Time to Question the Weed & Wine Collaboration Scenario
Though in its infancy and surely with a long way to go before true legitimacy, the rising Cannabis industry appears to have its eyes set on becoming part of the artisan tourist industry that wineries invented and are far down the road to perfecting. One question that needs answering is this: Does the wine industry need the cannabis industry or does the cannabis industry need the wine industry?
This is just one of the questions that will be explored at the Weed & Wine Symposium planned for August in Sonoma County.
From the sound of those who are promoting the upcoming Weed & Wine Symposium (it sounds fascinating) you get the impression that wine needs weed. According to Tawnie Logan, the Executive Director for Sonoma County Growers Alliance:
“It is imperative that the wine industry understand the nuances and how to collaborate with us. The wine industry has had one hundred years to develop, and now gives back to social and environmental causes. We are at year one. We need the wine industry to help bring us in, and show us what responsible industry practices look like.”
Is it really imperative that the wine industry understand the nuances of how to collaborate with weed? Is it imperative that the wine industry teach its competitor how get the job done? I’m not completely sure it is.
One the topic of the opportunities and threats to the wine industry from cannabis, Logan says:
“There are many opportunities if the wine industry can get ahead of it. They have the opportunity to work with a new tourist attraction to Sonoma County. We have wine, food, ocean, biking, and kayaking. Craft beer tourism is a new menu item for tourists. Not all visitors are wine drinkers. Men are attracted to beer and spirits, and women want wine. But we are seeing a generational shift. We need to figure out how to incentivize a tourist target market. How many items can they pack into a trip? If you are over 40 years old, maybe you are angled toward the wineries, and you want to experience the vineyards. Kids in their 20’s want to hit Russian River Brewery and the dispensaries, so it’s a different kind of crowd. If we market this appropriately and make it collaborative, we can all do well.”
Call me the Devil’s advocate. Call me skeptical. But this sounds an awful lot like the cannabis industry wants to introduce the wine industry to light spending 20-year-olds, while the wine industry introduces big spending 40 and 50-year-olds to the Cannabis industry. Is that a fair trade? I’m just spitballing here, but what Ms. Logan says is correct. There are only so many items a visitor will pick up on a trip. Does the wine industry want to promote the idea that its best customers take home something other than wine?
Rebecca Stamey-White is a partner at Hinman & Carmichael, perhaps the most prestigious law firm in the wine industry.
“I think the risk of competition is being over-blown. It doesn’t have to be an either-or situation.”
It’s not overblown. Anyone who doesn’t believe that the cannabis industry is going to suck sales from the alcohol industry doesn’t understand the nature of the two products. The question is which part of the wine industry will get hit hardest. Surely it will be those in the industry selling relatively lower priced wines to those who covet the fruit of the vine as much for its ability to calm the nerves as its relationship to the terroir and its minerally undertones. But it sounds to me also that those suggesting the wine industry collaborate with the cannabis industry also have their sights set on wines higher end buyers.
Stamey-White goes on to say:
“There is room for collaboration, with consumers enjoying both industries at different points in time. For example, the food element is something the wine industry has done really well. Cannabis goes really well with food, so collaboration on the hospitality around food may be a great chance to work together.”
I attended the interesting Wineries Boot Camp put on by the Luxury Marketing Council yesterday and listen to a panel of pot marketers talk to the wine industry. When asked about the pairing abilities of weed and food, one of the smartest guys I’ve heard discuss pot in a while said, “have you ever noticed what happens to your appetite after you smoke pot?”
That’s not so much a claim that weed and food match well with each other as much as it is a confession that people are willing to ingest a wider variety of foods when they are high. And that’s a great thing if you have the executive chef for Taco Bell headlining your wine and food pairing dinner.
If I was the owner of a wine estate with land and vineyards, I’d certainly want to hear what gets said at the Wine & Weed Symposium. I’d like to know if there is value in putting my brand name on some cannabis products. I’d like to know if there is added revenue to be had by growing weed next to my vines. I’d like to know what added value comes with putting the name of my AVA on a package of weed.
But I wouldn’t necessarily be convinced quite yet that wine and weed are natural industries to collaborate. However, I am convinced that the coming cannabis industry has far more to gain by getting the wine industry to collaborate with them than the wine industry gets from the bargain.