Red Queen Productions

Crush Review: A Zestful Celebration of Ontario’s Wineries

Canada's vintners get better with age

4 mins read

Crush: Message in a Bottle
(Canada, 78 min.)
Dir. Maya Gallus


There was a time when Ontario’s wines were an embarrassment, whether they were sparkling, ice, red or white. Those of us with long memories may still blush at ads for Baby Duck or early Chauteauguay bottles of what the French—the ultimate connoisseurs—would have referred to as “plonk.” No one likes to be labelled a loser and the good folk of Ontario’s potential wine districts rolled up their sleeves, created community colleges to study vintages, and sent the best young people to France and Germany to find out how it was all done.

Veteran award-winning filmmaker Maya Gallus (The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution) has created a stylish documentary that looks at the province now, filled with exciting informed wine growers and marketers who have transformed Ontario into an important region, with tremendous growth potential. Our wines are subtle, occasionally powerful, and definitely beloved by a growing populace of sophisticated imbibers.

Gallus’s film concentrates on four key individuals, who are influential in the province’s Niagara district, where wine-growing has become plentiful. Ann-Marie Saunders (Saunders Vineyard) has dedicated her life to growing the best grapes, while Kelly Mason makes her own wine at a vineyard that bears her name.  Meanwhile, winemakers Shiraz Mottiar (Malivoire Wine Company) and Thomas Bachelder (Bachelder Niagara) know their market. At a precise pace, Gallus follows each of them, mainly in duos, as the beauty of Ontario’s farmland is evoked while the camera shows the lush fields which are yielding extraordinary crops.

With a discerning directorial eye, which has guided Gallus’ approach to such disparate films as Elizabeth Smart: on the side of the Angels to Dish: Women, Waitressing and the Art of Service to Derby Crazy Love (on female roller skaters), she offers us the type of unique individuals who are making Ontario’s wines a true success.

Ann-Marie Saunders, who has made a fine living growing purely organic grapes in a progressive ecosystem, represents both the future—if we have one, given what’s happening to our environment—and the past, with an unyielding love of her extraordinary family. Another wine expert—a colleague, in city parlance—is rising star Kelly Mason. Crush observes as Mason trains her assistant, Brooke Husband, in the demands of her craft.

Mottiar and Bachelder demonstrate their aptitude for crushing the grapes and making them into a fine wine that satisfies an evolving industry. Not to denigrate Bachelder but it is Mottiar, from a diverse heritage, whose warmth and enthusiasm empowers the film. Mottiar’s articulate nature allows us to make the connections in Ontario’s culture, which empowers young people who are making our wine and transforming our society.

Without overly concerning herself politically, Gallus has made a film that is more than about wineries. It’s about how Ontario has become more sophisticated while our wine industry starts to triumph nationally and internationally. While its message is clear, Gallus’s film is a celebration of the workers who have made it all possible, even those who remain complete unknowns. May I be clear: Maya Gallus’ Crush is a film to be embraced, perhaps with a glass of wine to be imbibed.


Crush screens at St. Catharine’s First Ontario PAC on Saturday, November 4 at 3:00pm and at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto on Sunday, November 5 at 7:30pm.

Marc Glassman is the editor of POV Magazine and contributes film reviews to Classical FM. He is an adjunct professor at Toronto Metropolitan University and is the treasurer of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

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