Sonoma County definitely has a knack for cultivating, brewing, producing, and making three agricultural products extremely well that also happen to pack their own special buzz: wine, craft beer, and cannabis. Throughout the county, there are small and large wineries with equally friendly tasting rooms, countless microbreweries where you can enjoy fresh and limited-release pours, and cannabis manufacturers, dispensaries, and grows.
With the recent legalization of cannabis in California, many canna-curious folks are eager to learn more about our state’s latest green product, whether you’re a California native or just visiting for a weekend, and a longtime cannabis fan or new to knowing the difference between THC and CBD. So why not make a day of exploring and learning about some of Sonoma County’s finest products, which happen to have much more in common than you may realize? Instead of trying to figure out an itinerary of places to visit, and who’s going to be the designated driver, all you have to do is decide if you’re more of a craft beer fan or wine lover, and let The Sonoma County Experience literally drive the bus.
The Sonoma County Experience offers two different all-day tours: a wine tour or a beer tour, and both include cannabis experiences as well. There’s nothing like a local to show you around, and The Sonoma County Experience founder Jared Giammona, a Santa Rosa native, knows the area extremely well, as well as the many producers and players of all three products in the county, plus other industry and insider intel he'll share throughout the day.
Here’s how the beer experience played out: on a Friday morning, our group met outside a Fisherman’s Wharf hotel, where we were greeted with morning pastries at 8:30am before piling into a luxe Mercedes Benz van (so swank). We had a quick jaunt across the Golden Gate Bridge, with a pitstop at the vista point for some “breakfast beer” from SF’s Standard Deviant Brewing Company, and time for pics of the bridge—it’s a chance for everyone to play tourist.
We were then off to Santa Rosa to visit CannaCraft, California’s largest cannabis manufacturer and extraction facility, well-known for their Care by Design (CBD products), AbsoluteXtracts (cannabis oil products), and Satori (chocolate) brands. It’s truly a big operation: we’re talking about a 35,000-square-foot facility and 175 employees.
It was such an informative and interesting tour, offering a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the company and how cannabis is processed into different products. You’ll get an overview of how they make their chocolates in the infusion lab, a peek at supercritical CO2 extraction, a terpene smelling session, and more, with plenty for newbies to learn as well as more than enough for experienced cannabis users to really geek out on. You’ll also hear about CannaCraft’s latest product partnership with Lagunitas to make Hi-Fi Hops (it’s a cannabis-infused hop water that drinks like a beer).
It’s worth noting the cannabis portion of the experience is subject to change: you may visit an indoor or outdoor grow instead of CannaCraft, so be sure to inquire with Jared before you book if you care one way or the other. (The beer or wine destinations are also subject to change.)
Next stop: a trip to the Solful dispensary in Sebastopol, one of the most thoughtfully stocked and welcoming dispensaries in NorCal, with a focus on sun-grown cannabis and high-quality products. Our group met with co-founder Eli Melrod to hear an overview of the dispensary’s backstory and learn about some well-made Cali products. It’s a great place to stock up on the latest and greatest cannabis products, and their team is incredibly educated, so new users with questions are in excellent hands—and be sure to pick up Solful’s excellent informational pamphlet.
At this point, everyone is a bit hungry, especially if you’ve sampled any wares from Solful (which you will need to discreetly consume offsite). We were brought to Barrel Brothers Brewing Company in Windsor, where we all bellied up to the bar for a tasting while waiting for our Oliver’s Kitchen sandwich boxes to arrive (Jared took all our custom sandwich orders on the drive up—so no worries about having to eat anything you don’t like). There were over 18 to choose from; the Champaderade was my personal favorite, a brut IPA with quite a bit of carbonation, perfect with my Italian combo. You can also get some beers to bring home.
We were also fortunate to have a visit from Sonoma's Garden Society, a female-owned-and-operated cannabis company who makes cannabis-infused, low-dose gelées and chocolates (we tasted unmedicated versions of their beautiful confections). We got to learn about their sourcing, manufacturing, philosophy, and hear about the state of the industry for artisan manufacturers.
Oh hey, it's beer o'clock (again!). This time, we were off to 101 North Brewing Co. in Petaluma, where we had a personal tour of the brewery (which will be a bit more engaging if you’re a little elevated). We tasted our way through the taps of their well-made beers, like their Heroine and Indigo—ideal for IPA lovers (and the colorful descriptions and names offer plenty to discuss).
The ride back to the city can be a bit of a hazy one, depending upon what kind of a blissful combination of Sonoma’s finer products you’re working with. If you take the wine experience, I’d be extra-careful of your consumption since alcohol potentiates the effects of cannabis, and vice versa. (Drink your water.) The wine tour includes visits to Larson Family Winery and Hook & Ladder. A cannabis-only experience is also in the works for 2019.
And to be clear, there is no consumption of cannabis allowed on the tour van, and everyone must be 21 or over. You’ll get back into San Francisco around 5pm or so, depending upon the traffic—overall, it’s a leisurely tour, but Jared will keep everyone on schedule.
The Sonoma County Experience is $199, with all transportation, beer or wine tastings, and lunch included. Any cannabis purchases are up to you—nothing is provided. And like a true Sonoma County resident, Jared donates a portion of all sales to the Northern California Wildfire victims via United Way.