SOMM: Cup of Salvation (2023) Movie Script

I've been a wine
professional now for, you know,
roughly 15 years.
I've seen thousands of
different grape varieties.
I've tasted tens of thousands,
if not hundreds of thousands
of different wines.
As sommeliers, as wine people,
we spend a lot of
time looking forward.
You know, what's--
what's the new cool thing?
But I think it's equally
as interesting to look back
and start to understand,
where did these
things come from.
[soft dramatic music]
-Tomorrow morning
I fly to Tehran
and spend the day in Tehran
seeing the wine merchant.
Checking out the grapes.
The ancient world of wine
really centers around modern
day Iran, Armenia, Georgia,
Caucus Mountains, these places.
Iran is one of the countries
considered the birthplace
of the wine, you know.
They belong to a different club.
[Dustin] This area
of the world, for wine,
is really starting to wake up.
It's an ancient place that's
been sleeping for a long time.
Is there any concern
with the truckers
getting the grapes
across the border?
Yeah, the problem is
they're not eating grapes.
I mean, as far
Iran is concerned,
all grapes are eating grapes.
[soft dramatic music]
[Dustin] This is just like one
of the wildest things
I think that could
ever happen in wine.
You okay?
Um [chuckles] well, it's not--
I'll call you from jail.
-[both laughing]
-Please don't.
-[both laughing]
If you have to call me
from jail, just don't call.
[Vahe] Okay, I understand.
The government
has an alcohol ban.
It's extremely illegal and what
we're doing is very public.
I mean, a little danger
is fine, I don't mind.
You know, do I want to go to
prison in Iran or elsewhere?
Probably not. But anyway,
it'll be fine, yeah.
-You're okay, you'll be okay.
[both laughing]
-All right.
-Okay, yeah.
I'll leave you, let me go.
I have other things to do.
-You keep the map.
And I'll call you on WhatsApp.
-Okay, bye.
Okay? Thanks.
[soft dramatic orchestral music]
It's the most dangerous
wine in the world.
[soft dramatic orchestral
music continues]
Nice, clear day.
Look at Ararat, so majestic.
Noah's Ark, on the mountain,
sat on the Mount Ararat.
Then Noah came down,
planted vineyard,
made wine and he got drunk.
I dunno if you know the story.
It's in the Bible.
There's no escaping it.
Hey, Luca, it's me.
Hi, not too much.
Is it Hell's Canyon
or Devil's Canyon?
Hell's Canyon.
And does the road
go a little bit in
so we don't hear the car,
so if we want to shoot,
is there a road that goes
into the Hell's Canyon?
No, I'm not gonna
go through the canyon.
I want to see the canyon,
but not be on the road.
I want to, so we can
walk a little bit down,
is that what you're saying?
All right.
Okay, all right.
Thanks, honey, okay.
I'll call you back later, bye.
The first time I
came here was '97.
I was born in Syria,
but I grew up in Lebanon.
But then I went to
Italy when I was 19,
the first time, a
couple of years,
fell in love with the country,
then went to the States,
became serious,
got my college degree,
then became un-serious,
opened a restaurant.
You know, that kind of thing.
I'm Armenian.
Parents, Armenian,
Armenian school, church,
everything else was Armenian.
So we grew up as Armenians
in a host country.
Lebanon was a host,
Syria was a host country.
We went, we worked hard,
we did whatever we had to do,
but we didn't mingle too much.
When you are always
being pushed around,
you figure out how to
hang in there, you know,
how to survive.
We're always in this
survival mode, you know?
But the beauty of
being on your own land,
your own soil, your own country,
is that in the
context of vineyards,
you can plant and you don't
have to worry about it
because you don't worry
that you have to move again.
We're not moving
anything from now.
From here, we're
not going anywhere.
I'm not going anywhere.
My family will be here.
So the vineyards that
we plant will be here
for a very long time.
Yeah, so, sorry,
I didn't know what animal
was coming behind me.
What's up, bro? You wanna
be in the video, huh?
Cute, huh?
Oh, Aimee would kill for it.
You know, Aimee has a horse.
She rides a horse, yeah.
[Aimee] I never call him Dad.
I never call Vahe Dad.
Vahe is always Vahe to me.
We work together. It's Vahe.
He's a dreamer, romantic type,
but he sees the big picture.
So I have twins,
Luca and Aimee.
The first project
that I did in Armenia...
the first six barrels I made,
I made with Luca, my son.
You know, he likes it,
he loves drinking it,
he loves everything about it,
but he's not into the
wine business per se.
But somehow she got
attracted to the wine,
the concept, the vineyards,
the making of the wine,
the consuming of the
wine, the whole scene.
I'm Armenian,
I'm half Armenian.
My father's Armenian.
My mother is very
New England American.
I never really felt Armenian
until I came to Armenia
and started working in wine.
I graduated college.
A couple of weeks
before I graduated,
my father sent me
an email and said,
"Aimee, would you like
to come work in wine?"
It took me about five minutes
to answer, and I answered yes.
And then I came to Armenia
and that was my first
harvest that fall.
[Vahe] She really loves it.
And she started from day one
also to have her own brand.
[Aimee] This is
about 100 years old.
[Vahe] It's her own wine.
She does all the
marketing, the branding,
the positioning, rather
than work for the father.
Except for our
sparkling wine project
that carries our family name
and that will be
a family brand.
For me, I think it is, in some
ways, it's a legacy thing.
So now you have
two generations of
Armenians making wine,
which is pretty amazing
considering how young
modern wine making
is in Armenia,
to have a father and daughter
making wine together.
Of course, Armenians
have been making wine
for thousands of years,
but it's been interrupted
for the past 100.
Vines are not like tomatoes.
Vines are two or three
generation crops.
A vine will live until
it's 70, 100 years old.
And vines have to struggle
to survive. So do people.
[soft dramatic vocalizing]
[Aimee] Armenia is situated
in the Caucasus Mountains.
We're surrounded by Azerbaijan,
Georgia, Turkey, Iran.
We are situated
in the highlands,
so everything is high elevation.
We sit in this mountaintop.
[Armen Sarkissian]
It's a nation that
has this advantage today
of being a global nation.
