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Take a Weed and Wine Tour

A Budding Relationship

Bay Area tour matches wine and weed

Story and photos by Ella Buchan

Self-styled “mobile budtender” Andrew Mieure serves up a cannabis-infused mocktail to kickstart the tour.

The bong has barely reached the back of the bus when the first cork is pulled. Armed with a bottle of grenache and a tower of plastic cups, host Michael Eymer maneuvers around inside the moving vehicle. The wine has warm notes of blackberry and hints of smoke, with a tart finish of sharp cranberry. It goes straight to my head, but then that’s to be expected: This wine has been infused with cannabis flowers, packing a little more punch than your typical porch pounder.

I’m on the debut “Wine and Weed” excursion with Cannabis Tours. Eymer founded the company in Colorado but is shifting focus to California, setting up a new base in West Oakland. With the legalization of recreational use, he spies a green goldmine in this
vine-combed landscape.

“This tour will be offered every week, and I’m also looking for lodging partners to expand into bespoke package holidays,” Eymer tells me. “There’s a lot of potential here.”

Synergistic Pairings

While some might expect a clash, the cannabis and wine industries are finding ways to work together, from bud and wine pairings to long, luxurious vineyard dinners with cannabis-infused dishes.

Alicia Rose worked as a consultant to Napa wineries for 15 years before founding HerbaBuena, which sells organic, biodynamic, sustainably produced cannabis products, in 2015. Seeing “undeniable synergies” between cannabis and wine, Rose is rolling out a series of curated dinners in Northern California.

At a recent Napa event overlooking the vines, chic crowds swirled, sipped, puffed, and passed. A pinot noir was paired with wild mushroom and herb wontons, with a choice of two pre-rolled joints to match. Neither the wine nor the food was medicated.

“I am a purist and prefer people to enjoy the experience of the cannabis, the wine, and the food, each as their own exceptional representations,” explains Rose. “This way we’re able to curate the pairings and truly guide the effect, feel, and overall experience. Our guests regularly remark about how incredible they feel after our events—elevated and happy—never too full or over-served.”

It isn’t just wine pairings elevating cannabis to a sophisticated new level. Edible Excursions, which runs popular food-centered walking tours in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, has launched a monthly “Curious Cannabis Salon,” where people can browse new products.

At the first event in San Francisco’s Mission District last October, high-end tinctures and edibles included Mellows (fluffy marshmallows) and Pot d’Huile, a premium olive oil. (Both producers are SF local.)

“This is a movement that’s swelling based on individual desires for it,” says Lisa Rogovin, founder of Edible Excursions. “Cannabis is becoming a high-end product. We’re not stoners.”

The debut tour included stops at Berkeley’s Donkey & Goat Winery and the Betty Project, a sleek grow facility in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood.

Responsible Mixing

With Cannabis Tours, I join a mixed crowd ranging from out-of-town millennials to a retired local couple. We begin with a mocktail demonstration at the Oakland Cannabis Creative, a West Oakland performance and event venue, hosted by Andrew Mieure.

Mieure sprinkles and pipettes myriad strains and tinctures into spiced apple libations. Some guests go straight for the THC, the part of cannabis with psychoactive effects. I ease myself in with CBD, the cannabinoid prized for positive effects like anxiety reduction and pain relief without the buzz.

Mieure, who is primarily based in Denver, Colorado, set up Top Shelf Budtending to help promote “classy cannabis” and responsible use. As a “mobile budtender” for private events and weddings, he has a keen eye for anyone who’s overindulged and a kit stocked with sniffing oils to “bring them back.”

Though he doesn’t serve alcohol, Mieure believes there are circumstances in which it can be responsibly mixed with cannabis, especially on a carefully paced tour. “You should ideally smoke before you drink,” he adds. “Alcohol acts as a muscle relaxant, so the cannabis absorbs more quickly into your bloodstream.”

We pile onto a limo bus with two huge TV screens and plush seats arranged around a pole. Joints are passed from every direction along with small pours of viognier. Like the grenache, this is so-called “green wine,” cold-infused with cannabis flowers by CannaVines in Arroyo Grande. It’s a potent mix of 12{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91} alcohol and 3{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91} THC, with a recommended “dose” of half a glass.

We stare with hooded eyes as the bus windows fill with the gleaming white cables of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Our main destination is the Betty Project, a grow facility in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. We’re welcomed to the elegant warehouse space with sparkling (non-infused) wine. A glass bong, reminiscent of a decanter, is passed around before we tour rooms of plants growing under chartreuse lights. Peeping behind a door emitting an eerie green glow, our guide whispers: “No photos—they’re sleeping.”

Betty Project founder Anna Wyatt has long been a fan of pairing weed with wine. “Cannabis deepens the experience and heightens my senses. Wine lowers my inhibitions. It’s a natural fit,” she says, adding that allowing recreational use without a medical card will be “a huge boon for the tours industry.”

At our final stop we devour local cheeses and charcuterie with a more traditional wine tasting. There’s no “green” wine served at Donkey & Goat in Berkeley, but among their “natural wine” offerings are a few that are a startling orange.

“This is all very new for us,” says tasting room manager Erin Callahan, referring to the tour. “Do we want to be at the forefront of hosting events like these? You have to try these things, though, and I do think it will roll out and other wineries will get involved.”

Gloria, a retired woman on the tour with her husband, sips the orange pinot gris between nibbles. “Wine, cheese, and weed. How can you complain?”

Left: Cannabis Tours’ national president Heidi Keyes, who runs the $99 day trips, says, “I think wine and weed can be a great combination in the right quantities.” Right: Tour guide Tyler fires up the bong on the bus.

A match made in heaven, or an ill-advised fling?

Not everyone is convinced this wine and weed marriage will last. Samantha Miller, president and chief scientist at cannabis testing lab Pure Analytics, is reserving judgment. “Infusing [wine with cannabis] doesn’t work very well. I have tried several, and they can taste like smoke water,” she says. “It remains to be seen if it’s the same experience, and as enjoyable.” She also questions whether the average household has “the intoxication dollars” to sustain both pleasures. If more people start spending on cannabis, she suggests, that could negatively impact the wine industry.

When it comes to tourism, though, Heidi Keyes, national president of Cannabis Tours, believes the grape and the bud are soul mates. “If this was just a drinking tour, people would be wasted and throwing up or fighting by now,” she says, passing around red velvet cupcakes on the ride back to Oakland.

I look around at the sea of serene faces. The only sounds are the occasional rustle of snack bags and soft ripples of laughter. Some guests have brought treats to share: a bar of medicated chocolate, a packet of non-dosed macadamia nuts.
Keyes breathes a contented sigh. “I love wine and I love weed,” she says. “It’s perfect.” ♦

cannabistours.com

Obsessed with everything California, Ella Buchan is a London-based journalist specializing in travel, food, and drink. Find her tweeting
@ellabuchan.

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