On a warm summer evening at a vineyard in Sonoma, California, a group of well-heeled guests gathered at a local Sonoma vineyard sipping rose, feasting on food… and smoking cannabis.
The event was hosted by marijuana entrepreneurs looking to build bridges with longtime winemakers.
“I think that as we see it become more socially acceptable, you will see more and more people open to giving it a try,” said Sam Edwards, president of the Sonoma Cannabis Company.
Nearby, vintner Dennis De La Montanya is mingling with guests. The sixth-generation winemaker says he doesn’t “indulge” in marijuana, but is curious about the financial opportunities that go along with the crop.
“I think I would be foolish I didn’t look at those opportunities,” he said, noting that “this event looks very similar to one of my tasting events. And I see the same types of people here, same type of vibe.”
As California prepares to hand out licenses to marijuana businesses on Jan. 1, many are eyeing Northern California’s winemaking regions as a pot of gold.
One acre of cannabis grown in Northern California can be worth more than $1 million, but real estate broker John Bergman said an acre of planted wine grapes in Sonoma County is valued no more than $200,000.
The opportunists include Michael Steinmetz, a marijuana entrepreneur who bought an 80-acre property in Mendocino County, California, that once belonged to Fetzer, one of the state’s biggest wine producers.
Steinmetz is the CEO of Flow Kana, which he envisions as a “marijuana destination.” The business will process the marijuana that local farmers grow, helping them scale up. Ultimately, Steinmetz hopes to expand the campus to include research facilities and a wellness retreat.
Steinmetz says the location of the sprawling campus was ideal to take advantage of the wine