Travelers making their way through California's Central Coast may smell a pungent new aroma coming from their wineglasses — thanks to a little marijuana. What began as a novelty in the 1980s is becoming more commonplace as California winemakers look to ferment grapes with the sticky, THC-laden leaves. Here, a brief guide to the munchy-inducing trend:
This practice dates back to the 1980s?
"Drugs have been on the periphery of the California wine scene going back a long time," says Michael Sternberg at The Daily Beast. When the Reagan administration was waging its war on drugs in the '80s, a few would-be sommeliers started to brew marijuana wine because it had "a whiff of danger about it." Back then, bottles sold discreetly for more than $100. Nowadays, the substance is blended with bold reds, such as cabernet sauvignon and syrah, and is available for purchase in small batches.
How is the weed-wine made?
It's not hard, says Sonia Van Gilder Cooke at TIME. The fermentation process converts the grapes' sugar into alcohol, which in turn extracts the THC — the ingredient that induces a high — from the weed. "Add a pound of marijuana to a cask of wine. Ferment for nine months. You're done."
Does the wine get you high?
It produces "an interesting little buzz," Crane Carter, president of the Napa Valley Marijuana Growers, tells The Daily Beast. I took one sip, says Sternberg, "and while it neither got me stoned nor made me want to ditch the glass of 1985 Roumier Bonnes-Mares that I was holding in my other hand, it was certainly a novel experience."
Why make it?
Why shouldn't we combine "two popular buzz-delivery systems in one bottle"? asks Andrew Simmons at LA Weekly. For some California vintners, combining the two dizzying substances is "a mark of distinction." It's "the only truly original style of wine created in the New World," says one winemaker. It's very simple, says Carter: "People love wine, and they love weed."