Wine vs. weed in Napa Valley

Source: Politico | February 18, 2020 | Alexander Nieves and Debra Kahn

Grape growers worry that pot won’t pair well with the terroir they have spent a century and a half cultivating.

SACRAMENTO — Napa Valley is famous for its cabernet sauvignon. But with the cannabis industry moving in fast, some of the region’s storied vintners are sounding the alarm that California’s newest legal crop could damage the flavor — and brand — of their prized wines.

Those grape growers worry that pot won’t pair well with the terroir they have spent a century and a half cultivating.

“You have to protect the Napa name,” said Ryan Klobas, CEO of the Napa County Farm Bureau, which has taken a strong position against cannabis cultivation. “Napa is an internationally recognized brand, and you don’t want anything to disrupt the brand.”

Napa County has explicitly banned commercial cannabis growing in its unincorporated rural areas, where most vineyards lie. Local farmers and winemakers are keen on protecting Napa, but they have philosophically opposing views on how weed could affect the region’s reputation — which could be tested this year if residents get a chance to vote on allowing cannabis cultivation.

Some winemakers see marijuana as a threat to their image and, potentially, the quality of their grapes. But others see cannabis as the only real way to diversify the county’s grape-dominant agricultural economy as millennials shy away from wine drinking.

Because the price of agricultural land in Napa is so high, growers say that cannabis is the only crop that makes economic sense to plant. Commodity crops like strawberries or lettuce simply wouldn’t offer the necessary return on the investment.

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