I mean, Armenians
were always tradesman,
because we lived
on the crossroads
of different civilizations.
As being a crossroads
of civilization,
it has a very old culture.
That culture is
about architecture...
because Armenia was
one of the first
to adopt
Christian architecture.
It was the first state
kingdom that became Christian
in the year 301.
[soft dramatic
vocalizing continues]
[Aimee] Armenians,
we have a sense of territory,
of place, of culture, of food,
of morality, of family.
Armenia is our land
because we've survived here
for thousands of years.
[Boris] In general, our
existence is a miracle for me.
As a historian,
it's very difficult to explain
how we survived, you know.
It's really miracle by itself.
[Aimee] The darkest
moment for Armenians
came in the form of genocide.
Preceding World War I,
the Ottoman Empire
attempted to erase
a large population of Armenians
and other Christian minorities
living in their territories.
[Armen Khachaturian]
We lost 1.5 million Armenians.
Fifty percent
of the Armenian people.
My grandfather was a survivor.
He lost his entire family
of 17.
[Vahe] We were Christians
in a Muslim country.
There was a war going on.
They thought it was a good
time to clean up the mess.
[Jonathan] While many
civilizations have disappeared
way before classical
Greece collapsed,
the Roman Empire collapsed,
the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
If you're from a
mountain civilization,
the land is everything
because it's rare.
You need to hold onto
as much as possible.
[soft dramatic
vocalizing continues]
[Armen Khachaturian]
Being Armenian is,
there's a sense of pride.
Growing up, there were
so few of us in the world
and we've been
around for so long,
there's a sense of
pride for that survival.
[Vahe] Genocide is part of
our family, who we are.
Most of our songs
tend to be sad...
because we are always
reminded, yeah,
that there's always
bad in this world.
But at some point
we will move forward.
[Aimee] I'm of the generation
in Armenia currently
that was born
in the early '90s,
so when the country was
just becoming a country,
and it was the dissolution
of the Soviet Union.
So we're very much
a part of defining
what our country's
new identity is.
And now we've adopted
wine as our identity.
[soft piano music]
So it's really beautiful
to be a part of.
[Armen Khachaturian]
Wine has always been, to me,
it's always been this
international language.
You can put a bottle of wine
and people of different cultures
and different nationalities
and ages, it doesn't matter.
It brings everyone together.
When I met Vahe, he had a map.
He had all the different grapes
that were growing in all
the different regions.
[Vahe] It's not a political
map as much as wine map
of how viticulture started.
[Armen Khachaturian]
And he said
that a lot of these,
they didn't even know existed.
[Vahe] Over the
last 8,000 years,
farmers have been selecting,
selecting, selecting.
It's the kid in a
candy store, literally.
[Armen Khachaturian]
What this man is doing
to revive the historical
significance of grape growing.
It's a labor of love.
It's a passion project.
He doesn't do this
because someone's
paying him a lot of money.
He's doing this because it's
his mark as an Armenian.
In this region, the red
varietal that is the most famous
and I think has the most
potential is Areni Noir.
Areni itself is not
a thick-skinned grape,
so it doesn't have a lot of
color, a lot of extension,
not unlike a Pinot Noir.
Areni also has a black
pepper character,
has a little bit of pepperiness.
And the important thing
for Areni in general
is that it needs to be ripe.
Unripe Areni is really hard.
It's not-- it's not ripe,
it doesn't express itself.
But once it's ripe, it really
expresses itself nicely.
Absolutely gorgeous.
It is possible that Areni
is a very ancient grape.
And I always like to say
that wine was not invented,
it was discovered.
[soft dramatic music]
[Dustin] So there's this
cave in modern day Armenia
that was recently discovered,
and in it,
a place to make wine.
Kind of a ancient
winery, if you will.
[soft dramatic music continues]
[Boris] So we are going
to the inner part
of the first gallery...
where the main ritual
events took place
thousands of years ago.
The grape is a very
mysterious plant.
It related with
the cult of the sun
and people who lived here
were worshiping the sun.
So you can see these
clay structures,
and in the context of
these clay structures,
you can see what is believed
to be the earliest
wine making unit.
So the wine was pressed
on this platform,
and with the help of gravity,
it flowed down into the tank.
We dated it and it's 4,000 BC.
So there are not
wine making units
known in the world like this,
so this is the
oldest at the moment.
The clay structures
contains animal remains
and as well parts of human body.
[soft dramatic music continues]
Those structures were
not burials themselves,
but ritual basins,
which was reflecting
a very complicated ritual
related with dying
and reviving God.
It was deeply believed
that wine
was connecting this world
with the next world,
because people believed
that everyone drinks wine,
people alive, people
dead and gods.
So wine was kind of a beverage
who was opening gates
to the next world.
[Vahe] There was
a culture here.
And to put it in perspective,
they were, I think,
discovering the wheel.
Can you imagine, like,
it's the same period.
There was sophistication
that they were making wine
while they were tinkering
about how to make the wheel,
or they had made the wheel.
This was the time that
humans were changing,
transforming from
hunters and collectors
into those who could
produce agricultural goods.
[Vahe] And these people
who were agricultural people,
they see each year, nature
is dying and reviving,
and these rituals were
related with this,
death and revival.
Those who stayed here
became also Armenians.
[Armen Khachaturian]
During the time when you had
Christianity, they made wine.
When Armenia was not
ruled by Christians,
they stopped making wine.
There were times they'd
go 300, 400 years
without making any wine,
and then they'd have
to start up again.
And they've done
that over and over.
The residues that are found
in the amphora in that cave
have been carbon dated
and analyzed genetically
and those residues carry
the same grape variety
that exists today,
over 6,000 years old.
It is a strange irony that
Armenia is starting over
with very ancient
plant material.
And I'm not sure that's
ironic as it is a connection.
Think about the level of pride
and excitement that
you or you as a country
or certainly as a
region might experience
if you've been kind of sitting
on that winning lottery
ticket for thousands of years
and just not being
able to cash it in.
And now, all of a sudden,
someone had the balls
to go cash it in.
