Cup of Salvation + Your New Favorite Wines

How could this film not appeal to me, your resident goth wine writer, opening with a black screen and the words, “The wine we really drink is our own blood. We give everything for a glass of this. We give our mind for a sip.” True poetry with the moody introspection of, wait for it…Rumi. Bam! You are in for a ride. And from researching to tracking down the craziest wine on earth, I was too. “Cup of Salvation” charts the story of a daring winemaker on a mission, threaded with compelling history, the two throughlines feeding each other in a way that ties up better than anyone could imagine. To wit, “Cup of Salvation” chronicles the creation of what may be the rarest and most dangerous wine in the world. You can’t make this s@*t up! I confess I went into Cup of Salvation (available here or to SommTV subscribers), the latest of director Jason Wise’s Somm documentaries, with a good attitude. I thoroughly enjoyed the first three. Ergo, I had high hopes for the latest installment. What I didn’t expect was to be gutted in a good way several times over. Not to mention, I learned a lot about Armenian and Iranian history, which I was sadly ignorant of. I am working on a follow-up article to give you the nuts and bolts of Armenian wine, but let me wet your palate with this documentary. Woven in with thousands of years of vinous sagas, “Cup of Salvation” centers on the father-daughter duo of Aimee and Vahe Keushguerian. Aimee calls her father…Vahe. Not dad, not father, not papa, just…Vahe. Having an Armenian father and a “very New England American” mother, Aimee said she never felt Armenian until she came to Armenia. Vahe invited her to join him after she finished college, and she was in. The funny thing is, Wise originally only planned one interview with Vahe, and it was all meant to be a small part of the bigger scheme spanning thousands of years. But won over by Vahe’s personality (you watch this and tell me he isn’t charismatic AF), Wise spent much more time with him. Wise confessed to me that while sharing more than a couple of bottles with Vahe may have helped, and when Aimee showed up, he saw that the father-daughter team had something special he needed to follow. True, being a winemaker, anywhere, takes bravery—particularly in this age of global scorching and, without that, simply unpredictable weather and unknown pests—all can take down even the most solvent of vineyards. It’s honestly a miracle that anyone makes wine, anywhere, as a job. And in Armenia, you throw in threats of war and… The Keushguerian family has vineyards 500 meters (.31 miles) from the Azeri border. You might think the film is reaching its acme as Vahe and Aimee head out to harvest wine with bulletproof vests on. But you would be wrong—there’s more! Vahe decides to take a lil’ joyride into Iran, procuring grapes suitable for wine - possibly an illegal act, possibly even more than his wartime harvests in Armenia. I don’t want to spoil too much of it for you, but I had to ask Wise if he ever wanted to bow out as the risk increased. Admittedly, Wise says he might have egged Vahe on, albeit he says he tried to make sure the great grape caper was pulled off safely and respectfully as possible. Other Somm-centric highlights: There are cameos from previous stalwarts, such as Dustin Lancaster MS, grape geneticist Carole Meridith, and the late Steven Spurrier, to name a few. Even more, the storytelling is all lifted by stunning cinematography, the same way acidity gives life to a heady wine. And then, Wise and I got to talking about tasting THE wine. Molana. He related that he was a) relieved that it was good and b) that it was different. It is one of the least available wines in the world; who can possibly dream of tasting it? Okay me. I dared to dream, and it helped to have Anush O’Connor (more about her in my follow-up article) in my corner to introduce me to Advanced Sommelier Ehsan Mackani, wine director and manager at Momed, a fantastic Mediterranean restaurant here in Los Angeles. As a friend of Vahe’s, Mackani and owner Alex Sarkissian made Momed the first restaurant in the States to stock it and were generous enough to allow me to try it. I had not been this thrilled to try a wine since my first (and only) DRC, I kid you not. But! At the same time, a little snobby voice in my head said, “Random grapes from Iran, can this be any good, really?” So I went in with equal parts trepidation and excitement. I was trying to play it cool, but after a couple of sips, I couldn’t help but call the wine spritely, which is a big compliment coming from me, actually, as I found it full of movement and spirit. This wine is beyond unique. It's hard to quantify, honestly. It is made from the Rasheh grape from the Sardasht region. And the name…remember that Rumi quote? That is another name for Molānā—“poetry in a bottle,” as Mackani said, noting that it made him think of green dates, an item I am adding to my to-taste list. You’ll learn so much more than what I shared in the movie. Seriously, watch it, then set about on your own quest to taste the wine (let me know when you land in LA, and I’ll meet you at Momed, maybe) And here is my “serious tasting note”: 2021 Molana Rasheh After the ripe yet youthful nose, it is spritely—or should I say, full of energy—the nose brings the ripeness of fresh berries riding a wave of tea, dust and earth. It literally is unlike anything I’ve ever had, and it is GOOD. The tannins are glide-y, and maybe I just imagine it, but there’s a touch of cardamom and florals sliding into the dark, moist earth, and then the berries come through again. Truly unique. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Oscar Libations Ellen in Lalaland: Thai Town What to Drink When You’re Not Drinking for Dewy or Dry January: 2024 Edition Mad, Mad, Madeira World Crémant On Unexpected Reds You can also listen to Ellen's podcast, The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! Kelsey Phelps Wine Situation Final Five! Jiaqi Tang


Rasheh Dry Red 2021

How to quantify the wine I have maybe been the most excited to try since my first (and only) DRC. Made with grapes from Iran, that makes it one of the rarest wines around. I came in both excited but also trepidatious. I was bowled over by the fact that this is both delicious and totally unique. I find it energetic af, ripe but with generous acid and tea, dust, and earth. Literally I can’t think of a grape to liken it to though. Ending slightly floral with an accent of cardamom. It must be experienced to be believed. — 17 days ago

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