The “wine vs. weed” debate has been aflame since state cannabis legalization. But Jamie Evans, also known as The Herb Somm, celebrates both wine and cannabis in her work as a San Francisco Bay Area event producer and wine/cannabis sommelier.
“You don’t need to choose. There is room for both at the table,” she says. In her work, Evans encourages a celebration of all things that bloom: wine grapes, cannabis flower, and seasonally fresh food. As a wine industry veteran and a certified specialist of wine, Evans evokes the rich tradition of California viticulture in her exploration of cannabis in her tasting flights and dinners. She applies sensory-based principals of wine tasting to her evaluation and presentation of varietal cannabis, exploring the aroma of each flower’s terpenes, the aromatic and flavorful component of a plant’s essential oils. Evans considers strain, aroma, terpene benefits and effects and pairs them with food and wine.
For example, the aroma found in a flower containing the alpha-pinene terpene (pine needles, wet wood, rosemary, dill) pairs well with a Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. Evans recommends using a flower vaporizer when pairing cannabis with wine in order to better taste and smell the terpenes unique to the strain. For private dinner events, she sets a classically elegant dinner table and serves each course with a flower pairing and alternates wine, food, flower and vape offerings. “This is what the future might look like. It’s an exciting time for the canna-culinary world.”
Evans acknowledges that while wine has been shown to provide some health benefits, cannabis research continues to be promising as studies show increasingly more medicinal potential on a much broader scale. She also notes that wine and cannabis are both gourmet products, but that there is more application to cannabis than wine including lotions, bath bombs, smoking flower, vaping oil, culinary cannabis applications and more
Like wine country vineyard tourism, cannabis tourism is also beginning its boom, with tourists coming out to California’s cannabis country for farm tours. While most farms are not open to the public due to licensing restrictions, Sonoma County has been most progressive in the development of this new branch of cannabis tourism. “What makes wineries so enchanting is seeing the winemaking process from grape to glass,” says Evans. “With cannabis, it’s from seed to flower consumed. People like to come see the farm and learn about growing practices, building a connection between the farm and the consumer.” Evans says that cannabis farm tours “pull back the curtain to show that it is a plant, a crop, and a natural medicine that has many healing benefits.”