[Armen Khachaturian]
Armenia was
an independent country
for three years
after World War I,
then it became part of USSR.
[Vahe] It disrupted the whole
trajectory of viticulture,
or wine making,
here, if you will.
It got interrupted
for 70 or 80 years.
[soft upbeat music]
[machines whirring]
We are in Getap Winery.
It's an old-school winery.
Very classic Soviet.
[Armen Khachaturian]
It wasn't modern
wine making at all, whatsoever.
They would process
the fruit fairly rough.
The machines were, you know,
pretty industrial machines.
This is as Soviet
as it will get.
You like it?
During the Soviet times,
each country had to
produce something.
Georgia made wine,
Bulgaria made wine.
Armenia was told to
make fortified wine.
The Soviet Union decided
you guys stop doing wine,
you do brandy.
So Armenia became the cognac
country for the Soviet Union.
When the Soviet Union
was making brandy
and planting vineyards
for large scale production,
they wanted flat land.
All the vineyards that were
planted pre-Soviet times
were left untouched.
It just so happens
that 120 years ago
we had Armenians
that planted Areni.
So that's why we
have these vineyards
that essentially have been
untouched for 120 years.
[Vahe] So it kind of
slipped through the cracks,
kind of thing, you know.
[Armen Khachaturian]
Areni Noir, it's
such a complex varietal.
I think it can rival some
of the best in-- in the world.
Areni has the possibility
of bringing a lot of
international recognition
to a country that has a
great and rich history.
As wine has become more
and more popular globally,
making high quality wine has
almost become sort of a seal
of your cultural significance.
[Paul] I think Areni as a wine
could do kind of what
Malbec did for Argentina.
When I think about
Argentina, for instance,
the first thing comes to mind
is great steak and great wine.
[upbeat music]
Malbec was a sleeper
as a variety.
So all we did was to say, "Well,
what if we could grow
this grape, you know,
just make a high
quality vineyard?
How would it perform?"
And so that's what we tried.
And when we did that,
we were like shocked how
good the wine was.
Paul Hobbs turned out to be
one of the most influential
winemakers in the world.
He was vital in shaping
the wine culture
that we see in Argentina today.
Malbec solidified Argentina
as a world-class
producing region.
Having a variety that
you're known for,
you're the world leader,
I think is a huge asset.
When Malbec took hold,
it infected everything.
Tourism, restaurants,
hotels bloomed,
or even exploded in the region.
That's one of the
reasons I love working
in these kind of places,
because there's
always the possibility
of helping either resurrect
or create something afresh.
In the case of Armenia, yeah,
I think Areni as a wine
could have enormous power.
[Aimee] Paul Hobbs has a
bit of a reputation in wine
as a prospector and
recently he was one
of the first outsiders
to go to Armenia
to make wine with
the Areni grape.
This is a 2016 version.
This grape clearly stood
out in terms of quality.
Beautiful color, this freshness.
And then it finishes, right,
and you can feel the nice grip
and you get the feeling of
the mineral, chalky soils
-from the sites that
these are grown.
With all this dynamic
activity going on in Armenia,
do you feel any
kind of pressure?
Because it's really gonna
fall on the shoulders
of people like you that
are gonna carry this thing
and make it to be
whatever it's going to be.
[soft dramatic music]
[Armen Sarkissian]
This is a nation that
lived on the crossroad,
always surrounded
by different nations.
Not always friends.
Sometimes very hostile.
But that created a new
DNA in these people,
which is a DNA of a survivor.
[dramatic orchestral music]
[Aimee] When the
Soviet Union dissolved,
when USSR dissolved...
borders were drawn.
Repeating once
again, our top story,
Soviet President
Mikhail Gorbachev
has been removed from power
and there are tanks now
in the streets of Moscow.
He has declared a
state of emergency
in individual localities.
It is not clear what that means.
[Aimee] There were
Armenians and Azeris
living in different areas.
The borders were
redefined for Armenia
to be an independent
country and Azerbaijan,
and that's when the
conflict started.
[fire crackling]
[Vahe] So it's really kind
of a country, you know, at war.
It's always a state of war.
There's always soldiers
coming, soldiers going.
We might even see a column
of tanks going, you know,
it's very common.
Because this is the road
that goes to Artsakh,
or Nagorno Karabakh.
So stuff is always
moving from here, there.
It's the main road.
See these things
are all to protect
from sniper fire.
When Vahe came and wanted
to make sparkling in Armenia,
he had always dreamt
of making bubbles.
And he came to Armenia
and he went to different
vineyard sites and said,
"Where is the best place
to make sparkling?"
And they happened upon Khachik.
[soft dramatic music]
Khachik is a village
at around 1,800 meters
above sea level.
So that represents
the highest elevation
vineyards in Armenia.
[soft dramatic music continues]
Every year, I buy all the
grapes of the village.
Always. The only
people that buy are us.
Whether it be 50 tons,
80 tons, 100 tons.
I have promised them and
every year I buy it from them.
We'll drive now past
the military base,
and then we get
to our vineyards.
And our vineyards are 500
meters from the Azeri border.
[Vahe] And I want to
build my winery there.
So when I got an architect,
a structural engineer,
I asked to build that could
withstand, you know, mortars.
Yeah, yeah.
Vahe, my father wants to build
a bombproof-- bombproof cellar.
[Vahe] So that my cellar
wouldn't be, you know,
short of a bunker buster,
whatever those big
bombs are, you know.
Every time he says that,
I'm like, "Will we need it?"
[Vahe] And it was gonna be
four to five times
more expensive
because of the amount of
concrete we had to pour.
I mean, it's a little surreal.
But if we're gonna
age our Keush up here,
1,500 meters from the border
and any war breaks out,
then yeah.
I'm a little concerned,
but I'm not gonna run away.
These are our vineyards,
this is our land,
so we're gonna make
wine no matter what.
[Jonathan] The first war,
which started in 1988,
the peace accord was
signed more or less in '94.
That brutal conflict was won
by the Armenians. Hands down.
They really-- the Azeri
army got a serious beating
and took heavy losses.
For the Azeris, it's a
question of revenge as well.
They claim that it's
their territory.
