Thursday, November 1, 2018

Cannabis and Cabernet - The Marriage of Weed and Wine in Napa Valley

Cannabis and Cabernet - The Marriage of Weed and Wine in Napa Valley

By Kat Thomas, The Green Light District

Welcome to Art of Relaxation!  Napa Valley is famed for its dedication to leisure through its 400 wineries with tasting rooms in the Valley (600+ if you include Sonoma), 50 restaurants, 125 lodging properties, outdoor activities, events, and art galleries.  And in the last few months, Napa has expanded its enjoyment wheelhouse to include the ability to get cannabis delivered right to your door. 

There are no marijuana dispensaries in Napa County, but starting in August, the delivery only dispensary, Napa Valley Fumé, teamed up with Eaze, an online platform that lets people order marijuana products, allowing for cannabis within minutes of ordering.  Eaze was launched in 2014, but since it relies on local dispensaries to distribute and deliver products, it hadn’t served the main wine growing region of the United States of America (and one of the major wine regions of the world) till this partnership started.

Napa Valley has a fabled legacy of international renown, yet it is one of the smallest wine growing regions in the world; they produce just four percent of California’s wine grape harvest.  But that doesn’t stop the 3.5 million visitors per year from embracing Napa’s slow down lifestyle.  And now they’re able to slow down on another level with pre-rolls, vape cartridges, and edibles delivered right to their door.  

“There’s no actual dispensaries in Napa County,” notes Sheena Shiravi, Director of Consumer Communications at Eaze.  “Before Eaze started deliveries to Napa, Valley visitors and residents had to drive an hour to the closest dispensary.”  But now, cannabis can be headed to any private residence and hotel rooms (but not wineries) with just a few clicks on the app.

Elissa Hagopian Hambrecht, the COO of Napa Valley Fumé, couldn’t be happier.  “We really feel like the stars have aligned.  Both myself and Eric Sklar, Napa Valley Fumé CEO are recovered Vintners.  We bring 30-40 years experience of wine and hospitality to the world of Napa cannabis.  And we’re thoroughly happy to be ensconced in this new industry.”

Hambrecht has had two wine industry leadership roles: she was co-CEO of Belvedere Winery and later she was a VP at, leading the winery partnerships program.  She has over twenty five years of experience launching and operating both proprietary businesses and partnerships.  “Napa Valley Fumé is all about the world of top end Napa cannabis.”

“20% of Californians shop the black market for cannabis,” states Shiravi.  “So for everyone trying to push the legalization of cannabis, having Eaze come to wine country is one step closer to normalizing the marriage of weed and wine.”  “There’s a fun and educational path in front of consumers with a huge learning curve ahead,” notes Hambrecht.  “I’m a serial startup girl so getting rid of black market is what we’re all about.”

Napa Valley Fumé has a delivery only dispensary license (versus the license that allows for a brick and mortar building) located in Lake County approximately 40 minutes North of Calistoga.  They then use Eaze as a partner to distribute to their product to Napa Valley.  Eaze is not allowed to deliver to federal government building, schools, youth oriented addresses, but anyone else is open game!  “That’s the magic of Eaze as your delivery service,” chimes in Hambrecht.

And very soon cannabis, won’t just be delivered to Napa, it’s been grown there too!  “Napa is the premier agricultural region in the country,” notes Hambrecht, “we have better terroir than anyone one else there.”  And according to Hambrecht this includes the famed Humboldt county.  “Humboldt is great for hiding cannabis, not growing it.”  And Napa’s cannabis growing future is terroir dependent as the powers that be are pushing forward an ordinance that only allows for only the outdoor growing of cannabis in Napa Valley (no indoor grow rooms for this wine region). 

But how do psychologically marry weed and wine?  How do appease the fears of 400 wineries with tasting rooms in the Valley (600+ if you include Sonoma), that cannabis is going to kick wine to the curb?  Well one way is to get a bunch of people in the wine industry involved! Hambrecht is also a board member of the Napa Valley Cannabis Association, a 501c3, similar in concept to the Napa Valley Vintners Association  “It’s a who’s who of well established vintners on the board: Stephanie Honig is the CEO, Robert Mondavi is member too.  Everyone is very excited to cultivate here in Napa Valley!”

And there’s potential for everyone as the footprint for growing cannabis is much smaller than that of grapes.  That being said, the Napa Valley Cannabis Association is “Very Anti” to the concept of pulling grapes out of the ground to plant marijuana.  “We’re additive, not subtractive,” continues Hambrecht.  Plus cannabis test restrictions block the two plants from growing right next to each other.  “You can’t plant cannabis near the grapes because of drafting of sulfite sprays.  If you were to grow marijuana near the grapes you wouldn’t pass the state required lab testing.”

But what about a future where you can pull out your vape pen at a winery?  Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon as California does not allow cannabis and wine on the same premise.  But in these early days of the marriage of weed and wine, Eaze and Fumé will help shoulder the ability to embrace cannabis in Napa Valley and beyond.  Eaze recently expanded their wine region delivery area to include Sonoma County as well.  And with that in mind, they encourage you to indulge, both with both cannabis and Cabernet. 

Kat Thomas is the Co-Owner of The Green Light District, a Las Vegas/Los Angeles Cannabis entertainment company. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Allegretto Vineyard Resort by Ayres - ES PASO ROBLES

By Kat Thomas, Editor in Chief, Edible Skinny

We finished off our second night of tasting of wine tasting in Paso at the Allegretto Vineyard Resort by Ayres.  

