A Liquid RUSH with Hall of Fame Inductee Alex Lifeson

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame became a credible institution today as it finally — finally! — announced its intention to induct legendary rockers RUSH.  A high raise of the chalice to these fine Canadian musicians for trailblazing their unique path to success without ever having to compromise their artistic vision and integrity.  And as their new album, A Clockwork Angels, demonstrates, they are rocking harder, looser, and funkier than ever before.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In hopeful anticipation of the overdue Rock Hall honor, I launched this Drink Bravely video with guitar virtuoso and wine collector Alex Lifeson two days ago.  The video has already garnered thousands of views, and as you’ll see, his fascinating home cellar includes everything from Côte-Rôtie from France’s Rhone Valley to Madeira from Portugal to Australian Shiraz to Swedish Aquavit, all of which, you might note, would make an excellent holiday gift for the wine lover (and Rush fan) in your life.  So catch the mystery, catch the drift: Liquid Rush: Digging Into Alex Lifeson’s Wine Cellar.

Wine Collector Reflections: Twelve Different DRC’s, Courtesy of a Maker of Moments

Wine Collector Reflections: Twelve Different DRC’s, Courtesy of a Maker of Moments

If, as they say, time is a thief, then I know a wine collector who has the opposite effect: he makes moments.  He doesn’t collect wine to flaunt his connoisseurship or to create chest-thumping, my-bottle-is-bigger-than-yours displays.  His approach is quite the opposite.

wine collector
The unlikely intersection of exquisite taste and extraordinary generosity

This collector, of course, prizes wine and enjoys watching it evolve through the years.  I suspect that he also digs the intellectual complexity and maddening elusiveness that surrounds red Burgundy, his bottle-borne Emile Flöge.  But even more than this, he derives quiet pleasure — a delight that registers foremost in his eyes – from sharing his formidable collection with others, including those who can’t necessarily rattle off how many bottles are in a Nebuchadnezzar.

In this way, he fulfils the almost talismanic potential of wine to be both an accessory and a catalyst for life’s great gatherings.  When else do we find reason to get together as a happy tribe, experience new sensations, and, well, get a bit buzzed to boot?

This wine collector – this maker of moments — is all the more uncommon given that many wine enthusiasts (myself included) are guilty of not often enough stepping aside from our daily maelstroms to break out the good stuff.  Like dutiful investors, we buy and hold, waiting for just the right moment to justify opening our good bottles for loved ones.  We wait to seize a moment that often never happens.

So your mandate, fair reader, as is mine, is to use wine to become a maker of moments among your own tribes.  Doing so with special bottles heightens the occasion, but it need not involve great expense or effort, certainly nowhere near that which comprised the rarefied tasting described below.  It can be as simple as hosting a gather to introduce you friends to the pleasures of Petite Sirah or Chinon or American sparkling wine.

In Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, himself an accomplished maker of moments, emphasizes that wine is really just a means of “breaking bread” with others and reflect on a the time and region evoked by a particular bottle.  While relaxing with his bandmates in a scene from Rush’s award-winning documentary, Alex Lifeson, another wine-passionate “Braveheart” with whom I spoke, offers this playful insight: “It’s so great to drink wine.  It tastes fantastic.  And it makes you feel funny.”

Wine need not be any more complicated than that, although three weeks ago, the aforementioned wine collector organized a tasting that was a bit more serious, though no less spirited.  He brought together a group of eighteen friends, most of whom were not wine pros, to taste twelve different bottlings of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, also known, in venerated tones, as “DRC”.  If red Burgundy is the wine type that arguably inspires the most ecclesiastical reverence among connoisseurs, then the vineyards of DRC are wine’s most sacred spot, its Swayambhunath Stupa.  Drawing from tiny vineyards in the Burgundian village of Vosne-Romanée, DRC is the source of almost impossibly nuanced and long-lived Pinot Noir, able to display a haunting complexity that transcends words and most mortals’ bank accounts.  For each of four vintages – 1990, 1999, 2000, and 2005 — we tasted bottlngs from three DRC grand cru vineyards, La Tâche, Richebourg, and Romanée-Saint-Vivant.

It should be noted that to actually own wines of this caliber, and also be willing to share it on the scale that the collector did, supplying more than enough for both a blind tasting and a sit-down dinner, is a level of largesse that would astonish even the most coddled wine collector.  It is the unlikely, moment-making intersection of exquisite taste and extraordinary generosity.

wine collecting

1990, 1999, 2000, & 2005 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
appellations: La Tâche, Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant

All twelve wines were tasted blind, and the group was asked to rank the wines of each vintage from 1 (best) to 3 for which is best for current or near-term drinking.
1990
La Tâche (3rd)
Richebourg (2nd)
Romanée-Saint-Vivant (1st)
1999
La Tâche(tied for 1st)
Richebourg (2nd)
Romanée-Saint-Vivant (tied for 1st)
2000
La Tâche (3rd)
Richebourg (2nd)
Romanée-Saint-Vivant (1st)
2005
La Tâche (tied for 2nd)
Richebourg (tied for 2nd)
Romanée-Saint-Vivant (1st)
Best overall wine in the group’s blind tasting:
1999 DRC La Tâche