Now, if a country claims
that this is their territory,
then we can go back in
time indefinitely and say,
"Well, actually, Armenians were
there way before you were."
The Turks didn't come before
the early 11th century.
The Armenians had been there
many hundreds of years before,
so if you go into
that logic, then, well,
Armenians, that's their land.
It's not Turkish land.
Of course, the reality on the
ground is quite different.
[bombs exploding]
[Aimee] Women and children
were evacuated a week ago
and most of the farmers have
reported to the front lines
to defend the village.
We're preparing for air raids.
[soft dramatic music]
This war is very dangerous.
Not only just at the front line
when you are there
with the troops.
I mean, yeah, you're
getting shelled constantly
and you don't know if the
next bomb is for you or not.
But it was very
dangerous on the roads.
We knew there are
drones everywhere.
It's like having a giant
sniper up in the air.
The difference that
the sniper gets tired,
these drones don't.
They could keep circling
for 24 hours, replace.
I mean, it's nonstop.
A lot of people that
I met who stayed,
they stayed because
it was their home,
either the house or the land,
or because they had cattle.
Also, the grapes, you know, the
people who were making wine.
[soft dramatic music continues]
The vineyards sit
right between the
Armenian military base
and the Azeri military base.
It is around a half a mile,
maybe a mile maximum from
their post to our border.
So it is in a direct line
of fire, the vineyards.
For the most part, we've
never had a problem.
There was not much happening
in the last 30 or some years,
but because now it's
a full-blown war...
people are hesitating
whether they should harvest.
[Armen Khachaturian]
The harvest date
is the most important date
in the entire process
of making wine.
Winemakers have to wait
until the perfect moment
to pick the fruit.
And if you miss the window,
you can't make wine that year.
It is exact time
to do the harvest,
probably either today, tomorrow,
the next three,
four days is the window
before the sugars
go up too much.
It is potentially
30,000 bottles
of blanc de noirs
from that village.
It's not about money, I think,
it's about the
work that they did
that they can't harvest and
it has to stay on the vine.
[Aimee] It's their year
that they've spent, you know,
growing these grapes and they
wanna see it go into fruition.
It's kind of a dilemma.
Do we risk going to the fields
and perhaps aggravate
the situation
by them fighting on them,
or we let go of the fruit and
let it stand in the vineyard?
First of all,
the road to Khachik
at the moment is closed for
military personnel only.
So if they were to allow us
to go and harvest the grapes,
that would be a very
strategic military decision
at the moment.
We can't go at
night with lights.
You know, they have snipers,
they have certain technologies
that can see you when
you harvest the grapes.
So we're talking about a
completely different ballgame.
This is a war of our right to
live peacefully in our land.
[soldiers shouting]
And the vineyards actually
are a pretty big part of that.
It's not a new thing
that the vineyards
have acted like borders
where farmers stay
and they defend their land.
Look, we can pull it off.
[Aimee] It's gonna be
a day-to-day decision.
[dramatic orchestral music]
No, I'm calm. Yeah.
Yeah, and it's not a fake calm,
it's a real calm.
Vahe, Vahe is, [laughs]
you would think I understand
how he's thinking.
He does well when there's
something that needs to happen.
He has war experience,
so it's a little different.
He can see this from
a different perspective.
He's very much a leader and
a lot of people around us
are looking at him
to be a leader.
Actually, I do better
in times of difficulty
than in times of peace.
For some reason, I'm better
suited to take charge
when things are out
of your control.
I think it's best.
Yeah, let's-- okay.
[Vahe speaking Armenian]
Usually we see a lot
more trucks with grapes.
It's mid-harvest season,
but it looks really
calm right now.
[Vahe] It's becoming more and
more real, by the way.
It's coming, you know, closer.
And now we know we're
hearing about people
that we know got hurt,
injured or died, you know?
[soft dramatic music]
So freaking quiet.
[Aimee] Yeah, it's
almost too quiet.
[Vahe] Yeah, exactly. The
famous calm before the storm.
Hopefully the storm
never comes here.
[soft dramatic music continues]
[Aimee] Here we go.
[soft dramatic music continues]
[Vahe] You got it?
[soft dramatic music continues]
[Aimee] Okay.
[soft dramatic music continues]
The plan is each
farmer and their plot
will have three,
four people harvesting.
Yeah, basically, rather than
the whole village harvest--
They do plot by
plot slowly, slowly.
So that there's no big
concentration, you know?
[Vahe] Do you know they used to
plant, in the Roman Empire,
they used to plant vineyards
on the borders of the empire
because they figured any
community that has vineyards,
they will never run away because
they've invested so much.
This is what?
120, 130, 140 years.
It's been--
to let go of this without
putting up a fight,
it's almost impossible.
Yeah, that's the white line.
You see the white
line? That's the--
-The road looking thing.
-[Vahe] Yeah.
And that's their post.
Our fields go 300 meters
from their post.
I mean, people farm,
they're gutsy, man.
They've seen war,
they've seen so much
that then farming
there is, you know,
it's a normal
day-to-day thing, honey.
-They're used to it.
-They don't care.
Do you know another
beauty is that you see,
we stand right, Ararat, you see?
That mountain is a symbol.
Symbol of who we
are, what we've done,
from Noah to this day.
Yeah, of course,
let's leave religion
on the side for a
minute, but, you know,
had it been Noah and whatnot,
it's a remarkable story
you'll tell to
your kids one day.
I'm telling you now.
[soft dramatic music continues]
It will be a historic
moment for the village,
for the country in
saying in spite of it,
we did it, you know?
Even if it's 7,000 bottles,
who cares, you know?
It's what that 7,000 represent.
[dramatic triumphant
orchestral music]
[soft dramatic vocalizing]
[singers singing
in foreign language]
After a couple of weeks,
they knew the war was going
really badly for them.
Maybe they wouldn't
express it publicly,
but inside, they
knew they had lost.
There's no question about it.
They lost quite a bit
of territory, too.
[singers singing
in foreign language]
[Vahe] We truly thought
we would win this one.
And then slowly we
came to the belief
that we were going
to lose this one.
And we did lose it, honestly.