Tucked into the beautiful hills of the Paso Robles Wine Country, on 20 acres of vineyards and olive and fruit trees, this European-style retreat is the first of its kind by the Ayres family, who has run a thriving Ayres Hotel chain throughout Southern California since 1904. 
The property is a world unto itself with 171 guest rooms and suites, a wine bar featuring the resort's own private wine label among many others, full-service spa, pool, manicured gardens, walking paths, medieval-style Abbey, hundreds of antiques, 12,000-square-foot courtyard.  The space, a passion project of world traveler Doug Ayres, includes inspired vignettes of art that emphasize the world of sacred geometry.  Antiques and artifacts from across the globe and the ages, including a five-foot stone polished to a beautiful sheen after tumbling in a river in India for 5,000 years; a towering Siddhartha statue from India; and a massive cross-section from a Sequoia tree whose rings date back to before the building of the Great Wall of China and the birth of Christ.
Allegretto was named for the Italian musical command, which is an indication to play quickly and with joy.  And it is with this happiness that we sampled four Allegretto Estate Wines.  One of my favorites was the Tannat, Bella Collina Vineyard, 2013 (since this is one of my personal favorite varietals).  With a nose of cinnamon and anise, and a palate of cherries and earth this wine makes you feel like your drinking terra firma.  Another wine we cherished was their Zinfandel, Loma Linda Vineyard 2013.  A “waltzing wine” it flaunts its palate turns of White Peppers, Blackberries, and Blueberries
We continued the gastronomic festivities at Allegretto’s restaurant: Cello Ristorante & Bar, a culinary getaway that “celebrates the Allegretto culture of joy, discovery and the good life.”  A farm to fork dining adventure that focuses on Northern Italian cuisine.  We started our meal out with some fantastic cocktails.   I dabbled in a Gold Fashioned, a modern day take on the Old Fashioned composed of Eagle Rare Bourbon, Benedictine Liqueur, Angostura Bitters, Lemon Essence, and actual Gold.   Kelly had the Paso R&R concocted of Re:Find Cucumber Vodka, Rhubarb Simple, Lime Juice, Rose Bitters, and Champagne.  The poet remarked, “It tastes like an acceptance letter to Harvard.”

We then perused the menu for some items from Executive Chef Eric Olson to nosh on while we were biding our time for the sun to set.   Between bits of a Burrata Martini, with all the classic highlights of heirloom tomatoes, Burrata, and Balsamic Vinegar and a Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad with Thyme Seared Day Boat Scallops, Morro Bay Avocado, Mango, Pickled Sushi Ginger, topped with a Creamy Eberle Chardonnay Reduction Dressing.  Trés Yummm, with 3 Ms!

After a sunset stroll of the grounds we returned to Cello our main meals.   I delighted in my Foraged Mushroom including Eggplant, Shallots, Leeks, Garlic, Italian Parsley, Shaved Truffle Cheese, and a contrasting Winter Salad topping it all off.  It was like eating the coziness of a winter sweater.   Our dining companion dived into the Crab Spaghetti which included Snow Crab Claws, Sliced Jalapenos, and Minced Scallions, Lemon, Allegretto Viognier Butter.  
Allegretto was the Pièce de résistance on a trip that allowed us to explore the expansive evolution of this burgeoning wine region.  Paso has now become a wine space that people are taking note of, in 2016 Paso Robles named Best Wine Region in the West by Sunset Magazine.
So if you’re looking for an escapes only four hours away from Los Angeles (or San Francisco), hop in that car and start heading towards your getaway.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Eberle Winery - ES PASO ROBLES

By Kat Thomas, Editor in Chief, Edible Skinny

Our next winery to explore was one of the grandfathers of Paso Robles wine: Eberle Winery, established in 1982, by Gary Eberle.   Eberle is a braggadocios man, but with every right to be.  Before finding wine he played football at Penn State and pro ball for 18 days with the Detroit Lions.  But, a National Science Fellow, the science of wine was his calling.  After a mentoring from Robert Mondavi, he has been making wine every year since 1973.  “Mondavi was the PT Barnum of wine, and I say that with the most admiration ever,” noted the wry Eberle.   
The Eberle Winery Tasting Room is open seven days a week, offering complimentary wine tasting, cave tours and spectacular views of their vineyard.  Eberle, a Swiss name for “little boar,” now does 30,000 cases per year with a focus primarily on red wines (which constitute 83% of their inventory).  According to Gary, Eberle is the busiest tasting room in Paso, and the second busiest tasting room in the state.  The winery does 90,000 guests a year, with 50% of retail sales in storefront.  “We sell everything.”  In 1991, Eberle was seeking additional space for their red wine program and decided to go underground. Today there are 16,000 square feet of underground caves and tunnel located below the winery. 
Eberle’s winemaker is also carries the last name of Eberle, although he’s not blood related.   Chris Eberle attended Cal Poly for Ag Business and Viticulture before traveling the world making wine in Europe, Australia, and South America.   Gary was looking for a winemaker and friend requested him on Facebook, the rest is history. 

Some of our favorites from this tasting included Eberle’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2013.   Eberle only makes a Reserva approximately half of the time.  “It has to be the best of the best to make it.”  This wine will be released in 2017 and according to Gary will be sold out by Christmas.  This is a wine of detail (with the label painted straight onto the glass bottle), with velvety tannins bringing up hints of cherry and cedar.   Another fantastic wine is their 2016 Muscat Canelli Double Gold.  Refreshing and semi-sweet, this wine with its flavors of Jasmine and Orange blossoms is a fantastic aperitif or to complement a decadent dessert.