Landsterdam in Review: The Wine Issue

Chardonnay and OG Kush or Northern Lights and cabernet?

California sommelier offers expert advice on dank wine pairings 

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About two years ago, the first “Lansterdam in Review” column appeared in our Summer Issue as a stoner twist on a summer cocktail guide that we affectionately labeled our “Summer Strain Guide.” And as we crafted this week’s Wine Issue, I just knew I had to bring weed into the fold.  

Since I love good wine nearly as much as I love good marijuana, I also thought it’d be simple to write a pairing guide — particularly after a full summer spent working (and drinking) at a tasting room at Bel Lago, an award-winning winery on the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City. 

But as it turns out, I’m certainly not the first person to come up with the concept of pairing certain strains with certain wines. There’s a wide array of resources out there on how certain citrusy strains like Tangie and Lemon Haze create a perfect balance when enjoyed with white wines like a buttery chardonnay or a crisp sauvignon blanc. Spicier strains like Skywalker OG reportedly fare better with richer red wine varieties like zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon. 

Apparently, it’s a fine science. And for science, I like to bring in the experts. 

Jamie Evans — aka The Herb Somm — is a California-based entrepreneur, author and certified sommelier who specializes in cannabis, wine and everything in between across the canna-culinary world. I stumbled upon her blog and pairing guides during my research and reached out for some advice. And like the rest of the cannabis world, it’s all about the terpenes. 

For the uninitiated, terpenes are the crucial compounds that differentiate different plants, herbs, flowers and spices. They’re also the organic compounds that give cannabis all the wonderful aromas and flavors you perceive when you’re smelling your favorite strains, Evans explained. 

The most common terps are myrcene, caryophyllene, limonene, pinene, linalool, terpinolene, humulene and ocimene — which, when combined with THC, create a symphony of different physical and psychoactive effects that dictate how you feel after you smoke any given strain. 

If you tap into your senses, you can learn to recognize the differences between each terpene and apply this knowledge to craft cannabis and wine pairings, The Herb Somm explained. 

“The goal when creating a pairing is for all of the components to enhance each other. You might even be surprised if the combination creates an entirely new flavor not yet experienced in the food, wine, or cannabis alone,” she said. “This is what I call ‘discovering your herbal palate.’” 

Evans suggests popping some bud into a wine glass and twirling it around all fancy (much like you would wine) to smell the different aroma layers that jump out of the glass. Inhale several times briefly, making a mental imprint to compare and contrast with other strains. As it turns out, wine has plenty of terpenes that define the experience too, and the combinations are endless. 

Love earthy red wines such as Pinot Noir? Evans recommends pairing them with strains that have an expressive myrcene profile, exhibiting notes of mushroom, mixed herbs and forest floor. For the white wine lovers who love citrus flavors such as Sauvignon Blanc, Evans recommends looking for strains that have more expressive limonene profiles, boasting aromas and flavors of lemon, lime, grapefruit and tangerine. If all else fails, just pick up a bottle of rosé. 

“Because rosé wines typically have higher acidity and more neutral flavors, they pair exceptionally well with a wide selection of cannabis strains, particularly those that have pronounced limonene (citrus) or linalool (floral) terpene profiles,” Evans explained. 

For additional resources on wine, food and cannabis pairings, visit theherbsomm.com. More about Evans’ sensory evaluation techniques can also be found in her latest book, “Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home.” And as always, please tread lightly: Smoking too much pot after drinking can compound some pretty undesirable effects. 

Kyle Kaminski is City Pulse’s managing editor and a cannabis enthusiast who has been smoking marijuana just about every day for the last decade. Editor & Publisher Magazine has also labeled him as “arguably, the state’s authority on everything you need to know about cannabis.” Have a suggestion for a cannabis product? Email  kyle@lansingcitypulse.com. 

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