We lost three major wineries,
several large-scale
vineyard projects,
and the majority
of the oak forest
that are used to
make our barrels.
[Vahe] It's kind
of a rough one,
seeing all that lost, you know?
We'll pick up the pieces
and we'll move forward.
The people who stick it
out through thick and thin
respect the vine,
respect the struggle
the vine has to go through,
respect the age to
which the vines live
and respect the
produce of the vine,
which is just
a bunch of grapes,
which they, through
their intelligence,
manage to turn into wine.
Wine is a product which can
be sold across the world.
That's a great advantage.
[Dustin] If you are a country
that produces
very high quality wine
and become globally
recognized for it,
it can really help to
market you as a country,
can show people that you should
be seen on the global stage
alongside these other
places in the world
that make high quality wine.
[Aimee] I'm gonna take the
Areni to Napa Valley
and see what the
world thinks of it.
[plane engine whooshing]
Getting the message
out is the toughest part.
There's a story
that has to be told.
[Aimee] Not many people
have heard of Areni
and not many people
have heard of Armenia.
[Dustin] First of all,
the wine has to be good.
You gotta get people
to try it, to taste it.
But it's not a wine that
anybody's familiar with.
This is a first for me.
I don't think I've ever
had an Armenian wine.
I've never had the
grape variety before,
so I don't really
know what to expect.
[Aimee] Everyone's,
at first, a little hesitant.
[DLynn] You've got words on
here that I can't pronounce.
[Steve] How do you market
it outside of Armenia?
If you're trying to sell
something that nobody can say,
that's a bit of an obstacle.
[Steve] Because you
know what you get in Napa,
you know what you
get in Bordeaux,
you know what you get
in Burgundy or La Morra.
[Steve] With Caucasus oak,
is it at faster
growing or slower growing?
Caucasian, it's slow growth.
It's very delicate grape.
It's very thin-skinned,
tight clustered.
[Dlynn] So what's
the viticulture like?
How are you harvesting
these grapes? What, what--
Yeah, yeah.
Viticulture is, yeah.
[Carole] Is there a
problem with winter cold?
[Steve] Do you do any
special winterization,
burying the trunks or
anything like that?
We don't do any of that.
Areni is grown in volcanic soil.
It's all volcanic
soil, high elevation.
The vineyards range
from 1,300 meters
all the way up to 1,700 meters.
Those vineyards are first
or second highest
elevation vineyards
in the Northern Hemisphere.
Do the local skirmishes
affect when you can harvest?
[Aimee] We don't have
certifications yet,
we don't have appellations.
We're at the very beginning.
We're just starting
to export, really.
No one was making
wine in Armenia
and Armenia has only been
a country for around 20 years.
Oh, now I'm gonna have
to go look at a map.
Figure this all out.
-[Steve] Should we try it?
-So let's do it. Yeah.
-Let's taste.
-[man] I think we shall.
Thanks so much.
It smells lovely.
It's very exotic.
[Aimee] A lot of people try to
compare it or place it.
Like, "Oh, Areni tastes
like Pinot Noir,"
but it's not a Pinot Noir.
It's a completely
different grape.
[soft orchestral music]
[soft orchestral
music continues]
I don't think-- I-I don't think
that it should be compared
to other grapes, personally.
This wine is totally singular.
[soft orchestral
music continues]
Well, I really like it.
[DLynn] I love the wine.
The wine is pleasurable.
It's got great acid,
it's got great tannin.
This is a quality wine.
I really dig it.
It has crazy balance.
This one, you could call
this a noble variety,
if you were to use that term.
It has, it's the whole package.
[Aimee] It should
be a noble grape.
I mean, the grape is one of
the oldest grape varieties
in the world and somehow it
still survives to this day.
The story of an
ancient land, you know,
with such an ancient,
ancient wine culture.
I think it's a winner.
[Vahe] This would be
the closing of a circle.
It's originated here
and now it's coming
back with a vengeance.
[Aimee] Wine can be used
as a form of diplomacy,
can be used as a form of
peacemaking, of negotiations.
Wine can be used
as many things.
[Vahe] She can,
if not the world,
she can change parts of
the world through wine
and she can make it
a little bit better
because she's...
she's my daughter.
[soft music]
[people chattering]
[Aimee] It's the harvest
season in Armenia.
We're harvesting grapes
from five different regions,
so it's definitely hectic
here at the winery.
[Vahe] I like the
excitement of the new.
The thrill of the chase.
I think it's my character.
I'm not irresponsible,
but I like the high of doing
something new, you know,
and maybe getting away with it.
The idea came to me to
make first wine from Iran.
The whole idea started because
we have the map behind me.
Iran is a critical part of it.
When you drink
wine, the majority,
percent of what you drink
is from a species of vine
called vitis vinifera.
That is Pinot Noir, that is
Chardonnay, that is Gamay,
that's Shiraz, that's
Cabernet Sauvignon,
that's Cabernet Franc.
It all comes back
to vitis vinifera.
A lot of experts
believe that the origin
of vitis vinifera
comes from Iran.
[Vahe] Well, we have two
neighbors that are friendly.
So one is Georgia,
which is fine.
And then we have Iran, which
we get along very nicely,
but no one else in the
world gets along, you know.
It's interesting that
the Armenians
and the Persians get along
for a multitude of reasons.
One of them is because
they are alike.
They were enemies,
but they were also allies
that went back and forth since
the fifth century, really.
They have a common history.
[soft piano music]
[Moe] Maysara is
an ancient Persian word
meaning house of wine.
"May" means wine
and "Sara" is house.
[soft piano music continues]
Initially when we started
owning a vineyard and a winery,
we made it very
clear to our kids
that they should pursue
their own dreams,
but I am so excited
and thrilled
for it to become
a family business.
I have to say, it
didn't seem as much
whatever you girls
wanna do, go do.
It was always expected,
but it could also be that we
put that pressure on ourselves,
right, where we wanted
to kind of perform,
seeing what they've done.
I mean, they escaped from a
country with whatever they had
and I think that it does hold
us to a different standard.
I mean, I'm American,
I was born here,
but I'm so proud of my roots.
I'm so proud that I'm Iranian.
