Travel Tuesdays: Weed and Wine

Travel Tuesday is a tourism column shedding light on the most cannabis-friendly corners of the globe. This Tuesday, Brian Applegarth, founder and president of the California Cannabis Tourism Association and proprietor of Emerald Country Tours, makes the case that weed will begin to take cues from wine’s industry and culture.

Those who value sophistication, craft, and culture will be pleased to hear that the well-established wine industry and budding cannabis industry of Northern California united for a day of collaboration in Sonoma County on Aug. 2, 2018. In true Sonoma fashion, the day was complemented by sipping vino, charcuterie and cheese spreads, a beautiful outdoor dining experience, and the occasional cloud of Blue Dream wafting through the air.

The Wine Industry Network successfully hosted its second annual Wine & Weed Symposium at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country lodge. The event included booths to browse and panels throughout the day with industry experts discussing pertinent issues and brainstorming about how to further cross-pollinate weed and wine. Varietals, terroir, pairings, microclimates, and appellations were all much-discussed topics throughout the symposium.

So, how does the bohemian-chic cannabis tourism niche work with the already well-established and luxurious Sonoma and Napa vineyards? Who will be the connoisseur seeking out world-class cannabis? Will Mendocino be to cannabis what Bordeaux is to wine?

The Emerald Triangle and the Craft of Sun-grown Cannabis

The Emerald Triangle is in Northern California and consists of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties. It is also internationally recognized as the finest cannabis producing region in the world. With decades of cultivation experience, the Emerald Triangle cultivators have history on their side in pursuit of perfecting their craft.

“My first crop was in 1978 on the south slope of Telegraph Hill in the heart of San Francisco. Cannabis has been teaching me how to grow her properly ever since then,”  Swami Chaitanya, founder of Swami Select, a top-shelf sun-grown cannabis brand, told

For decades, these cannabis-loving communities have been perfecting the art of living off the grid, rolling a joint, naturally infusing cannabis into their food and drinks, formulating salves, herbal tinctures, and oils, in addition to cannabis cultivation.

The Emerald Triangle is home to small nature-centered farmers with multi-generational ties to the land. Cultivators’ craft is informed primarily by nature. They are continually perfecting their techniques, aiming to grow in ultimate alignment with the natural elements of their local microclimate, coaxing plants to express themselves in the most healthful, natural way.

Most prefer to grow from seed instead of clone and a variety of different cannabis cultivars instead of one or two stand-alone strains and farm with biodynamic and regenerative methods, embracing the power of natural ecosystems. Biodiversity in the garden is important, which is why many cultivators plant vegetables, flowers, and cannabis side by side and have goats, sheep, chickens, flowers, bees, and other traditional trappings of a farm.

Today, in this new legalized cannabis market, they are beginning to grow for the cannabis connoisseur.

The Cannabis Connoisseur Will Become the New Viticulture Expert, and Outdoor-Grown Cannabis Will Earn A Seat at the Table

The cannabis connoisseur is the purist who holds a reverence for the plant the way a wine lover holds esteem for grapes. They respect not only how effective, beautiful, and aromatic their premium flower is, but also appreciate how their cannabis flower was tended to and the way it was crafted. The cannabis connoisseur understands that electric indoor lights meant to mimic the sun, robust drip systems on auto-timers, fans attempting to replicate wind, and blackout tarps simulating the night sky fall short of nature in its truest form.

“It’s all about the feel. Connoisseurs and sophisticated consumers know that a great meal or a great bottle of wine is as much about the passion, intention, and love that went into its creation, as it is about ingredients. The same is true for cannabis – but even more so,” Alicia Rose told Rose is founder of Herba Buena, a cannabis company located in the city of Napa. “The most exceptional cannabis not only tastes and smells delicious, it offers a full spectrum of therapeutic benefits to provide an overall harmonizing effect for body, mind, and spirit.”

Indoor cultivation with humans attempting to replicate nature is a byproduct of two things: prohibition and the economics of large-scale operations. The conscious cannabis connoisseur will always consider the environmental health of the flower, and gladly pay extra for the care, attention, and energy a farmer will dedicate to their plants from seed to harvest, under full sun.   

“Those who shop for organic fruits and veggies at places like Whole Foods are beginning to recognize the value of clean cannabis grown with organic methods – it is simply better for their bodies, spirits and the whole planet,” Chaitanya said.

Bohemian-chic, sophisticated cannabis tourism and travel will earn a seat at the table. As the cannabis appellation development gradually earns official recognition, Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity and Sonoma counties will emerge as the Bordeaux of cannabis producers, with Napa and Sonoma fielding those travelers who seek not only top-shelf cannabis, but also a luxury polish of hospitality they are accustomed to.

Taking cues from the wine industry, there are private tastings, fine-dining events, and pairing experiences bubbling up.  

“The demand for high-end cannabis events and experiences has increased tremendously this past year”, Jamie Evans, founder of cannabis blog and lifestyle brand The Herb Somm, told “At the events that I host, I love educating guests on how to pair cannabis with different ingredients including wine. These types of dining experiences can be held in a safe and responsible way.”

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