California launch of recreational marijuana sales is about to help the state’s $34 billion wine industry go even “higher” with marijuana-infused varietals.
Marijuana-infused wine has been available to California holders of medical marijuana prescriptions since 2015 from about 6 suppliers, but the price has run about $100 to $400 for a half bottle, according to a California wine advisor website.
The launch of recreational marijuana on January 2, 2018 should help spike what has already been the world’s largest wine market since 2010. California wineries are trending toward new record sales and shipments this year, following a 4.6 percent jump in retail sales in 2016, with domestic shipments of 238 million cases and exports of 47 million cases.
Sensing a big opportunity, Sonoma’s Rebel Coast Winery offered $69 bottles of Cloud Colony Sauvignon Blanc that sold out almost immediately. Cloud Colony features single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc grapes that were harvested in September of 2016.
The vintner process starts with removing the stems and pressing the grapes, and then transferring the juice to barrels for fermentation. But Rebel then adds a blend of Indica and Sativa marijuana that is organically grown outdoors, and then the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is activated in ovens. The marijuana is added to the half-fermented wine and aged until the alcohol content reaches the intended target.
Although most white wine is cold stabilized, filtered, and sulfur-added, Rebel Coast’s marijuana-infused Sauvignon Blanc is not filtered before bottling in an effort to preserve the wine’s flavor. The winemakers also deliberately do not add sulfur to the wine to prevent denaturing the potency of the THC compounds.
Cloud Colony Sauvignon Blanc is described as having “a very herbaceous nose,” with smells of marijuana, lemon grass, lavender, and citrus. The wine’s taste features “high acid,” with bright citric, and a crisp clean finish. it is described as best served chilled, so as to power the mouth, “while the marijuana powers the nose.”
According to the Wine Pair website, mixing wine with psychoactive substances appears to have been around for at least 3,700 years as part of religious rituals. Religious inductees drank psychoactive wine as part of their practice. The Greek Eleusinian Mysteries cults of Demeter and Persephone were described by Boston University professor Carl Ruck as using spiked wine for hallucinogenic purposes.
Archeologists found evidence in China ruins from the second century A.D. to suggest that the founder of Chinese surgery, Hua T’o, mixed wine with marijuana resins to reduce pain during ancient surgeries.
The California market for marijuana-infused wine is currently limited to the approximately 1.1 million residents with medical marijuana prescriptions. But on January 2, when recreational marijuana become legal for adults, the California market will jump to about 29.1 million.