Of course, we
get people asking,
well, in your country you
don't have wine culture
or you're Muslim, how
come you have a winery?
[Naseem] I think people often,
when they think Persia
or they think Iran,
they think of the regime
that's going on with religion
and then they pull
away being like,
well, they can't drink wine.
And it's just like,
let's go back to history
and see where it all started.
It came from our home country.
[Moe] In the western world,
we mainly talk about
the flavor,
aroma, acidity.
But in our Persian
culture, in our poetry,
it's mainly talked about
the spirit of wine.
Wine was considered as
like a sun's radiance
in a liquid form.
It was a very sacred thing.
[Vahe] What happened
was that there was
a religious revolution in 1979.
The country became
an Islamic republic.
So immediately, use
of alcohol was banned.
You know, you hear
a lot of these stories
of these Persians fleeing
when the revolution happened.
They fled after the revolution.
It was even harder to get out.
They came with what they had
on their back and, you know,
my mom was eight
months pregnant.
-It was difficult.
-It was really hard, yeah.
[Moe] Of course they closed
down the wineries,
but before the revolution, there
was about like 300 wineries.
But a lot of those vineyards,
they got demolished.
It's unfortunate that when
you get a lot of politics
and religion and
things like that,
they forget history and it
automatically goes to a place
of just like
negative, bad, right?
They took something
that was so important
to my parents' culture
and so it makes-- it makes
it hard, you know, so.
[tense music]
Let's put the
show on the road.
-Let's see.
-As they say.
So tomorrow, I'll fly to Tehran.
I've never been to Tehran.
Tuesday, Wednesday,
we'll be in the grape region.
This part is Kurdistan.
You see, it's all mountains,
-and we'll get the
grapes from there.
I'm looking for Rasheh grapes.
The harvest has started already,
so it's going to be
treasure trove, you know.
The problem I need to be careful
is that we're going
to go around here
with lots of cameras,
drones and whatnot.
And that, you know, it
might attract attention
as to why would anybody video.
So wine is going to
be a distant idea
that we know but not
everyone to know.
Why now?
So at some point
it's the right time.
You know, it's the right
time to do something.
And you know, wine hasn't
been made for 40 years.
It's something new.
Yeah, you'll come
visit me in jail, okay?
It'll be fine, yeah.
You're okay. It'll be okay.
[soft dramatic music]
He's been talking about this
for four, five years.
I remember every year during
harvest season, he says,
"Should we get the grapes?
Should we bring the grapes in?
Should we go find
grapes in Iran?"
It's a state with very
heavy surveillance
that happens
on a day-to-day basis.
I've had friends that,
they got caught drinking
and they wanted to take
him out to the street
and slash him with belts.
[soft dramatic music continues]
[Vahe] So somehow we managed
enough contacts and people
that now it's
gonna be a reality.
I don't know what to expect,
but something's going to
happen, let's put it that way.
[soft dramatic music continues]
We land in Iran
and it's nothing
like I've experienced
before other countries.
There is security concerns.
It is a police state because
there's so many rules
that people have to obey,
so you have to have a lot of
people to enforce those rules.
You asked me if I'm nervous.
It takes a lot to
make me nervous.
[soft dramatic music]
It's one thing being in
another thing being
in Iranian prison.
[Aimee] This is
gonna be the first time
anyone is making wine
with modern technology
from these Iranian grapes
and that is just too hard
to pass up, honestly.
It's just too exciting.
It's very risky.
[Vahe] I don't look at the risk,
I look only at the rewards.
If we don't take risks in
life, what's the point?
I'm gonna spend
the day in Tehran.
I'll figure out
which are the grapes
that we would like to get.
Hello, nice to meet
you. How are you?
Yes, you want some
jewelry? [laughs]
They might stop us,
ask us questions.
Say we're doing a
documentary on grapes, DNA,
origins of grapes, whatever.
-We'll make it up, something.
-[dramatic orchestral music]
[soft dramatic music]
Now, you know, we are playing
with fire a little bit.
Nice to meet you. Pleasure.
It's so good to meet you.
Thank you very much.
Thanks for having me.
It's a pleasure here.
Anyway, so, my first
time in Tehran.
First time. Looks okay,
I'll come back again, I think.
It's very nice.
So you will translate?
How's your English? It's okay?
You understand quite well?
Yeah? Okay.
So the purpose
is for me to buy grapes,
maybe 10, 15 ton of grapes
for us for do research,
do some microvinification.
Try to see, you know,
how Iranian grapes are.
I guess you must produce
a lot of fruit, yeah,
grapes in Iran, yeah?
So my interest, I want to see
what varieties is available,
what we can get.
Maybe we drive around,
we see some vineyards.
If you have a supplier there,
we can go see them,
see the grape and
we can purchase,
if you have anybody
in Kermanshah.
We know historically
grapes were grown there
for thousands of years
because it's one of the
birthplaces of the vine.
Where are the grapes?
I need vineyards.
[wine merchant speaking
in foreign language]
This is Western Azerbaijan
or something, right?
[Liaison] Yeah, and
that is Kermanshah.
[Vahe] Kermanshah?
Does it have a name, this grape?
-[Liaison] Rasheh, Rasheh.
-Rasheh, Rasheh? Okay.
[wine merchant speaking
in foreign language]
Fifteen ton, 10 cent
makes no difference.
One thousand dollar, 500.
[wine merchant speaking
in foreign language]
So tomorrow, where can
we go tomorrow? Tomorrow?
[speaking in foreign language]
[merchant] Over to Sanandaj,
and here over to Mahabad.
[Vahe] From here, they are
three hours, so five hours?
[merchant] I think I have a new
road, but I don't...
[Vahe] So we decided not to
wait and drive to Sanandaj.
Here we are going to
the hills in Kurdistan
trying to find grapes,
and they didn't know
if there were grapes.
And there was one point
we kept driving, driving.
I wasn't seeing any vineyards,
like what the hell
am I going to do
if there's no grapes
in this goddamn country?
[liaison speaking
in foreign language]
No grapes? Grapes, no grapes?
He says six kilometers.
-No, no, three kilometers.
