The Perfect Pairing is standard Hallmark Channel fare, but with a local twist. Much of it was shot last spring at Peller Estates Winery.
The film has all the elements you would expect from a Hallmark production. That includes a pair of attractive strangers obviously destined to be together, a set of circumstances that lead to a (rom-)comical meet-cute, and a number of cues from ancillary characters that hint at the fate of the couple at the centre of the film, whether they realize it or not.
Christine (Hallmark Channel regular Nazneen Contractor) is a food and wine writer known by her pen name, CJ Osborne. She’s feared somewhat by restaurateurs and winemakers as a tough critic, unwilling to grant her subjects a fair chance.
Her editor sends her to the Hudson Valley Winter Wine Festival for her next assignment. It’s Osborne’s first wine review since a scathing indictment of a Hollingbrook Vineyard and Winery vintage of corked Merlot. The wine left an awful taste in her mouth, while the disastrous review did the same for Hollingbrook heir Michael, played by another Hallmark Channel regular, Brennan Elliot.
Michael and his father John, portrayed by Canadian screen veteran Art Hindle (Porky’s, North of 60, Paradise Falls) are still stinging from that Osborne review. Michael has devised a plan to release Hollingbrook’s first icewine vintage in an effort to dig them out of the mire, but the elder Hollingbrook is beyond reluctant.
Peller Estates Winery stands in for Hollingbrook Vineyard. Interior scenes in the barrel cellar and the icewine lounge, along with exteriors at the grand entrance, the outside patio area and in three temporary artificial rows of icewine vines erected next to Peller’s actual vineyard were shot last March. At the time of shooting, the film’s working title was Love and Icewine.
After a brief scene in the faux vineyard, the winery’s barrel cellar makes an appearance within the first 10 minutes of the film, as Michael and his assistant Dianne walk through making preparations for their barrel-tapping event.
Osborne, meanwhile, agrees to the assignment, planning to avoid Hollingbrook in favour of a few of the other dozen or so wineries in the valley. As she arrives in town via train, she loses her luggage. She then steps into the wrong shuttle vehicle which takes her not to the Hudson House B&B but to Hollingbrook Vineyard. As the Hollingbrook sign is just being re-erected on the roundabout island, Osborne assumes the grand entrance will lead to her pre-arranged accommodations.
This is, of course, where the meet-cute occurs. Christine, unaware that she has arrived at the winery that her review almost ruined, meets Michael. After some confusion, he informs her where she is, and she is horrified. Before Michael can discover that Christine is really CJ, she tries to make her escape, slips on the sidewalk, hitting her head and breaking her phone.
Of course, she winds up with amnesia, and because she’s lost her luggage, she has no idea who she is. The Hollingbrook family takes her in and she immediately bonds with Michael’s young daughter Britney, whose mother passed away three years prior. And yes, she grows closer and closer to Michael while trying to discover the real Christine.
As Christine turns to the Hollingbrook kitchen in an attempt to use scent and taste to regain her memory, the romance between her and Michael begins to develop. There is excellent chemistry between Contractor and Elliot, and Zarina Rocha is a treat as the young Britney, eager to help in the kitchen.
Complications ensue throughout, including the arrival of both CJ’s boyfriend and her former writing partner for the Winter Wine Festival. They all lead up to the climactic unveiling of the Hollingbrook icewine vintage in the outdoor space.
Locals will enjoy spotting familiar locations, such as the aerial shot of the Niagara River Parkway and the scenes filmed both inside and around Peller Estates Winery. Some interiors were shot in Toronto, while a trip into town from the winery had to be filmed in Cambridge after NOTL council turned down production company Chesler Perlmutter’s request for a permit for Queen Street that month.
Having observed in person a scene featuring Contractor and Elliot strolling through the faux vineyard set up for the shoot, it was amazing to see the completed film. Simulated snow was laid on the grass for the shoot that took place on a spring afternoon when the temperature peaked at 17 Celsius following a freak thunderstorm the previous evening. Director Don McBrearty and his crew have done an excellent job in convincing the viewer that the outdoor scenes are taking place during a cold January.
The Perfect Pairing is not as syrupy as two previous films shot in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 2018’s The Holiday Calendar showcased locations including Simcoe Park, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters and the Prince of Wales Hotel and Christmas Inheritance, a 2017 Netflix release for which many scenes were shot at the Grand Victorian Bed and Breakfast on the Niagara Parkway.
As rom-com’s go, it’s an engaging slice of light entertainment, at times as sweet as the icewine that lent the film its original title, and well worth the hour-and-a-half run time. As Michael’s assistant Dianne, played by the charming Genelle Williams, tells Christine, “some of the best things in life happen when you take a little detour.”
The movie is available for streaming via the W Network or on the River TV app.