Recovered Vintners Apply 30-40 years of Wine and Hospitality Experience to Napa cannabis
Cannabis and Cabernet - The Marriage of Weed and Wine in Napa Valley
November 11, 2018
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 TastingRoom.com, 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.