-Maybe, or there is grapes?
-Yes, there is.
[people chattering]
Thank you. Vahe.
And this fellow, he's Kurdish,
he's gonna accompany
us to a place
where he knows where
those grapes are grown.
But he insisted on having tea,
so we're having tea.
Yes, shall we have tea?
[people chattering]
You drink a lot of tea, huh?
You don't?
Iranians drinking tea,
Kurdistan doesn't
have a good tea.
Yeah, they grow it here?
Smuggle it, yeah.
[liaison] The good tea.
They smuggle tea?
They just take it
in the car, no? No?
[liaison] No, no.
If they wanna smuggle,
smuggle something better, no?
[people speaking in
foreign language]
[liaison] He says if you
want some place for resting--
No, no, it's okay.
Yeah, it's okay.
We want vineyards.
We want grapes, vineyards. Yeah.
[speaking in foreign language]
[soft piano music]
[Vahe] Slowly, we started
seeing vineyards.
So you can see there's a
piece of vineyard there.
There's an impossible piece
of vineyard over there.
I have no idea why would anybody
want to put a vineyard there,
but I guess they
don't have a choice.
We'll drive another
half an hour, an hour
and see what we need.
How do they farm this land, man?
Okay, so I'm gonna go.
Let me go.
[soft music continues]
[Vahe grunts]
[Vahe panting]
[Vahe laughs]
Oh, fuck.
[Vahe panting]
Where's the vineyard? There?
[Vahe panting]
[soft orchestral music]
These are definitely ready.
Perfect, yeah.
I'm gonna go talk to the owner
and see how much he has
and what he wants to sell.
[soft orchestral
music continues]
[Aimee] When it comes to wine,
he's always, I think,
been at the right place
at the right time.
He does all this out
of pure excitement
and seeing a boundary
and wanting to push it.
His ability to be
inspiring is contagious.
[people chattering]
[soft orchestral
music continues]
[Vahe] Grapes cannot grow
anywhere for 8,000 years
and not have something special.
You know, it's
something beautiful,
and if people can't see
beauty, it's their problem,
it's not my problem.
[soft orchestral
music continues]
For 40 years, no modern
wine was made in Iran,
so as if time has stood still.
Now we're trying to catch up,
get the grapes, make the
wine and see what they have.
For a winemaker,
it's the holy grail.
We used professional people
that truck between
Iran and Armenia.
I'm not saying they
bribed or they didn't bribe,
but I'm saying they figured
it out how to bring it.
Of course, we have to put a
different name on the paperwork
so that it crosses the
border with relative ease.
Shipping grapes for
three days, four days
is not something common.
But because
of the circumstances,
we don't have a choice.
You know, I can't sit there
in Kurdistan and make wine.
At least not yet.
Things could go wrong.
I'm hoping that everything
is perfect, but you never know.
This is a first for us.
[Aimee] We're doing something
that maybe some people
have dreamt of
but never thought
that it would be possible.
[dramatic orchestral music]
[Vahe] So far...
so far, so good.
[dramatic orchestral
music continues]
It's gonna have a huge impact.
It's going to open talks,
people are going
to write articles.
Not because of the wine, but
because of the possibility.
For Aimee, my daughter,
you know, there's a
big question mark.
[Aimee] I am very concerned.
We don't know how the
government is going to react.
There isn't a precedent
for something like this.
[Vahe] Perhaps the Iranian
government might not like it.
I don't know what they can do.
I'm not going to not do it
because it might
happen, you know?
[speaks indistinctly]
-Yeah, 22.
-Exactly 22.
Now we have something
special, I think.
-We can start the process.
-Let's get it done, yeah?
Okay, yellah.
[Vahe] It was risk worth
taking, you know, so we'll see.
She's fine. She'll be okay.
[Aimee] I think it's a
wait-and-see kind of thing.
[soft piano music]
[tense jazz music]
[Vahe] We bottled the wine
and we had to get a pulse
and we wanted to put it
in front of professionals
to see what we had achieved.
[Aimee] I think it represents
-the Persian culture very well.
-Yeah, it's very nice.
Came out beautifully,
it's wonderful.
-I like it, yeah.
I'm sure people
will like it, too.
Before we release the wine,
we can know what kind
of product we have
and how to approach it
and how to release it
and what we're going
to do next,
and New York is
the place to do it.
New York City is
the most dynamic.
Top restaurants and
the top sommeliers.
Well, I'm very nervous
because it's one thing
you make the wine, you
taste it during its progress
and you become very
acquainted to it.
And then you can
be often biased,
so it's very important
not to be biased.
So that's the anxiety,
if anything, I have
and butterflies right
before we taste,
because, "What if,
what if," in my mind.
[soft dramatic music]
I've been carrying
these things.
I'll put it down
before I break it.
[Sabato] All right,
it made it all this way.
[soft dramatic music continues]
-Oh, sorry.
Dustin, good to see you.
How's it going?
-Good, you?
-Nice to meet you.
-Good to meet you.
-Lovely show.
-Thank you.
Thanks very much.
Yeah, absolutely.
-Looking forward
to tasting with you.
-Very excited to meet you.
You've come a long
way to get here.
So, first bottle, you'll
be the first to taste it,
outside of Armenia.
Where we made at the
winery, we've tasted it.
But outside you will
be the first, so--
-This has come a long way.
-I'm a bit apprehensive.
I don't know, but I'm guessing
it will do just fine, you know?
You're a tough judge,
I'm guessing.
It's not like my
friends or something,
so your input will be,
you know, because it's--
-I've heard the story.
-No one's tasted it,
so I'm apprehensive,
will people like it,
and the whole journey to
make something like this.
-And then you're kind of like,
was it all worth it,
you know, so.
Right, well,
what do you think?
Yeah, no, I think
of course, it's worth it.
it's the first bottle,
actually without
over dramatizing it,
it will be the first
bottle of fine Iranian wine
-ever made in the last 40, 50--
Forty-some years.
And before that there
was no technology
-to make wines like this.
So this would be
the first bottle made,
modern style wine
in the history of Iran,
let's put it that way.
So for what it's worth,
we tasted it
and I am hoping, I'm hoping
we are onto something.
