The Wine And Weed Industry Have More in Common Than Not

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Sonoma County is widely known as wine country – home to award-winning vineyards and a weekend wine tasting destination for tourists.

This recent article in the New York Times talks about how with the passage of Prop. 64, many questioned whether the wine industry would find a step decline in revenue because consumers would find weed to be a new, interesting intoxicant they could now purchase without difficulty.

It turns out that many local wine growers have no problem with marijuana at all; some of them even welcome it.

Tina Caputo, a freelance wine and food writer remarks, “People are trying to say there is a threat, but I really haven’t talked to any wine industry person yet who actually sees it that way. We haven’t actually seen anybody who’s laying down their glass of wine to pick up a bong,” she said, “There’s room in people’s lives for both.”

Robert Mark Kamen grows grapes and makes fine wines at Kamen Estate in Sonoma, and is also a marijuana advocate. He agrees, “I can tell you just as the side effect of wine is the high, so too is it with weed, although the experience is different,” he said in an email to the Times. “There are different flavors and bouquets to good weed, and different strains that elicit different effects,” he added. “There are real body highs, and real stony highs, and there are highs that are cerebral and ethereal. There are levels of socializing that can be enhanced or inhibited, depending on the strength and the amount you smoke.”

Phil Coturri, who oversees Mr. Kamen’s vineyard is one of the leading organic and biodynamic viticulturists in Sonoma and Napa Counties – and he has the same respect for weed as he does for the grapes, “As Nero Wolfe would take care of his orchids in his brownstone, I would spend a couple of hours a day cultivating cannabis,” Mr. Coturri stated, “I can’t see myself not harvesting grapes every year for the rest of my life, and I can’t see myself not growing marijuana for the rest of my life.”

Mr. Coturri sees marijuana as a complement to wine rather than a competitor, “Our world revolves around intoxicants, but it also revolves around flavor,” he said. “Just as we look at wine, we might look at a bud and dissect its aroma and characteristics.”

To underscore how not worried these Sonoma County winemakers are, in August a Wine & Weed Symposium will be held in Santa Rosa, where growers, fans, and consumers of both can meet and discuss both industries, and what the future may hold.