Cup of Salvation

Film Captures Story of Modern Iranian Wine

Moe Momtazi tasting a bottle of Molana, the first wine produced from Iranian grapes in over 40 years. ##Photo Provided
Film poster for Somm: Cup of Salvation. ##Image Provided
Second generation Maysara winemaker Naseem Momtazi with father, Moe. ##Photo Provided

By Greg Norton

Every bottle of wine tells a story. That adage strikingly comes to life in the new film, Somm: Cup of Salvation. Rooted in winemaking’s origin story and plotted through forgotten history, the movie’s narrative wends its way to today’s Middle East and, unexpectedly, our own Willamette Valley.


The lands surrounding Mount Ararat– present-day Georgia, Armenia and Northern Iran– are considered the earliest birthplace of wine. Archeologists found evidence of wine-making dating back 6000 years. But human conflicts, religion and politics have obscured its lengthy history.
Against this backdrop, we meet winemaker Vahe Keushguerian and his daughter Aimee, both active members of Armenia’s modern wine industry, who tirelessly advocate to expand its international reputation. But this challenge is not enough for Vahe. Early in the film, he attempts to calm his daughter’s fears while revealing a risky plan which becomes the movie’s narrative: to make wine from grapes grown in Iran.

In the late 1970s, Iran was home to hundreds of wineries. But alcoholic beverages have been forbidden there since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. After decades of non-production, the region faded from the memories of most wine lovers. Aware that old Iranian vineyards continue to bear fruit, Keushguerian planned to harvest these grapes and smuggle them into Armenia to make a modern wine. His forbidding journey required evading armed soldiers and penetrating an arid and mountainous region to harvest the local grape variety, Rasheh. Once located, the fruit was loaded into a refrigerated semi-truck for the perilous journey out of Iran.

Spoiler alert: his daring adventure is successful and the result is 1200 cases of a red wine called Molana. Made in 2021, it is the first wine produced from Iranian grapes in over 40 years.


The film’s focus shifts to Oregon’s Willamette Valley as it interweaves the story of the Momtazi family and Maysara Winery. Moe and Flora Momtazi fled Iran shortly before that revolution and the resulting alcohol ban. They settled on land near McMinnville and developed a biodynamic vineyard of over 500 acres, enough to supply fruit for their own brand, as well as neighboring vintners. In one of the film’s most moving scenes, Moe and his daughter, Naseem, taste a bottle of Molana together. Amid tears, Moe remembers his homeland– and even smells it in the wine. A bottle of wine tells a story transcending time and distance.

Last November, Maysara hosted the Oregon premiere of Cup of Salvation in its production facility. A large group gathered around a generous charcuterie table while sipping Maysara wine and admiring the spacious structure, crafted from repurposed stone and wood found on the property. While the rainy evening lacked the 1000-watt dazzle of similar events in Hollywood, anticipation filled the air nonetheless.

Following the well-received screening, director Jason Wise and several people featured in the film answered questions posed by the audience and Dominic Allen, Maysara’s tasting room and wine club manager.

Naseem Momtazi related how often people make assumptions about her family’s Iranian background. “When they find out we have a winery, they’ve always been very confused,” she observed. “But it’s a big part of our culture that’s just been lost.” Moe Momtazi affirmed that farming and winemaking practices of his Iranian ancestors inspired him as he planned to make wine in Oregon. He recalled, “My dad used to say… water separates people and wine brings them together.”


“This was not the film you were supposed to see,” said director Wise. He originally intended to create the “Planet Earth” of wine. The title Cup of Salvation fits more accurately with the five years he spent filming in various parts of Europe, South America and the Vatican’s Secret Archives. Suddenly, the project changed direction when he encountered the father-daughter stories of the Keushguerian and Momtazi families. He believes the film works because of the impact of the scene in which Moe and his daughter share a bottle of Molana. “There would be no movie without him,” he said.

A feature-length film with the highest production values, Cup of Salvation celebrates wine’s early history and the human passion it inspires. The unexpected intersection of a faraway and lesser-known wine region with Oregon’s own accompanies a gripping adventure story in this engaging and entertaining film.

Cup of Salvation is the fourth in the SOMM series of wine films directed by Wise. It is available for viewing, along with hundreds of hours of wine and food content, on Somm TV, a subscription streaming platform that Wise launched several years ago. A free three-day trial is available and subscriptions are $6.99 monthly, or $59.99 for the annual plan. Visit to learn more.

Greg Norton is a freelance writer with a broad background in nonprofit communications and the arts. He studied journalistic writing through the UCLA Extension and has traveled to wine regions around the world. Greg is a Certified Specialist of Wine and received the Level II award from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. When not writing about wine, he can be found pouring it in the tasting room at Campbell Lane Winery near West Linn. Read more by Greg at

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable