Wine Country Canni-bus
Homegrown Weed & Wine Tours rolls out new kind of tourism
In his garage office, Marcus Horne and a roommate were enjoying some marijuana while brainstorming ideas for a new business. As it turned out, one was right under their noses. Why not organize wine and weed tours? Only four states, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and Washington, have legalized cannabis for purely recreational purposes; the latter two, which passed the measures before Oregon, have already combined weed and wine for tourists’ sake.
But Horne’s Homegrown Weed & Wine Tours has him swimming in a blue ocean with nary a competitor in Oregon in sight at the moment. Although, I did learn that some wine tour operators will make unscheduled stops to purchase marijuana but none advertise the fact nor allow smoking in the vehicle.
On June 11, I met with six tourists and three staffers at the Western Oregon Dispensary (WOD) in Newberg, the first stop of Homegrown’s prelaunch tour. While I was waiting for them to arrive, proprietress Sheri Ralston checked me in and gave me a swag bag. Horne recalled when he first approached Ralston with the idea, she immediately wanted to be part of it. Thus heartened, he decided to give it a go.
Comfortably seated in the reception area outside the showroom and sales area, I chatted with the tour’s guest grower, Juan Lopez of Infinity Farms. His Gorilla Glue No. 4, one of the products at WOD, is grown hydroponically. Cuban-born, Lopez moved to the U.S. in 1980 with his parents, settling in Louisiana. He relocated to Oregon almost two years ago to indulge his passion for gardening. While Lopez does not smoke himself, he enjoys the challenge of growing his product and using his experience to do his own maintenance.
After the others arrived and checked in, we were admitted through the locked doors to the sales area. Brightly lit cases contained laced edibles and a variety of paraphernalia, which the well-scrubbed sales staff cheerfully described. For each of the over two dozen cannabis types and on every product that contained marijuana, percentages of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) were shown on small cards. The young man behind the counter explained that THC was the psychoactive ingredient, more important to potheads, while CBD, which interacts with THC, is of interest to those using marijuana medically.
At this point, it is important to state that I do not smoke or consume marijuana in any form; no buds were burned by me either during the research for or preparation of this article. Nevertheless, I was curious to see and sniff examples of what was available.
The attractive glass canisters contained nothing like I remember in the last century. Quantum Kush, Jazz and Optimus Prime looked and smelled quite lovely. The first was pretty, with small crystals and a complex, pleasant aroma. Jazz smelled grassier and Optimus Prime was even stronger.
Because of the nature of the product, it’s impossible to do weed tastings as one might do a comparative wine tasting. So I was amused to find a Marijuana Tasting Journal for sale. For each strain, you enter the price, THC, CBD, method, flavors, effects and notes, and colors in one to five leaves to indicate a rating.
At the “joint bar,” customers can select 1.3-gram pre-rolls of imaginatively named options, including Lemon Alien Dawg, Mr. Rodgers, Platinum Girl Scout Cookies, White Widow, Big Wreck and Obama Kush. Edibles included curious names as well, such as Jolly Greens, F&D Hot Cocoa, and Delta 9 Caramel Corn.
Next, we boarded a small bus in which the driver, Horne, is required to be walled off from the back to prevent second-hand smoke from reaching him. On the short drive to our next stop, Duck Pond Cellars in Dundee, a small pipe containing one of the purchases was lit and passed around. When I expressed concern that smoking and getting high might interfere with wine tasting, several attested to the opposite, saying that flavors are enhanced especially after consuming weed in food. Yet, to avoid ill-effects, the consensus seemed to be not to partake of cannabis after wine tasting, especially if one has over-moistened. One should remain stone cold sober if planning to get stoned.
When we arrived at the winery, Duck Pond’s Paul Johnson hosted a small-lot tasting flight featuring a 2015 Pinot Noir Blanc, a regular and a rosé Pinot Gris — both from 2015 — a 2014 Gamay Noir, a 2014 Pinot Noir, a barrel sample of Pinot Noir from 2015, a 2012 Syrah and a 2006 Semillon dessert wine. Interleafing the pours, he took us on an extensive and leisurely tour of the winery. Time flew by so quickly that Duck Pond became our final stop.
In order for Horne to operate a thriving business, the two main ingredients, weed and wine, should be compatible at some level. Both do contain terpenes, which give each floral notes and other pleasing aromas. Whereas the sole purpose of enjoying cannabis is intoxication, the same is generally regarded as an undesirable side effect of wine tasting. Furthermore, smoking and sipping generally go together.
Vaporizing (or vaping) the buds can possibly work to avoid conflict. I suppose it’s impossible to develop vinous pairings of snacks to satisfy the munchies. Looking in another direction, for those in need of a string of wine descriptors and tired of all the flora and fauna foisted on us by the professional “vintelligensia,” cannabis in its endless varieties might be the perfect place to look.
With Homegrown Tours, Horne has expanded the meaning of “roach coach.” If you are wondering “Can a bus transport me to even greater heights?” I refer you to www.homegrownwwtours.com. Horne and his crew are most congenial hosts. You will certainly get “bhang” for your buck and the experience could suit you to a tea.
Neal Hulkower is a mathematician and an oenophile living in McMinnville. His wine writing has appeared in a wide range of academic and popular publications, and he can occasionally be found pouring quintessential Pinot Noir at the top of the Dundee Hills.