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Wine Spectator Releases Special Cannabis Issue


June Cover Story Examines the State of Cannabis in California Wine Country

New York, NY (May 26, 2021)—Since the passing of California Proposition 64 in 2016, many farmers are moving to the Golden State’s top winegrowing regions to cultivate the cash-crop. While some winegrowers are unbothered by the rise in cannabis farming, many others are worried that they have to compete with the cannabis industry for water, tourism, harvest labor and market share. In an unprecedented editorial move, the June issue of Wine Spectator focuses on cannabis—exploring the varying sentiments and regulatory approaches across wine country.

California-grown cannabis is expected to boom over the next few years and account for 20% of the nation’s growth by 2025. The state leads the rest of the country with $4.4 billion retail sales in 2020, representing 27% of all legal sales in the United States.

“Cannabis is here, and its expansion into California’s wine country regions could spark the state’s biggest transformation since the emergence of the premium wine industry,” said Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher, Wine Spectator. “While the potential rewards are great, California counties have in fact been left largely on their own to legislate how and to what degree they will embrace cannabis—or resist it. From our Napa office, we investigated this topic in-depth, and what the future holds.”

The cover story profiles:


  • “The New Frontier”
    Cultivation: Allowed; Cultivation Permits: 1,379
  • Manufacturing: Allowed; Retail: Allowed

    Santa Barbara County embraced cannabis, implementing lenient regulations. This has resulted in numerous grows near vineyards and wineries that have led to political conflicts among neighbors. With permits approved in locations adjacent to prestigious winegrowing appellations, vintners worry odor will affect customer’s ability to smell and taste wine when visiting. Other wineries are embracing cannabis, dispelling notions the crops are incompatible and hoping education on the positives of the cannabis industry can eliminate roadblocks and animosity.


  • “Not in My Backyard”
    Cultivation: Banned; Cultivation Permits: Zero
  • Manufacturing: Banned; Retail: Medical Dispensaries Only

    Commercial cultivation of cannabis is currently not allowed in Napa County. While some see cannabis as a great opportunity for additional revenue for land not suitable for grapes, terpene drift from cannabis and pesticide drift from vineyards are among concerns that they are bad agricultural neighbors. Some still believe the industries can complement each other, while others pinpoint the resistance to philosophical and generational ideals. The debate over weed vs. wine continues and whether the cannabis addition will be harmful to the Napa name or help.



  • “Recipes for Success”
    Cultivation: Allowed;
  • Cultivation Permits: 126 (Sonoma); 477 (Monterey)
  • Manufacturing: Allowed; Retail: Allowed

    More than twice the size of Napa, Sonoma has much more room for responsible cannabis farming. This has created a harmonious relationship with little friction. Locations like Sonoma Hills Farm, whose owner comes from The French Laundry, has created a model for responsible and sustainable cannabis farming in wine country. The farm seeks to educate consumers, normalize cannabis and eliminate stigmas. Outdoor pilot projects in Monterey are collecting data to show the two crops can coexist peacefully.


  • “Deep Roots, New Look”
  • Cultivation: Allowed; Cultivation Permits: 819
  • Manufacturing: Allowed; Retail: Allowed

Mendocino was one of the state’s premier cannabis territories even before legalization. The county is home to one-third of the renowned Emerald Triangle. As part of the 1960s counterculture, young people from the Bay Area flocked here for pastoral life and today the region produces more cannabis than any other place in the U.S. Cannabis and grape farmers are in close proximity but have seemingly little animosity. Despite an illegal market, which many hope federal legalization will help tackle, there is hope for complementary wine and cannabis tourism.


The full cover story can be read in Wine Spectator’s June issue.

About Wine Spectator

Wine Spectator is the world’s leading authority on wine. Anchored by Wine Spectator magazine, a print publication that reaches around 3 million readers worldwide, the brand also encompasses the Web’s most comprehensive wine site (WineSpectator.com), mobile platforms and a series of signature events. Wine Spectator examines the world of wine from the vineyard to the table, exploring wine’s role in contemporary culture and delivering expert reviews of more than 15,000 wines each year. Parent company M. Shanken Communications, Inc., also publishes Cigar Aficionado, Whisky Advocate, Market Watch, Shanken News Daily and Shanken’s Impact Newsletter.



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