I am a fanatic for a little thing named terroir, no not terror, but terroir. In the study of wine, it’s a French word that means quite simply, the taste of the place. The characteristics of the soil, the rock and the drainage. The way of the earth. In ultra-high end cannabis it’s also the taste of the place. Hey, wait a minute, didn’t I just say that in wine that terroir is the French word that describes the taste of the place, yet in cannabis it’s the same thing? Well my friends may I suggest drinking wines from the same regions that cannabis is grown. You’ll be astounded, just like I was when we started discussing appellations and the deeply sensual characteristics of the soil. Who knew that rocks would be sexy? (They are, especially with grape vines struggling out of the crushed stones and crystals. The taste of the place in wine is essential. Just like the difference between pretty label wines and true garragist wines. Then, organically our the conversation leaks into Biodynamics. Did you know that Rudolph Steiner developed the theories of Biodynamics in the late 1800’s? Steiner saw himself as a clairvoyant of the earth. That the soil is a living thing and it requires self-regulating utilizing techniques of a purely organic manner? That different types of organic applications give the soil acidity but others make the soil sing its own song of renewal. That Biodynamics teach me everything that I need to know about growing vegetables and cannabis. Preferably together, along with wild herbs. The taste of the place, the taste of the soil, the way things are grown. No chemical manipulations or augmentations are allowed, ever. We need to have this conversation about replenishing the soil with nutrients that add balance and structure to the growing process. That outdoor grown cannabis naturally tastes better. Less corporate. More passion. You may disagree with me. That’s fine, the massive cannabis conglomerates are not worried about craft cannabis, just like the massive liquor manufacturers are not worried about craft spirits. They aren’t even on the radar. Sure everyone wants to make money in cannabis. But corporate weed has no place at the craft table, just like speed rack quality whiskey can never be called Straight Bourbon. There is a difference in craft spirits as there is in craft cannabis. I’m absolutely positive that all craft cannabis growers want to earn a good living for their talent. By creating a workable format for an appellation, these mom, and pop cannabis growers will raise their bar. Initially growers may doubt the path of an appellation, but with quality comes success. And organic success doesn’t have to be corporate run to earn a very fine living for themselves. That’s why in France, where appellations have contributed to the quality of life itself. Not a bad way to become known for utter quality over quantity.
Craft cannabis is my topic. I want to share with you real people who make a difference, doing what they love, getting the word out on what it means to grow the very best. People who are passionate about the soil and want you to taste what they’ve nurtured from the earth.
Biodynamically grown is not only the wine world or your vegetable garden. It’s also the cannabis way. A Tao of truly gourmet cannabis, from a specific place, grown in a specific way with Biodynamics as the driving force.
Many thanks to Michael Katz and Justin Calvino for their deeply enriching kindness towards me. I can’t wait to test my wine-centrist theory about your appellations. That is, you can taste the place in every puff!
Justin Calvino and Michael Katz are co-founders of the group known as the Emerald Exchange.
WB= Warren Bobrow: Why cannabis (instead of wine)? What did the cannabis of the 70’s and 80’s taste like in your appellation? How have things changed?
Justin Calvino=JC: The reason why developing an Appellation system for Cannabis is so important, is when big farms enter into the picture, most of the margins are driven down so much in the commodity space that small farms are driven out of business. The system was very effective for the French wine region, in protecting not only the beautiful landscape from being destroyed by mono-cropping, but also in protecting the value of the specific region and the legacy and heritage of those regions. Cannabis has a story, not one that comes from a marketing department in some corporate office, but from the hills and countryside in which legacy, and the heritage of cannabis flower as we know it, has been preserved for decades by true artisans.
MK=Michael Katz: Napa and Sonoma weren’t always famous for wine. The small batch cultivators from the Emerald Triangle (Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity Counties) are known around the world for the quality of their cannabis, and the Appellation system will enable them to codify their unique value proposition in what is still a very nascent market. Now that cannabis has been legalized in California, and with the legalization movement spreading across the country and the world, the time is now to identify the definitions and procedures that will essentially create the foundations for the craft cannabis market. It’s only recently that small batch cannabis cultivators have been empowered to share not only their cannabis, but the practices they employ in the specific regions in which they grow that have a marked impact on the plant itself. While the techniques for breeding and developing genetics have progressed over the years, the unique environment of the Emerald Triangle has remained largely unspoiled. It’s not a coincidence that nature in her purest form generates the most fully expressive plants that have become world-famous for their quality, flavor and effects.
