I recently had a conversation with a celebrity involved in the California wine biz that went something like this:
CA Wine Celebrity: “Hey – have you ever had cannabis-infused wine?”
CWC: “Yeah. Totally. Pot wine?”
Me: “No – but I wouldn’t be surprised if every other winemaker in California was drinking it; and probably making it.”
CWC: “I just tried some. It was weird. It smelled exactly like…” – at this point he extended a long, lanky, outstretched arm ending in pinched fingers directly under my nose – “…like someone stuck a bud in there; it smells just like a big ol’ bud right up in your nose!”
Turns out, he wasn’t very far off. It is with very, very little surprise that I give you the findings of Michael Steinberger’s recent article for The Daily Beast, titled Marijuana-Laced Wine Grows More Fashionable in California Wine Country: apparently, a lot of winemakers in California wine country make the stuff (by dropping about one lb. of dope into fermenting grape juice, Cabernet apparently being the variety of choice, and nearby Humboldt County being the marijuana source of choice), because a lot of CA winemakers dig pot.
Whoa – now there’s a news flash [ Editor’s note: sarcasm intended ].
We are talking about California here, people…
One of the first things I learned about CA wine country when I started down the path of “wine insider type pro guy” was that a lot of CA winemakers smoke weed.
I kind of wish I had a dime for every CA wine country conversation I’ve had that ended with a winemaker asking, “Oh… uhmmm… are you cool?” and me responding, “hey, I don’t smoke anything but light up, man, it won’t bother me a bit.” The topic even got a brief airing on 1WD TV back in the Summer of 2010, at the very end of a roundtable discussion I had with a group of Napa Valley’s up-and-coming next-generation winemakers.
Hopefully you’re world has not been shocked by this news.
We are talking about California here, people.
Not to get too preachy, but toking up doesn’t bother me because I’ve long felt that pot ought to be legal, and regulated, like alcohol; and, more importantly, the majority of these marijuana-winers apparently are getting their stuff grown in CA. Considering the sorry state of drug-related violence just south of the U.S. border, if I was smokin’ I’d probably sleep a lot better at night knowing that my hard-earned dollars were spent on “locally grown produce” rather than on potentially indirectly funding that horrific violence.
So as long as you’re sourcing it humanely, and are not driving, operating heavy machinery, or watching toddlers after smoking it, then personally I don’t much care what you’re doing with it. And I think I ay be talking to a lot of you: considering the stats on this story (it’s only been shared online several thousand times) since it first ran several days ago, it seems a lot of people are intrigued by the idea of wine and weed going together like chocolate and peanut butter.
But I’m going to have to risk all those folks thinking that I’ve moved further along the continuum away from “impetuous youth” and more towards “crotchety old geezer screaming for those rotten kids to get the hell off of my lawn,” because I have to tell you that I’m not at all sold on the wine + weed concept.
I’m just not sure that I’d go and mess with a really good CA Cabernet by sticking pot into it. I mean, wouldn’t taking alternating sips and tokes taste better? And produce something close to the same “interesting little buzz” that Steinberger’s sources describe?
As one former brewmaster at the excellent Stoudt’s Brewery in Adamstown, PA told me many, many years ago (ack! old fart alert!): “I don’t make lite beer; you want lite beer, just take a sip of my beer and then alternate it with a sip of water!” Which was his own crotchety way of telling me that it’s usually not smart to potentially ruin two perfectly good things. As a wine geek, that would bother me a lot more than someone smoking some locally-grown weed.
We probably also shouldn’t look past possible political agendas of those quoted in the story, particularly the Napa Valley Marijuana Growers, who might stand to gain… well, some standing by having their product compared to luxury wine.
Yes, I’m serious. We are talking about California here, people.
I suppose that what I’m also trying to say here is Mike’s article has me torn between dueling emotional reactions: on the one hand, it’s fun and interesting and about time that somebody covered this; on the other hand, it has a definite “well…. DUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” feel to it.
As one of Steinberger’s sources points out, “People love wine… and they love weed.”
Queue The Big Lebowski soundtrack, baby! I just dropped in to seeeee what condition my condition was iiiiiin….. yeaaah! yeaaah! ohhhhh-yeaaah!
