Sommelier Paul Yanon gives cannabis users a primer on weed and wine pairings
April 17, 2015
Crepe and cannabis pairing in Denver
Cultivating Spirits, a Silverthorne tour outfit for foodies with cannabis lovers, is hosting a meet and greet brunch with the Denver-based electronic group Collie Buddz on the morning of April 20.
Held at the cannabis-friendly coworking space Green Labs in Denver, the event features a three-course meal that pairs crepes with — what else? — cannabis. Cultivating Spirits owner Philip Wolf crafted the menu from scratch to highlight the finer side of cannabis.
“Cannabis is on par with food,” Wolf says. “If food isn’t consumed properly, it can have negative effects on you, like you see with additives. But if you eat something healthy, you will feel those effects. They’re obviously not the exact same, but they’re similar because cannabis can have multiple benefits if consumed properly and consciously.”
The event begins with a Yuzu lychee crepe paired with Jack Flash, a citrusy sativa. The next course, a blueberry cinnamon crepe with the Blueberry Diesel hybrid, is another bright, fruity pairing on the first bite, then gives way to the earthy undertones of cinnamon and indica.
The brunch runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and costs $100 per person. All cannabis will be smoked, not eaten, Wolf says, and the meal will begin with a primer on how best to smoke during a pairing. The brunch also includes a short set by Collie Buddz and giveaways. To register, contact email@example.com.
It was only a matter of time before weed got the high-class treatment.
For wine lovers, food naturally complements the complexities of their favorite libations. One can often unveil otherwise hidden tastes in the other, leading to nearly endless combinations and hours upon hours of sipping and savoring.
Enter Paul Yanon, a New York City sommelier who's turned his passion for vino on a new, relatively uncharted substance: marijuana. While possession is still illegal in NYC, Yanon says chefs and fellow sommeliers are patiently waiting for marijuana to catch hold along the East Coast. They believe the cannabis flower can be just as intriguing — and just as versatile — as grapes culled from famous winemaking regions across the globe.
With April 20 around the corner, the Summit Daily News spoke with Yanon for a crash course on the best wines and strains for burgeoning cannabis connoisseurs.
Summit Daily News: Let's start at the top: Why do weed and wine make good bedfellows?
Paul Yanon: When you're talking from a sommelier perspective — and I've been one in a previous life — complementary flavors can actually enhance each other to the point that you discover flavors you wouldn't otherwise find. Look at the other pairings in the world: cigars, chocolate, even vaping, which is a thing right now. All of these substances give you the ability to pair richness with sweetness with acidity, and those can lift the flavor sensation on the palate. The taste of each one heightens the flavor of everything else in the pairing.
We don't tell people to overindulge in wine and marijuana at the same time, so when taken in a serious context, like wine and cheese pairings, you're just enjoying it to see what unfolds. The wine in your glass unfolds, the cheese in your mouth unfolds, and the same happens when you smoke. You're really just waiting for the flavors to play off each other, not get drunk or stoned. A good way to do that is to stay away from the high-alcohol wines and instead go with a lighter wine, like a rosé, or a drier white, like a Riesling or sauvignon blanc. All are good ways to keep you feeling fresh while you're smoking.
SDN: Do you consider marijuana pairing a high-end experience, like pairing wine and cheese, or even scotch and cigars?
PY: I think it can run the whole gamut, and that's the great thing about marijuana — anything, really. At the end of the day, if you're just at home with an IPA you can do the same thing. It's about finding what pairings can do, and when you have an idea of what works, you can elevate it even more, turn it into more of a conceptual thing where you plan out the pairing.
SDN: I'm a novice when it comes to wine pairing of any sort, so let's start at the very beginning. What are a good wine and a good strain to begin with, and what should I be looking for?
PY: When they're looking for a wine, you want something that has a nice primary fruit. For instance, if you have a cabernet sauvignon, you know you'll get black currant and plum and blueberry. What you need to do is look at a strain that complements those characteristics — maybe start with an indica like kush, something that has that richer, more intense earthiness. If you're looking for a good starter, something that anyone can enjoy, begin with a light pinot noir with cherry and strawberry. That's good for a sativa strain, something that's lighter and citrusy, just a bit dry on the palate.
SDN: Have you come across a pairing that just doesn't work, no matter how hard you wanted it to?
PY: There's a particular sauvignon blanc, a South African one called Mulderbosch, I was playing with strains that fought really hard against the wine. It was still a pleasurable experience, but there was that clash there, something that just didn't go well with this wine I enjoyed alone.
That wine is halfway between a Napa sauvignon blanc and a New Zealand-style wine, with lots of heft. Finally, I can't remember what it was, but I found a strain that paired perfectly with those flavors. It was that goldilocks moment, when it was the right kind of wine with the right kind of strain.
SDN: In your experience, what's the best way to consume cannabis during a pairing? Smoking? Edibles?
PY: The possibilities are endless, really. Personally, when I have edibles I like to stay on the sweeter end — you have a bit more flavor to work with. For instance, making brownies or a bundt cake, I'd lean to a slightly sweeter dessert wine, like a port. But you can also just begin with a little one-hitter, something to enjoy throughout the evening. That's the sort of thing you can easily pass around a table, making it a sharing experience.
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