[Dustin] Now what do
you hope to accomplish
with this wine?
-Do you have some--
-This wine,
just start curiosity,
I think, you know?
You know, the romantic in me
says maybe the government
might allow a little
bit of wine to be made
within a decade or
maybe two decades.
Things will open up and we'll
be able to taste more wines.
Well, it's a way more humble
answer than I was expecting.
-[Vahe] Yeah.
-I mean, you could do
a lot with this thing.
-Change the whole world.
-If you don't mind opening it.
-I'd be happy to.
Honored to be the first
one to taste this with you.
I'm honored to taste
it with you also.
Do you wanna do the honors?
-May I?
-Yeah, of course, of course.
So tell me about
the label here.
It's from the Iranian motifs.
This is very typical.
Molana is a very
famous poet, Rumi.
-Rasheh is the grape.
Sardasht is the region.
And here I added
a little bit of--
-I saw that, yeah.
-[Vahe laughs]
-[Sabato] All right.
-It's the first bottling.
-Moment of truth, as they say.
-All right.
Honored to be able to
serve you your wine.
[Vahe] My heartbeat is 120.
[both laughing]
And my misery,
so you can taste the wine.
Good fruit, nice.
[Sabato] I'm sorry I don't have
any Reidel Rasheh
glasses here for you.
No, no, I don't-- [laughs]
It's going to be a while.
-[Dustin] Slightly nervous?
-A little bit, yeah.
More, I am definitely
nervous. Yeah.
-Cheers, sorry.
-Thank you, this is wild.
Thank you. Thanks
for having-- having me.
It will open up a bit.
I think it's cold because...
So it's fresh, nice,
bright fruit.
-It smells great.
A nice little black cherry,
I think, you know.
I'll let you do the
description, too.
Mostly cherry, I think.
Good fruit. Good...
It's for you to say, honestly,
because I've had it a few times.
[soft dramatic music]
You know, it's hard
to place, to compare.
-It's really good.
-Yeah, yeah.
-It's really good.
-You like it?
-Yeah, it's very good.
-Thank you.
-Thank you.
-Thank you.
-Well done.
-Thank you.
This is by far
the best Iranian wine
made in Armenia
that I've ever had.
[Vahe laughs]
Thank you.
Thank you for sharing this.
But no, in, in all
seriousness, it's very unique.
I'm thinking about the
people that harvested that
and it's just yesterday they
were harvesting table grapes
and today they're
harvesting this,
but here we are in New York City
drinking the fruits of
their labor and yours,
and it's amazing when you
think about how many people
are involved in producing
this and the worlds
and lives that they
live to put it together
to tell the story in the glass.
It's pretty, pretty amazing.
You know, there's
these moments where
I've been very lucky
to drink a lot of great wine.
And sometimes, you know,
you're drinking something
that means so much historically,
or it's so old or it's
such a rare experience
that that part kind of
takes over, you know,
and the wine itself might
just be kind of so so.
-Yeah, yeah.
-You know?
-This is very cool because--
-It has both.
This has both. Yeah.
[Sabato] I mean, I have
friends that are Iranian
that live in the United States
and they've never
tasted wine like this.
And so I can only imagine
what this is like for them,
for, you know, having family
or knowing an appreciation
for where they came from
to be able to drink this
with people they love that
have endured a lot to be here,
so I think that's really
special from that standpoint.
I think it's great
for the wine community,
wine loving community,
and then of course
the Iranian community
who haven't had Iranian wine
since they left
Iran or any Iranian
in the last 40-some years.
Hey, can I have you?
Follow me.
Follow me up top.
Well, they have
something for you.
Oh, my God.
You wanna read it?
-Do you know what this is?
Do you know what it is?
Is it from Armenia?
Keep going, keep reading it.
-Dad, they've--
this is the first wine
that's been made out of Iran.
They smuggled the grapes.
-Took it--
-That's amazing.
How do you feel?
[Moe and Naseem chuckle]
-That's so great.
-[voice breaking] Yeah.
So this is-- this is
history coming back.
You wanna open it?
-Dad, I'm gonna cry.
-[Moe laughs]
I can't even see right now.
[soft orchestral music]
So, that daughter and father,
they smuggled in the grapes
to Armenia
and they...
From Shiraz or?
Sardasht, yeah.
Yeah, I used to
pass through that town
-almost every week
with your mom.
-[Naseem chuckles]
[Moe] They have
great grapes in there.
[Naseem] Yeah, so...
You wanna pour it?
I'll give you the honors.
[soft piano music]
Be salamati.
-You could smell the dirt.
[Naseem] "This wine was crafted
to transcend time and place.
Named after the
prolific Persian poet,
the wine resembles
its namesake emphasis
on purity and elegance.
It is fresh and
playful on the palate
with a strong
sense of provenance
due to the terroir the
grapes were grown in.
Rumi was an experimental
innovator among
the Persian poets
who had a mystical appeal
and bold poetic forms.
This wine echoes just that."
That is so great.
Molana, yeah.
I really smell the place.
I'm serious.
[Naseem] Well,
they did a great job.
[soft dramatic music]
[Naseem laughs]
It's like bringing
everyone together again.
And that Armenians
make great, great wines.
They're just known
for it throughout
the history, actually.
I really feel not only very
honored, but very emotional.
They did a great job.
You know, I'm even-- [laughs]
I'm gonna drink quite
a bit of this tonight.
Well, hopefully, one day
we'll have our wine in there.
Well, at least we can
share some with the family.
[soft orchestral music]
[Aimee] For thousands
of years, bottles of wine
have graced our dinner
tables on a regular basis.
Common dinner table topics
that are not to be discussed
are religion, politics.
But the truth is
that bottle of wine
sitting in the
middle of that table
came from religion
and survived politics
to get to that place.
[Vahe] There is a certain poetic
beauty of continuing something
that people started
6,000, 7,000 years ago.
And if you don't have
that kind of poetic beauty
in your life, what's
the purpose, really?
[dramatic orchestral music]
[dramatic orchestral
music continues]
[dramatic orchestral
music continues]
[dramatic orchestral
music continues]