We are talking about California here, people.
Ever had cannabis-infused wine? Er… I mean, ever known “a friend” who has tried it? Toke it up in the comments!
37 thoughts on “Dude, Where’s My “Wine?” (Marijuana And Wine Remain Popular Pairing For California Winemakers)”
I tend to be pretty open-minded about all that stuff, so frankly I'd quite like to try it… However with the aromas of weed being so, so, so pungent in most cases, how could it not affect (negatively?) the FLAVOR of the wine? Weed is fun for smokin', but it stinks like poop. Well… then again… I guess there are some "barnyardy" reds out there that don't smell much better than a pile of manure, too. It all just seems rather gimmicky & pointless to me – getting the flavors layered in a nice wine is tough work; I just can't see how adding weed could possibly do anything positive for the wine. If it's all just for the buzz or the high, I'd say just roll a doobie to puff whilst sipping a beautiful glass of wine. Oh, and in a completely unrelated story, I helped open a 3L of '05 Torbreck "The Struie" this past weekend. I wish you could have shared a glass with us, Joe. It was some of the best damned grape juice I've ever ingested. … …. and later that night I smoked a doobie. :D
G-dub – thanks, sounds like you and I are on the same page. Would have loved to partake of that Struie (but would pass on the doobie :). Cheers!
Joe, you crack my s**t up! You and think along the same line, but the extra bonus of buying local makes another good argument! Have a great day, buddy!
Thanks, Karyn. Enjoy that Grateful Dead bootleg live marathon! ;-)
I'm not a smope doker, and I agree with your basic premise about 'wasting' (or would it be 'wasted'?) a perfectly good barrel of juice to infuse some weed. On the other hand, if it were one of the barrels that was not quite good enough and therefore was going to be dumped onto the market anyway….
Masi3v – I hear ya about the bulk wine, but then couldn't we make the opposite argument about wasting good weed?
I thought you were cool.
Sandra – I'm cool, I'm just not “cool.”
Very entertaining article as always! Being a Cali Vintner I get it, and yes, I know a few Toasted Heads that Vint, but let’s not get carried away with a thought that every Vintner in Cali partakes.
A few facts: CA produces 90% of the grapes grown in the US, and Northern California (includes Napa & Sonoma) makes up about 21% of that Cali production. San Joaquin Valley produces over 60% of the grape production in the State. There is a significant cultural difference between these to regions. It would be like trying to compare Jeff Spicoli to John Wayne. Spicoli said it best, “This is U.S. History, I see the globe right there.” California is a big state so please don’t take what a few are doing and label the rest.
Aloha, Mr. Hand!
Gary – wise words. Obviously there's quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek-ness here today, but your comment underscores the more serious fact that we shouldn't draw too many conclusions when generalizing about wine in any region. Cheers!
Joe – You know I enjoy the hell out of your writing and understand the tongue-in-cheek-ness! I hope I did not come off as an "old-fart" as I simply just wanted to point out what others in the world might not understand about California. You have had the chance to explore the State and so have many others, but many more have not. So I felt some quick insight for my Home and Profession was in line!
Cheers and keep up the great work!
Gary – not at all! And somebody definitely needs to rein me in anyway from time to time! :)
Of course, the first time we saw this, as proper British gentlemen, we assumed it was a spelling mistake, and people were talking about PORT wine…
Sediment – well, if I was talking about Port the tone would be a hell of a lot more serious! :)
I'm not sold on the combination through infusion. While the effects at the right dosage are different between eating it and smoking it (look it up, it doesn't have to be from experience), I don't believe the wine would be unchanged, but how much it would be affected I am not sure. Weed is a plant, fresh or dried, plants smell. Check out some earthy Asian teas like Pur'eh. Stinks like shit but is great with a little ginger and sugar. The earthiness comes through and if used in the place of the weed it would likely do that same thing to wine. I've made quite a few batches of wine and this has never crossed my mind, nor would I risk losing the money spent on the wine to try it unless I had some experience to guide the choice.