WB: Tell about what you do? How do you assist growers in your region? What about establishing an appellation?
MK: We assist small batch cannabis farmers in the Emerald Triangle by showcasing their products and practices to both the cannabis industry and new and existing cannabis patients and consumers. We do this through dynamic events and our retail experience the Emerald Outpost, which brings together the highest quality products from our community into an in-store kiosk complete with 30-40 hours a week of product education provided by our team of Outpost Ambassadors. We teach consumers the difference between all natural, small batch, sungrown cannabis and the commoditization mega-grows that are popping up all over the state and country. And we’ve found that when people come to understand the choices they have at the dispensary, and learn to ask questions like ‘Where does this cannabis come from?” and “Who benefits when I purchase this cannabis?” they tend to choose products that come from our community rather than the VC backed ‘market-driven brands’ that keep popping up in the industry. We currently have Emerald Outposts at 99 High Tide in Malibu, the Leonard Moore Cooperative in Mendocino, and we have a digital outpost at Herb Delivery in Downtown Los Angeles.
JC: We are currently working with various farmers and organizations to create baseline standards for appellation petitions. The petition process will start in 2021 in which any farming region can then apply or petition the state for recognition of their region as an appellation. An example of baseline standard is, this product was grown in 75% native soil using 25% engineered soil, engineered from the specific terroir of this region. If the standard is met at minimum, the Petitioner can then add additional standards, but they may not go below those stated standards by the CDFA.
WB: What do you think about terroir? How does the concept of terroir affect outdoor grown cannabis?
JC: When lecturing at Berkeley School of law, my class was entitled “Terroir as Love” because I believe each farmer has a unique relationship to their place. This is a lot like human dynamics. There is no way that I could tell you how to love, why you love, or who it is that you love; this is a complex set of circumstances set forth by divine love and understanding in which we feel and have no control over. Sure I could tell you he or she is pretty, or they make me laugh, or they’re very smart and thoughtful. But truly each variable is different, so therefore it’s almost not quantifiable. I feel the same for the farmers’ and cultivars’ relationship to place, soil type, moisture content, altitude, humidity, temperature, and latitude/longitude. All play a huge role in the cellular expression for each plant and each relationship is unique. The cannabis grown in native soil under native stars and moon and sun, feeling all of the environmental impacts the region has the offer, expresses itself in a fully unique way.
MK: Terrior is a combination of all of the natural elements that impact the plant when it is planted in native soil without any environmental manipulation. Cannabis is a bio-accumulator, which means it absorbs everything from its environment. When cannabis is grown outdoors in the sun, in well cared for soil, surrounded by other plants, trees, animals, rain and the positive intentions from the humans tending it, the plant turns all those elements into its unique combination of cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes that in turn create the full spectrum of effects that we experience. And it is because of all of these factors that it is so important to highlight the specific micro-climates and practices that have produced, and will continue to produce, the most celebrated cannabis in the world.
WB: Do you cook? If so, who taught you? What’s your favorite thing to cook? Do you have a favorite restaurant? Where? What kind of food?
JC: Yes, I cook. My mother is a chef she and taught me. I love to cook soup. It’s such a beautiful process and takes a long time for a really good soup, so it really grounds you in the kitchen for the day (my favorite soup is hot and sour). My favorite restaurant is Nobu in Malibu. Everything they do there is so intentional with such fresh ingredients and really next level culinary skills!
MK: I don’t cook much, but I love to eat! I tend to enjoy food, and cannabis, the most when it comes from a person with whom I have a direct relationship. There’s something very special about knowing the people who grow what we consume, an extra component of nourishment that comes with the knowledge that your purchases help to support your local community.
WB: If you could be anywhere in the world, right now- where would that be? Doing what. With whom?
JC: Costa Rica, surfing, with my kids.
MK: Hanging out in the garden in Mendocino with my fiance and our pups, smoking some small-batch sun-grown from the Emerald Triangle.
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