What is Weed Wine?
The history of cannabis-infused wine may be surprising. Cynthia Salarizadeh, founder and president of House of Saka, points out, “Cannabis-infused wine has been around for thousands of years, it’s one of the original marijuana products less of a trend and more of a resurgence regulations and industry have matured enough for people to bother doing it again.”
Weed wine that can be found in a dispensary is dealcoholized wine, mostly from California, blended with a THC or CBD emulsion, meaning the alcohol is removed from the wine before it gets infused with cannabis. It looks and is served like a regular bottle of wine, but with a slightly different flavor because of the dealcoholization process, and optional additives to reintroduce flavor and texture. The cannabis, rather than any alcohol, gives the beverage its effects.
While the ancient versions were combinations of the plant and alcohol, current regulations prohibit the mixing of cannabis and alcohol. Laws also prohibit the use of the term ‘wine’ for packaging and marketing. Weed wine, like infused beer, must be dealcoholized before it comes into contact with cannabis.
If you think winemakers are simply infusing vino with buds of the green stuff, then there’s a lot more you need to know about the process. Both Mary Jane Wines and Canna Vine use the cannabinoid CBD to create their magical liquids. Mary Jane derives their CBD from hemp, which is legal to import in the United States. Though marijuana and hemp are not the same plant, they are both types of cannabis and share a similar genetic makeup. Canna Vine, on the other hand, uses actual marijuana to give its wine its signature green color. Winemakers wrap a pound of cured marijuana in cheesecloth, then add it to a barrel of grape juice and leave it to ferment and age for a year or longer. Because fermentation temperatures hit about 90 degrees at most, only the CBD is released from the weed—THC doesn’t decarboxylate until 220 degrees Fahrenheit. The main thing to know about CBD is it doesn’t contain any psychoactive properties like THC, so CBD-enhanced wine won’t make you feel high, but it will encourage muscle relaxation and mental tranquility.
Both Mary Jane and Canna Vine pride themselves on making quality products that aren’t gimmicky. These are bottles you can actually serve at a dinner party, not just something to hilariously break out at Coachella. The winemakers pay attention to the flavors in both the grapes and cannabis to create a harmonious product. For example, Canna Vine told the L.A. Times that a strain called Cherry Pie goes particularly well with Grenache rosé, and a pineapple-scented bud is the perfect match for Viognier. But with this high level of craftsmanship comes an equally high price point. Currently, Canna Vine sells half bottles for $120-$400, which probably seems ridiculous to most people who just want a way to relax after work. But for the true marijuana connoisseur, it’s a small price to pay to stay ahead of the cannabis curve.
The cannabidiol is a cannabinoid that comes from cannabis sativa L. plant, being the most abundant one in it. From a scientific perspective, more than 100 cannabinoids have been discovered.
The discovery of these cannabinoids, together with the knowledge about their interaction with the human body, has resulted in a new approach.
Scientific and medical studies have been very positive. The use of cannabinoids has proved to be effective with different pathologies, reducing symptoms and improving users’ quality of life. Considering that it is not psychoactive, users can lead a normal life taking advantage of the therapeutic benefits provided.
Understanding the Intoxicating Effects of Cannabis Wine
Evans, whose lifestyle book on CBD will be published in Spring 2020 by Fair Winds Press, says, “Cannabis is a botanical medicine, and it really does affect people in different ways. It’s critical for brands to know exactly who their consumer is so they can tailor the dosage levels for the right audience.”
Evans believes that micro-dosage drinks are likely the future of cannabis-based beverages. “If you’re having a drink with maybe 1 mg of THC,” she says, “that is a low dose and super approachable for beginners.” She admits, though, that a low dose isn’t for everyone. “I’ve met users who needed 30 mg of THC to feel the effects,” she says. “It all depends on [each person’s] endocannabinoid system—the cannabinoid receptors in the body. [For instance,] I don’t need as much THC as my husband, who requires a higher dose, so it depends on your body and your metabolism.”
Ingested THC is absorbed into the body through the liver. But the way individuals are affected depends on their “bioavailability rates,” explains Evans—in other words, the way the body responds to THC as it’s metabolized, which is different from the response to smoking it. Someone with a high tolerance for smoking cannabis may have a low tolerance for ingesting it. Evans’s advice for every user is to “start low and go slow.” Another factor to consider is onset times. “Smoking has immediate impacts,” Evans says. “Sublinguals [tinctures] take effect after 15 to 20 minutes. Edibles take one or two hours, and drinkables about 45 minutes to one hour [to metabolize].”
House of Saka produces Saka Pink, a nonalcoholic THC- and CBD-infused rosé that will be available in a still and sparkling version (Saka Sparkling Pink) and is poised to retail for $40 and $70, respectively. Saka Pink offers delicate red-fruit aromas like strawberry and raspberry, with elderflower and rose-petal notes. It has good weight, is juicy, and there’s no weedy taste, as you might expect. The sparkling version tastes similar, if not a little drier, and is quite refreshing.
Tracey Mason, House of Saka’s CEO, says that one bottle of Saka Pink contains 20 mg of THC and 5 mg of CBD, which equates to roughly 5 mg total in each glass—the equivalent serving size of most small cannabis edibles, particularly chocolates. Mason says the company’s cannabis-infused beverage gives a “body high and head high and is highly bioavailable,” and will retain its full potency for one year in the bottle but should be consumed within two or three days after opening, as is the case with wines because of oxidation.
Another producer, Rebel Coast, made its first commercial batch of a cannabis-infused nonalcoholic Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley in early 2018, selling it for around $65 retail in California. Josh Lizotte, the company’s CEO, says Rebel’s patented water-soluble technology, created by cannabis research firm Ebbu in Evergreen, Colorado, is different from any others available. “Unlike most edible cannabis that gets processed through the liver,” he says, “when you ingest our cannabis wine, it gets absorbed through the mucous membranes in the mouth, and then through the stomach lining. That means the onset time is about 15 minutes, which is three times as fast as every other traditional edible in the market.”
Rebel Coast employs Napa Valley winemaker Muiris Griffin to produce its wines. Griffin, who has worked stints at Pape Clément, Opus One, Ridge, and Round Pound, currently produces Sauvage, a nonalcoholic cannabis-infused Sauvignon Blanc ($45) from Carneros AVA grapes—it contains 40 mg of THC per 750-milliliter bottle. In production as well is Pink Passion, a Sonoma County rosé ($45) that will also contain 40 mg of THC per 750-milliliter bottle. Rebel also plans to release a cannabis-infused sparkling white and rosé at 20 mg of THC per bottle, along with 375-milliliter options.
Saka and Rebel are focused on nanoemulsions because the potency of emulsified cannabinoids isn’t changed, but the small droplet size allows the body to absorb the compounds much more efficiently. “You feel the effects faster, and a greater percentage of the cannabinoids reach [neural] receptors,” says Nanogen’s Larson. “You get more bang for your buck when it comes to a nanoemulsion compared with oil or other colloidal systems.”