By Janet Perry
Erin Gore has the unique perspective of being a very successful businesswoman in two key North Coast industries. She helps run the Gore Family Vineyards in Healdsburg and has a very successful cannabis business, Garden Society. Ned Fussell of Cannacraft said that Gore is a “pillar in the wine industry breaking down barriers and displaying true leadership.” Gore and Karli Warner, head of Marketing and Communications for Garden Society, spoke with Wine Industry Advisor about the common threads between the two industries.
Gore had just returned from speaking at CannabisFest in Montreal. The festival was on the state of cannabis in Canada and what they can learn from California, like how to reach consumers and how to market to women. Gore is successful in both and is making history as she breaks down barriers to women with her business.
Gore founded Garden Society as a wellness brand to help the modern consumer with the rigors of life. She says they really want to target women, because women are underserved in products available to them in cannabis, in understanding, and finding access.
Warner noted that they’re able to reach customers who are professional women in the 40 to 60 demographic. “They’ve held a career, and have discovered an interest in cannabis because a lot of them are on either a medication for chronic pain, or having sleep or anxiety issues,” explained Warner.
Gore has been busy at the helm of Garden Society since all the packaging changes went into effect on July 1st, as well as the new testing and compliance requirements from the state. “We’ve been going through a lot of changes in the last few weeks, to say the least,” said Gore. “It’s been good for our business. We were as prepared as we could have been.”
Although the debate around cannabis and the new regulations have been heated, Gore seems to feel comfortable with where her business stands within them. “I think there are opportunities and challenges that come with regulation,” said Gore. “The thing about the cannabis industry in California specifically is that it has been legal under the compassionate use act since 1996. So it’s really a twenty-year industry that they’re now trying to regulate, versus a brand new industry that’s created with the regulation.”
When looking at land regulations Gore thinks there’s relevance to the wine industry. She noted that the wine industry is already familiar with battles over land use. “As it relates to the wine industry, there are a lot of conversations around land use, water use, and tourism,” said Gore. “So if they look to the cannabis industry and learn anything about the challenge local control can create for them or the opportunity that it can create for them, it can have a big impact on the wine industry in the future.”
“California Prop 64 was written to give local control, so that every jurisdiction has to write its own cannabis ordinance, and then the state will allow you to operate there,” explained Gore. “There are so many cities and counties across the state of California, and each has a different ordinance. Trying to comply both with local control and local regulations as well as state regulations is extremely challenging.”
Gore added an interesting side note to the wine industry. “I think the wine industry should understand what’s happening in the cannabis industry because of the rapid rate of innovation and change,” said Gore. “It’s really exciting, and it’s a really romantic time for professionals to get into cannabis because they can create this new industry and take everything they’ve learned from the wine industry and transfer it over. Karli and I were both in wine before we were in cannabis. We have a lot of friends who’ve come from the wine industry.”
Garden Society will be at the Wine Industry Network’s North Coast Wine and Weed Symposium on August 2nd. “We’ll have a booth as an exhibitor, Erin is speaking on a panel, I’m moderating a panel, and we’re also heading up a cannabis sensory experience,” said Warner.
Warner explained, “We’ve been at three of these Wine Industry Network Wine and Weed events now, and at every event we have someone from the wine industry come up to us and say, ’Now I see what you’re doing, and that’s good for cannabis, but you just can’t experience cannabis in the same way you can wine; wine is a full, well-rounded sensory experience.’ But that’s not accurate,” said Warner.
“We’re building a ’Cannabis Sensory Experience‘ that brings you along a journey to smell, touch, look at, and taste. You won’t actually be able to ‘taste’ because that’s consumption, but you’ll taste terpenes and really experience it in the way you would wine. We’ll have white table cloths, we’ll have magnifying glasses, and we’ll have tasting notes. Every step along the way, we’ll have something that you could essentially plug wine into, but it’s going to all be for cannabis.”
Gore noted that like in other demographics, women in the wine industry, or who like wine, resonate with Garden Society’s products. The two industries attract similar demographics.
“We resonate with people who enjoy wine, that same type of consumer enjoys our product,” said Gore. “Whether that’s in San Francisco or in San Diego, we really connect with that type of a consumer.”