California’s Wine Industry Can’t Hold a Candle to Cannabis

California wine has served as a vinicultural golden standard since the earth-shattering upset of the 1976 "Judgement of Paris" shattered the myth of French wine supremacy and turned Napa and Sonoma into household names. But as cannabis — the Bear Flag Republic's legendary cash crop — gains market legitimacy, wine country is starting to go green.

California wine has served as a vinicultural golden standard since the world-changing upset of the 1976 “Judgement of Paris” shattered the myth of French wine supremacy and turned Napa and Sonoma into household names. But as cannabis — the Bear Flag Republic’s legendary cash crop  — gains market legitimacy, wine country is starting to go green.


At $14 billion, the value of the state’s marijuana harvest was pegged as seven times more valuable than all of the wine grapes at all of California’s storied vineyards — and that was in 2010, before the industry drew international investors, before the state paved the way for big business with workable state regulations, and before voters OK’d a legitimate commercial marijuana industry by legalizing the plant for adults 21 and over.

That $14 billion figure includes the illicit market. The country’s legal, over-the-counter marijuana market is worth $7 billion, analysts say — and by going legal, California may triple that figure by itself.

So, do you want to grow Chardonnay, or do you want to grow cannabis? The answer is obvious, and can be seen today in wine country, where rows of vineyards are giving way to greenhouses and plots of marijuana.

Value-conscious wine brand Fetzer got its start on 80 acres in Redwood Valley in Mendocino County, where the company grew wine grapes for 31 years. That property could now do the same for Bay Area upscale marijuana distributor Flow Kana, which purchased the property for $3.5 million, according to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

We’ve covered Flow Kana and its sustainable ethos in these pages before. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, but has positioned itself as a direct link between small boutique cannabis farmers in the Emerald Triangle, and the kind of conscious urban marijuana consumer who cares about sourcing.

That makes the company different in mission from some of the other firms fueling a real-estate boom in cannabis-producing regions. “They’re coming from everywhere,” said Tim Blake, a longtime local cannabis grower and founder of the Emerald Cup, a prestigious cannabis competition focused on outdoor cultivation.

The Fetzer property, which includes four homes, a winery, and some outbuildings, was listed at an asking price of $3.5 million. Flow Kana purchased the property for “more than close to the purchase price,” real-estate broker Clint Wilson told the Press-Democrat.

There are a few neighbors of the rural property who have voiced concerns over traffic, noise, crime and the smell of fresh weed growing — as is typical for any marijuana business endeavor. But they may be lucky to land Flow Kana as a neighbor, rather than another operation with a different philosophy. As Wilson told the paper, it was “inevitable the property could end up with someone in that industry.” And it won’t be the last time grapes give way.

TELL US, do you associate California with quality cannabis?

Chris Roberts has written about medical cannabis, drug policy, and legalization ever since spending a few months in Humboldt County in 2009, with bylines for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and SF Weekly. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cbloggy.

2 Comments

  1. Dum Dum

    February 21, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    This article seems to be based completely on fantasy. Where are these vineyards you speak of? The PRMD has to approve any ripping out of vines to make way for grass, and they’re not all to enthusiastic when you approach them with such a proposition. – DUM DUM

  2. Lisa M Mattson

    February 16, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Can you provide facts supporting this statement? “So, do you want to grow Chardonnay, or do you want to grow cannabis? The answer is obvious, and can be seen today in wine country, where rows of vineyards are giving way to greenhouses and plots of marijuana.”
    I’ve lived in Sonoma wine country since 2003, and I haven’t seen or heard of it.

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