In the illicit world of prohibition, a great deal of ingenuity has gone into circumventing strict regulations. Today, cannabis is legal in California and other states where it was once illegal or highly restricted. In contrast to traditional methods for growing wine grapes that require immaculate terroir and tend to be shrouded in mystery, this startup uses technology-driven solutions such as internet connectivity and sensors to help consumers know what they’re getting with their purchase.
While oenophiles may know California’s Santa Ynez Valley for its syrah and pinot noir wines, budtenders know it for its Raw Garden cannabis extracts.
FOR RAW GARDEN, BRIAN WALKER
Raw Garden, which was founded in 2011, is currently known for manufacturing the most trustworthy cannabis extracts in California, employing organic methods to manufacture single-source terpenes and oils. Through its ever-growing seed bank and breeding program, the firm has grown to develop a portfolio of more than 800 strains, including tastes like Lime Mojito and Blueberry Punch.
Raw Garden Social Club, which was launched this summer to connect and educate budtenders (those who serve consumers where cannabis is sold) and the national trade, expanded the brand’s reach. “The idea is to develop lasting relationships and to convey information that may assist these folks better understand Raw Garden Products as well as cannabis more broadly,” Khalid Al-Naser, Raw Garden’s head of product, told Forbes.
Al-Naser went on to describe the Raw Garden Social Club as an innovative education platform that presents itself as an immersive community experience, drawing inspiration from the wine world and emphasizing the nuances of different strains and terpenes in cannabis, much like a sommelier would compare varieties and terroir of wines.
“Many individuals who like drinking wine remark about how their favorite part of the experience is criticizing and grading small subtleties in the fragrance and taste—the cannabis enthusiast takes a similar route, concentrating on smells and tastes,” Al-Naser added. “Subtle variances influenced by terroir, weather, and the farmer’s influence are all captured in a completed product aimed to improve what is likely a common experience.”
The similarity between wine and cannabis is not only a subtext of the teaching platform, but it is also employed explicitly in instruction, such as in the Aroma Training Program. Al-Naser compares the curriculum to a sommelier course, in which budtenders learn to recognize distinct cannabis fragrances in various strains, allowing them to better serve Raw Garden’s consumers.
We chatted with Al-Naser about the similarities between wine and cannabis, the mission of Raw Garden Social Club, and the company’s future goals.
Dara, Jillian: When did you first notice the similarities between wine and marijuana?
Khalid Al-Naser: I’m Khalid Al-Naser, and I’m Over the course of a year, the concept began to take shape. I’ve spent the better part of the past decade leveraging my culinary expertise to help me make analogies and explain cannabis scents to people. As I learned more about wine, the connections between cannabis and wine grew more evident and plentiful. Growing cannabis in a wine area, such as the Santa Ynez Valley, has also aided in this process. We produce in an area famed for pinot noir, and when I began to purchase and drink the local wine, I began to notice subtleties that were very similar to those I was attempting to express with cannabis.
Dara: How did you go about incorporating this understanding into the Raw Garden Social Club?
Al-Naser: One of our favorite ways to interact with people has always been to participate in shared activities. The Raw Garden Social Club was founded to foster spontaneous dialogues and interactions with our cannabis business colleagues while sharing a common experience. There is so much complexity to be discovered with cannabis, just as there is with wine, and this may lead to unlimited potential for further study and investigation. We enjoy learning about the things we enjoy, so we decided that creating an educational platform based on topics that the majority of people in this industry enjoy would be a good place to put our money.
Dara: What is the most startling parallel you’ve discovered between wine and cannabis in terms of how they function with your senses?
Al-Naser: When it comes to choosing a favorite wine or cannabis strain, many individuals discover that their preferences are dictated by flavor and scent. Both cannabis and wine grapes contain aroma molecules, which are responsible for the taste sensations we enjoy.
Aroma Bar at Raw Garden Social Club
Dara: What are the opinions of budtenders? Have they come to any unexpected conclusions as a result of their time at the Social Club?
Al-Naser: The warm welcome we got from budtenders in each market astounded us. Attendees loved the laid-back setting and accessible manner we offered aromas as a training opportunity for everyone who was interested, according to one of our favorite pieces of feedback. I expected people to be excited about the chance to interact, but I was pleasantly surprised by how enthusiastic everyone was. Budtenders were enthusiastic to take part in our scent training. We feel like we accomplished what we set out to do when we see such a high level of participation and get such positive feedback.
Dara: Why do you believe it’s vital to have a club like this?
We believe that interacting with budtenders directly is a long-term commitment that will help both our brand and the cannabis industry as a whole. Budtenders are the customer’s initial point of contact throughout the purchase process, thus a well-educated and passionate budtender will result in a more knowledgeable and empowered end-consumer.
Dara: Do you think there’s a market for combining these two genres? If that’s the case, where else do you see wine and marijuana coexisting?
Al-Naser: Food and wine festivals have grown in popularity over the past decade, thus cannabis has a place at the table to improve the experience. While cuisine matched with the correct wine may heighten the dining experience, adding cannabis to the mix just adds to the richness of the encounter.
Cannabis, like aperitifs and digestifs, has the power to enhance the drinking experience while also aiding digestion once the meal is over. Furthermore, breaking bread, or the sharing of experiences such as food, wine, or cannabis, allows us to connect more profoundly with one another. Including cannabis in food and wine events seems like a logical progression.