Rush: Wine Geeks

By James Suckling
From Wine Spectator magazine, April 30, 2007 issue

Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, 53, was born in British Columbia. Lifeson, Geddy Lee and John Rutsey formed the rock band in 1968. (Rutsey, the drummer, was replaced by Neil Peart in 1974.) Lifeson has been the composer and guitarist on each of Rush’s 23 albums; a 24th is due for release in April. The band’s sound has evolved with the times, and so has Lifeson’s taste in wine. When Rush started out, the band members drank cheap wine and malt liquor backstage; now they prefer Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Along with collecting, Lifeson enjoys pitching in now and then to help make wine, but what he likes most of all is sharing great bottles with friends. Alex Lifeson was recently interviewed by European bureau chief James Suckling.

Wine Spectator: How did you first get into wine?
Alex Lifeson: I think I started looking for wines to buy in 1975. Before that, the wines we drank were like Mateus. Two bottles of Blue Nun and Night Train is what we used to get in the dressing room in the early days. [Then] we had a gig in Milwaukee, and the promoter there had an interest in wine. He asked, “Do you guys like wine?” We said, “Oh yeah, we love it. We drink Blue Nun all the time.” He took us to this restaurant and said, “Now you’re going to drink a bottle of Latour and a bottle of Margaux.” I was blown away. The wines had so much depth and evolved over the course of the dinner. I had no idea that wine could be like that.

WS: You’ve collected about 1,200 bottles. Any favorites?
AL: I really like the Rhône. All the Guigals have been my favorites, particularly the single-vineyard wines. I had access to them about 10 or 12 years ago when they really weren’t that popular. I bought as much as I could at the time, so I ended up with probably five cases or so, a mix going back to ’78. I kind of got pissed off at the prices of wine. It really bothered me that to get some of these great wines you spend 100, 200, 300 bucks on a bottle. I just can’t justify that. I don’t care about the prestige of the wine.

WS: Do you buy California wines?
AL: [I buy] Joseph Phelps, [because] I worked at Phelps for one week in 1990. We played in San Francisco, and the promoters sent us to Phelps. We just fell in love with everyone there. They were so nice. We were sitting outside eating and drinking every wine they ever made—Backus, Insignia. We also drank some of their Johannisberg Rieslings. And Délice. In fact, I was drinking Délice out of barrel every morning that week. That was like my orange juice.

WS: Do you guys have good wine when you are on tour?
AL: Are you kidding? We play the gig and then the dressing room is quiet for maybe half an hour after the show. We have a chef with us, and he cooks according to what we are going to drink that night. We bring stemless Riedels with us on the road.

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