Denver winery owner Ben Parsons, shown here at Infinite Monkey Theorem in 2013, is actively exploring wine-and-weed pairings. “It probably feels like a stunt because marijuana connoisseurs are starting to go more public with this kind of concept since prohibition ended,” he says. “But the reality is, there’s a true tasting experience to be had." (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post file)

Wine & Weed: A guide to flavor, pot pairings, wine profiles

Wine, cheese and weed? Enjoying all three at once is nothing new, but the movement that officially recognizes the similarities between these tasting parallels is only just starting to gain momentum.

The days of illegal marijuana were a far simpler time, without the complexities of flavors among so many different varieties of indica, sativa and hybrid strains. Today, there are 1,356 strain results on weed site Leafly — and while not all of those are legitimately unique, this new-found variety is opening an entirely new subculture of cannabis connoisseurs and an industry that could one day resemble the long-accepted world of wine.

As a sommelier representing Mulderbosch Vineyards, Paul Yanon’s hope is for the conversation and connection between wine and cannabis to go mainstream.

“We’re in a really interesting place in the perception and evolution of marijuana. Something that has been enjoyed in the privacy of people’s homes is slowly making it into the mainstream, and it doesn’t have to be a secret anymore,” says Yanon.

Pot critic Jake Browne, a colleague of ours at The Cannabist, explained to The New York Times, “You wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and say, ‘I’ll have the wine.’ So why would you assume people would do that for cannabis? In the same way that pinot grigio and pinot noir may sound similar but are completely different, names like Lemon OG and Lemon Skunk are very different strains with very different flavor components and completely different highs.”

To date, The Cannabist’s team of pot critics have reviewed more than 50 different strains of marijuana. Mixing alcohol and marijuana doesn’t work for everyone, so for those trying it for the first time or revisiting it after a bad experience, Yanon recommends starting slow as you start to explore the synergy of the two with your tastebuds.

“There’s a lot of pairings that just don’t work, so it’s really about trial and error,” says Yanon. “We (sommeliers) are good at our jobs because of how many different wines we try and are always looking to complement the flavors we find in different varietals with food. With so many new strains, it’s really the next logical step to start incorporating into the culinary culture.”

For Ben Parsons, owner of the Denver-based Infinite Monkey Theorem, the weed-and-wine pairings are not just another trend that has emerged with legalization.

“It probably feels like a stunt because marijuana connoisseurs are starting to go more public with this kind of concept since prohibition ended,” says Parsons. “But the reality is, there’s a true tasting experience to be had. People who have an interest and understanding in the depth and range of wine tasting are now starting to look at how to appreciate and experience marijuana in the same way.”

The urban winery, whose wines were exclusively served at a cannabis pairing dinner event at the Winter X Games in Aspen in January 2015, is currently in talks with key players in the industry about additional opportunities. 

“We are looking at partnering on a series of cannabis and wine pairing dinners. And the potential for developing THC-infused wines and a whole other recreational experience is certainly of interest to me as a winemaker,” says Parsons. “It’s inevitable that certain strains, growers and cannabis brands will gain notoriety in the same way that varietals and winemakers have done over the years.”

It’s an exciting future, and The Cannabist will of course continue to cover this new world as it develops (email me here with any wine-and-weed news, story ideas and events). To get you started as your own personal strain sommelier, here are five spring pairings Yanon has curated for his own Mulderbosch labels, though they should work well with similar varietals made by other vineyards:

Tahoe OG marijuana review, Strain Theory
An example of Tahoe OG from a Colorado dispensary (Ry Prichard, The Cannabist)
Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc (Provided by Mulderbosch)
Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc (Provided by Mulderbosch)

Wine: Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc ($13.99) 
Weed: LA Confidential or Tahoe OG
How would you pair this hugely popular strain? To fit its smooth and piney taste, we chose Mulderbosch chenin blanc. The zippy acidity and roundness of this chenin blanc will complement the herbal flavors of that classic skunky pot.

Wine: Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($17.99) 
Weed: Amnesia Haze or Northern Lights
This South African sauvignon blanc finds the best balance between the powerful herbaceous notes of New Zealand and the tropical, fruit-forward flavors of California. Hybrid Amnesia Haze is the perfect fit for it. This best-selling weed is citrusy and earthy but not too overwhelming. It will help highlight the wine’s richness and acidity.

Wine: Mulderbosch Faithful Hound Red Blend 2012 ($25)
Weed: Purple or Blackberry Kush
This Bordeaux-styled red blend overflows with classic claret aromas of ripe cassis, fragrant purple plums and spicy notes of sandalwood, star anise and white pepper. Because cabernet blends are full-bodied, you can throw a heady, full-bodied strain at it. This is the job for a Kush. This nice Indica matches perfectly with the intense weight and flavor of this delicious red wine.

Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2013 (provided by Mulderbosch)
Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2013 (provided by Mulderbosch)

Wine: Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2013 ($13.99) 
Weed: Jack Herer or Bubba Kush
Whoever says that real men don’t drink pink while smoking doesn’t know what they are talking about. Mulderbosch cabernet sauvignon rosé and Jack Herer both combine fruity and earthy aftertastes, which make them very attractive pairings. The wine has aromas of ripe blood-orange, cherry-drops, black currant cordial and finishes with a slight rich, yet refreshing finish. A crisp cold option for that lazy outdoor picnic smoke.

Wine: Mulderbosch Noble Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc ($29.99/500ml size) 
Weed: Purple Haze or Cheese Visually appealing, alive with hues of shimmering burnished copper. Powerfully aromatic, displaying cinnamon, stewed apples and wafts of pie crust in the oven. The palate is wonderfully intense with toffee apple flavors, quince paste and botrytis spice all accentuated by a lifted, pithy citrus aromatic which leads onto the bright and persistent finish. Purple Haze will evoke a sweeter and more delicate taste while Cheese gives a richer and more flavorful effect.

Pro tip: For optimum tasting — and as always with drinking and smoking — enjoy your wine and weed without overdoing either of the two. For restaurant, bar and retail locations visit Mulderbosch online.