Marijuana Business Magazine August 2019

Marijuana Business Magazine | August 2019 56 WHAT THE WINE INDUSTRY CAN TEACH CRAFT GROWERS ABOUT APPELLATIONS While cannabis growers are still a long way from reaching a consensus on how flower differs by region, they can take cues from another market that has used appellations to its advantage: the wine industry. The U.S. wine industry defines grape-growing regions as American Viticultural Areas, which provide an official definition for consumers to identify the origin of a particular wine. If you ask a wine connoisseur what the difference is between a pinot noir from Oregon and one from the Russian River Valley in California, they likely can tell you. But what about Sour Diesel grown in Colorado versus the same strain grown in Washington state? By defining certain regional characteristics and the effect environment has on plant development, cannabis growers can brand and market their flower as distinctive and use those unique characteristics to command a higher price. The California Department of Food and Agriculture was directed to develop a framework for legal growers to establish appellations, standards, practices and varietals for marijuana grown in the state. In 2018, the CDFA held a series of listening sessions to gather input from growers. Kristin Nevedal, the Garberville, California-based executive director of the International Cannabis Farmers Association and a board member of the California Cannabis Industry Association, said she eventually expects to see craft cannabis intertwined with appellations. “That’s where we’re really going to see craft emerge,” she added. So, what can the cannabis industry learn from the long-established wine market, and how can craft growers use regional marketing to their advantage? Research is one major sticking point. The wine industry has a wealth of information regarding soil types, geology, weather, temperature and water type for a particular region and how that affects grapes, said Shauna Rosenblum, a winemaker for Rock Wall Wine Co. in Alameda, California. “The cannabis industry should be using all of that information and applying it to cannabis cultivation,” she added. A well-thought-out story that a craft cannabis company can impart to consumers also will help convey who you are and where your plants come from, said Alison Crowe, director of winemaking for Plata Wine Partners, a B2B wine supplier based in Napa, California. Crowe emphasized that if you have cornered a niche in the market, make sure the consumer knows that. “Bring your customers into your story. Tell them who you are,” she added. “If you can do that and have a great product, you’re going to win fans.” Rosenblum believes that marijuana customers will look for the same regionally specific traits when they’re shopping for flower. Once cultivators have established flavor and terpene profiles by region, and they consistently reproduce them, then appellations will be a great marketing tool, she added. “Cannabis consumers care about those same specificities in their cannabis, be it fruit or floral characteristics,” Rosenblum said. – Bart Schaneman have very skilled hand-trimmers, they’re at the forefront of your quality control.” By employing people rather than ma- chines to trim flower, growers get another round of eyes on their product. This added step should help catch anything undesirable like mold, mildew or deformities before it goes to retail and, eventually, to consumers. “There could be a day somebody comes up with a machine that gets it right,” Wood said. “But I don’t see taking the people out (of the process). A lot of the stuff that’s been through a machine looks butchered.” THE ART OF THE CURE Once plants are cut down at the right time, how they’re dried and cured is a crucial step to ensure that craft level of quality. Reach uses rigid bins that he can sterilize and clean between harvests. That prevents trichomes from getting broken, buds from getting mashed and overall mishandling. Nevedal advocates for hand-curing and hand-picking. “This is kind of what I think of as craft in other places,” she said. “It’s not the indus- trialized, mechanized process when we’re looking at other products.” She’s also a fan of wood-fired cure, where a wood-burning stove is set up in a shed to dry out and cure the cannabis. “It’s a natural dehumidifier,” Nevedal said. “It dries things out nicely.” Tonsberg hangs his plants upside down in a dark room. To test whether they are ready for packaging, he tries snapping off the fan leaves. When the leaves snap right off, he knows they have reached the proper internal moisture content. “If you don’t try to speed it up and you wait the 10 days, you’re going to have a nicely cured product,” he said. In the end, Tonsberg asked the question that all craft growers looking to scale up should consider. “Can you apply this craft mindset to a larger setting?” he asked. “My answer is yes. I believe so.” Bart Schaneman covers cultivation and extraction for Marijuana Business Magazine. You can reach him at Craft Cannabis | Cultivation