (June 25 and 26), to present the line of wines that bear his name. He’ll be visiting three SAQ stores (see the list here) over the two days, to give the drinking public a taste of what’s bottled for him by Diamond Estates Wines and Spirits, the company behind Lakeview Cellar Wines, East Dell and 20 Bees, among other things.

If I could go, I’d certainly ask him what the deal is with all the celebrity wines appearing on the scene, this past couple of years. Like the Madonna, Kiss and Streisand wines from Celebrity Cellars. Or the Mike Weir and Wayne Gretzky wines made by Creekside Wines. Or the icewines and Napa Cab made for the Rolling Stones by Ex Nihilo Vineyards.

I’d ask him if he sees a difference between having a line of wines made by someone else, with your name on it, from various vineyards from here and there (Dan Aykroyd’s wines are sometimes VQA, sometimes not, sometimes from Canada, sometimes from Sonoma…), and actually owning your vineyards. Like Sting’s Il Palagio Sumner Family wines from Tuscany, Gérard Depardieu in the Loire, David and Victoria Beckham in California, Sam Neill in New Zealand, or even Francis Ford Coppola in California – although that last case definitely has more winemaking tradition in it than just celebrity trendiness.

Wine is certainly fashionable, if celebrities enjoy having their names on labels. It equates with luxury, health, pleasure, the good life. A good association if there ever was one. And you can even make a noble statement about biodiversity, the environment, and farming tradition – as the Sumners do in their biodynamic estate in Italy.

Oh, and by the way, I’ve had one of the Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series wines, before. The chardonnay, on a summer trip in Ontario. And no, it didn’t taste funny, despite my attempt at humor in the title. It wasn’t memorable, but it was simple and easy-drinking. In other words, it was fun.

It’s Christmas. Bring out the big bottles – and I mean that literally

I did another one of those fun collaborations with Sharman Yarnell, of Montreal radio station CJAD, this week. The theme was Holiday wine giving, by which she meant: what wine do you buy someone as a gift that will be distinctive and, hopefully, impressive.

I made many suggestions, from Alvaro Palacios’ Petalos, a scrumptious Bierzo with a lot of fight in it (see my tasting note), to Miguel Torres’ Mas La Plana, an exceptional and age-worthy cabernet sauvignon from the catalan part of Spain, and to the oft-forgotten madeira (the perfect match for plum pudding and fruitcake) with a Henriques y Henriquest 1995 Single Vintage as an excellent starting point.

But the idea that really stuck with me was: Go Big.

By which I don’t mean heading for overripe, (more…)

California Wine all tastes the same? Says who?

Well, finally back to blogging. After an intense weekend at the Wine Bloggers Conference, followed by four full days of running around Sonoma and Napa – and Fairfield, and Berkeley and San Francisco – and then returning to a new position at the newspaper in Quebec City, and mulling over about twenty different potential post subjects, I finally managed to focus long enough on one subject. And here it is.

One of the things that truly struck me, throughout the tastings I attended at the Wine Bloggers Conference and in the days that followed, was the great diversity of wines I tasted. Yes, there were a good lot of big, fruity, oaky cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays, but there was also a great deal more, in terms of grape varieties, climate variations and winemaking styles. More than I had expected, certainly.

Over my week, I had everything from grassy sauvignon blanc to jammy zinfandels, rustic carignan to (more…)

The great closure debate: Corked wines? What corked wines?

A little while a go, I worte about how Decanter had moved into the debate about corks and screwcaps by siding with the screwy side of the argument. If corked wines are a huge problem – up to 12% of wines are corked, according to some wildly flung statements -, then it is time to take a stand.

But again, where do those percentages, like the 12% stated on some web sites, actually come from? Hard to tell. Nobody mentions any clear statistics, and those that have taken a personal sample of their tastings, for several hundred bottles a year, come out at much lower levels.

So is cork taint actually such a huge, wine-world-shattering problem?

Check these figures out. (more…)

Wine on the air: time for the barbecue

Last week, I got an invitation from Sharman Yarnell, host of Showtime, a Saturday morning show on Montreal station CJAD, to talk about summer wines and, more specifically good wines for the barbecue. Sharman was charming and fun to work with, and I certainly hope to do it again some time. I have to say it’s always nice, when you’re blogging, to reach towards other media. And I’ve always loved doing radio.

I put together a list of accessible wines that could come in handy for the grilling season (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday (aargh… Thursday, again) #45: Old World Riesling

I like riesling more than I think I do.

What I mean to say is that as I pondered the theme of the May Wine Blogging Wednesday and tried to choose an Old World riesling for this contribution, I kept thinking about the many ways in which I’d enjoyed it, just over the last few months: alsatian Léon Beyer riesling by the glass in two restaurants (dry, mineral and yet nicely aromatic and expressive), a 2002 Grittermatte riesling from Domaine Julien Meyer (a touch oxydized, yet clean, well-rounded and complex), a 2000 riesling from Ontario’s Hernder Estate Winery, a bottle of Mort’s Block from Kilikanoon, a Grant Burge riesling, a Mount Cass slightly botrytized riesling from New Zealand (see my French-language review here) , and so on. The variety in acidity, mineral character, floral and (more…)