Pausing to be philosophical for a second, time at a hookah lounge is best in enjoyed with friends, beverages and food, so I'd say the same could go when you swap the tobacco out in favor of weed. Dude, we might all agree more…
Jason – good point; just don't try and sell of the extra earthy notes as terroir…
I've HEARD the weed smell is so intense you almost lose the wine aroma altogether. Plus, a pound of weed isn't a little nickel sack! I'm not a smoker, so personally I wonder what's the point?
QuitWINEing – I suppose part of the point is to share the weed socially, just as many (most, I'd wager) of us want to share wine that way.
Read this story on News Fetch the other day, I was amused but not surprised at all. Apparently this has been going on for years, and I will jump on the bandwagon and say I wouldn’t risk altering 59 gallons (or so) of Napa Cab. However, someone out there must like the combination, enough to make it fairly widespread it appears; it is generating quite a buzz.
Joel – quite a buzz? I agree! ;-)
I love the buying "local produce" line. Interesting. I'll try anything once.
Christine – one of the lesser known undercurrents of the locavore movement! :)
I think you're kind of missing the point – i doubt the winemakers are taking their Reserve cabs and blending them with countless barrels of weed-infused wine. They're probably just making a very small amount, as a hobby. Obviously it's not distributed.
There are a lot of similarities between weed and wine. Pot has so many flavor profiles, from skunky and earthy to fruity and citrusy. I'm sure you could find some strains that actually complement the flavor profiles…a nice bubba kush with a big cab, or citrusy haze with a Sauvignon Blanc.
Now if only I could find a winemaker to donate some trim to in return for the end product…
Mike – I think everyone visiting here who has read that source article understands that this is a hobby project and isn’t distributed. I hadn’t thought about pot having the same nuances and variety as wine, but you bring up a good point – but I’d probably use that myself as an argument as to why they should be enjoyed separately and not mixed together. Cheers!
Since smoking anything tends to be hard on the senses of smell and taste, shouldn't the traditional food-wine pairing be extended to *ahem* "baked" goods? Pairings such as port or certain red wines and "special" chocolate brownies, for instance?
MyrddinGwin – wow, great point and one that I neglected despite having written about smoking's impact on wine appreciation! I also missed the brownies Terence which is just dumb on my part!! :)
If you're indeed going to be at #wbc12 you need to put in a call and get some samples shipped in for the "after party"! :) I'll supplies the munchies…
Kris – ha! Well it's not like OR residents are known for *not* smoking weed…
Weed infused wine…SIGN ME UP! Brilliant idea to say the least.
Marsala – so you are definitely a Grateful Dead fan, then? :)
In the medical marijuana scene right now, (and the medical aspect of it can be argued of course, but that's not irrelevant here) designer varieties are being grown, with certain features being favored and others being bred-out. Instead of reflecting terroir, the state's best herbs reflect a culture – the hand of the weedmaker. So, don't think of Burgundy, but rather of Bordeaux. Like a winemaker's elegant craft, blending the five grapes into magic, the weedmaker blends various plants for the most desirable characteristics; smell, appearance, and density/physical attributes, and also for the quality of the high, duration of the effects, and what effects themselves – pain killing, energetic, etc.
So, I see a lot of similarity between the two industries and I know many well-known winemakers (as well as journalists/reviewers of wine) smoke, though I tend to agree that the same rule that applies to other substances should apply to wine – in other words, it's a bit childish to put anything in wine. Wine itself is such a near-perfect human artifice, why "screw with it?" So, as others have said, leave the two to be enjoyed separately, but together. They do produce a nice synergistic high.
JRobRRV – Well-spoken on all counts there!
LOL, thanks for temporarily transporting me back to California! After Vineyard 8 and Clone 6 we now have 420 Red!
For me personally, I think I would prefer to take the approach of pairing wine and cheese. Yes, they go well together, but that doesn't mean you should necessarily throw a wheel of sheeps milk pecorino into the barrel. :)
Thanks for a fun read that will now have me wondering next time I visit B.R. Cohn if there isn't more to that connection to the Doobie Brothers than just the whole artist producer thing.
Ron – ha! Thanks, you wouldn't believe how many offers of “4-20 wine” I received after posting this!
This is the best thing I’ve ever heard. Cannabis and wine, my two favorite intoxicants, together finally! The hunt begins…
OM – I am very much of the opinion that these are two great tastes that do not taste great together. Just sayin’…
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