Can Marijuana Odor Taint Wine Grapes?
An Oregon winery alleges its pot-growing neighbors led to a canceled grape order.
As marijuana legalization has spread across the United States, many have wondered if the bourgeoning cannabis business might affect the alcohol industry. A winery in Oregon alleges that it has — but not how you might think. Momtazi Vineyard has reportedly been allowed to move forward with a lawsuit against a nearby marijuana business, claiming their operation caused at least one customer to fear their grapes would have unwanted notes of cannabis. Instead of "smoke taint," call it "smoking taint."
If you’re a pot lover (or even a wine lover, for that matter), and the idea of marijuana-tinged wine sounds intriguing, but don’t get too excited yet. The lawsuit doesn’t appear to confirm whether the grapes in question were actually affected. Instead, Momtazi Vineyard simply states that a repeat customer canceled a six-ton order of grapes over concerns that the fruit may be contaminated with the smell of weed, according to the Associated Press. "The customer’s concerns, whether valid or invalid, arose directly from the proximity of defendants’ marijuana-grow operation," U.S. Senior District Judge Anna Brown wrote in a recent decision to let the lawsuit move forward, the agricultural newspaper Capital Press explained.
But can cannabis smells really work their way into wine grapes? In 2017, Robert Patrick — the CEO of the chamber of commerce for Lodi, California — made headlines by voicing his concern that the odor "could permeate grape skins and render the wine deficient, causing it to lose value." At the time, High Times (as should probably be expected) called this claim "next-level nonsense." And from a slightly less biased source, last year, Wine Spectator’s Q&A columnist "Dr. Vinny" speculated, "I don't believe that growing marijuana next to a vineyard will affect the flavor of wine."
From a legal standpoint, the science may not matter. If Momtazi Vineyard is able to prove an actual financial loss due to a canceled order, that could be enough to buoy their argument. "A vineyard’s real property value is heavily dependent upon the marketability of the grapes grown on that vineyard property," the court papers stated, according to the AP, "and the marketability of the grapes grown Momtazi property has declined." In this case, okay, though I feel like if those grapes really did smell like marijuana, some enterprising/cannabis-loving winemaker might find a use for them.