There are two glasses in front of you. One is filled with wine, the other with cannabis flower from Humboldt, the world’s mecca for top-tier pot. You smell each, and the aromas envelop you in a harmonious pairing. You’re enticed by the promise of flavors, textures and taste intensities. If you want to appreciate a pairing of wine and Humboldt cannabis, follow these steps.
1. Know what your intention is. “Seek balance,” says Jamie Evans of The Herb Somm, a cannabis blog and lifestyle brand that focuses on the gourmet side of the cannabis industry. A lighter cannabis strain with uplifting effects, say Lemon Sour Diesel, will be served with a refreshing white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnary, or Albariño. However, if you aim for deep relaxation, pair the more earthy flavors of a calming cannabis strain such as White Tahoe Cookies with a well-structured and savoury wine like a Cabernet.
2. Learn about aromas. If you’re new to cannabis, study terpenes--more than 100 vibrant aromatic compounds found in cannabis--and focus on the dominant terpene of a cannabis strain, which is often Myrcene, Limonene, or Pinene. Once you’ve developed a palate and you start to know what you like, learn about the minor terpenes of the strain as well, because they play a subtle and important role. “The terpene complexity of cannabis is unparalleled,” says Kevin Jodrey, one of Humboldt County (and the world)’s finest cultivation experts. A good resource for terpene education is SC Labs . And if you’re new to wine, explore (at such sites as Wine Folly) the different varietals grown in different regions and see what speaks to you.
3. Explore textures. A good wine will have a pleasant entry into the palate, and a long finish. Cannabis has smoke texture too, as well as tannins due to temperature swings between day and night on the farm where it grows. Notice the weight of the wine and the cannabis as you taste them. “It’s all about the extended finish,” says Sunshine Johnston, a legacy cannabis farmer in Humboldt County with years of experience as a wine broker. She runs Sunboldt Grown Farm (all her cannabis grows in native soil, under the sun). As for Kevin, his taste runs to “a heavier, fuller cannabis that envelops me, that grabs me, and in wine, a fuller-body red with deep complexities when it bites in my mouth. I like developed richness.”
4. Go wild. Pleasure comes from pairing wine made with as little manipulation as possible, like the natural wines that are now exploding in popularity in France, with cannabis that is cultivated with the least amount of human interference. The best winemakers don’t get in the way of the grape expressing the terroir, and the best cannabis farmers don’t inhibit the plant’s full expression of its terroir. Humboldt County is blessed by nature with diverse fertile soils, a moderate climate and intense rainfall. Humboldt cannabis farmers foster soil vitality through regenerative practices, which yields the extraordinary top-shelf cannabis that everyone wants. One of the strains at Sunshine’s farm is Wanderlust, exhibiting creamy, lemony flavors, almost like rotten oranges, which she loves to pair with a rich, mineral Chardonnay from Briceland Vineyards. For Sunshine, it’s “a sensory experience, you’re trying to build resonance.”
5. Start low, go slow. Jamie advises a slow, gradual tasting and a glass of water always by your side. With wine, you can swirl it in the glass, smell it, take a small sip, and if you don’t like it, spit it out. Not so with cannabis. To make the pleasure last, don’t just consume cannabis to get high right away, but consider alternating smoking with eating raw cannabis-infused foods that reveal the rich flavors without the high. “When you eat raw cannabis-infused food, you feel good!” says Sunshine. When smoking, Jamie favors a dry flower vaporizer to enjoy the pure terpene profile while keeping the palate clean for other flavors.
6. Host a private party at home. Due to regulatory limitations, cannabis and wine pairing are best enjoyed as private events in an intimate, private home. If you have the resources, bring in both a ganjier whose passion and expertise are all about cannabis, and a sommelier obsessed with all things wine. Develop an appreciation of each on its own terms, and play with their union. Ultimately, if you enjoyed the pairing, then it was a good pairing!
Nicole Riggs is the founder of Manifesto Synergies, an agency providing marketing services to the cannabis industry in Humboldt, and Chief Marketing Officer at Humboldt Community Business Development Center (HCBDC)