Jonah Raskin

Jonah Raskin 

Wine and weed come together at Santa Rosa symposium

George Christie began to drink wine in moderation as a college student in New Jersey, which calls itself “The Garden State” and though it has beautiful farms, it’s not known for vines and wines. “It was probably a Gallo jug wine that I tasted that first time,” Christie told me in his office in Healdsburg, a town that definitely has a reputation for fine wines and fine foods, and that might one day lure tourists to enjoy cannabis.

Christie didn’t really begin to appreciate wine until he moved to California; it wasn’t until he took a job at Korbel that he realized the joys and pleasures of food and wine parings. “It helped that we had a great chef cooking a multi-course dinner,” he says, and still remembers the bouquets and the flavors.

Christie isn’t a cannabis advocate, though he does advocate for a deeper understanding of cannabis in the wine industry and among winemakers. To do just that he and his thriving business, the Wine Industry Network (WIN), have launched a one-day mega event called “The Wine and Weed Symposium.” It takes place in Santa Rosa at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek on Thursday, August 3, near the opening of this year’s grape harvest.

Christie started WIN in 2009 after working in the wine industry for 20 years. During that time he made friends in vineyards and wineries, many of whom receive his daily briefing, “The Wine Industry Advisor” (WIA), which is packed with news you can use whether you grow grapes, import French oak barrels, make corks or bottle sparking wines. “We want to be the business resource for the whole wine industry,” Christie explained. Indeed, WIA has quickly filled that need. Thirty thousand subscribers rely on it.

Six years ago Christie launched the WIN Expo Trade Show & Conference, which takes place at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. For East Coast wines he launched the U.S. Wine and Beverage Expo that happens once a year.

“During the course of my daily activities I hear a lot of conversations about marijuana,” Christine said. “Among winemakers there is some fear, but there is also curiosity and enthusiasm and a sense that the new legal world of recreational cannabis might offer unprecedented opportunities.”

The Wine and Weed Symposium will present 17 outstanding speakers on a variety of topics. They include Tina Caputo, a wine, food and lifestyle writer; Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the California Growers Alliance; Hollie Hall, a watershed resources specialist; and winemaker Tom Rodrigues. Their bios are online at

There’s a buffet lunch prepared by the Hyatt Vineyard Creek chef, and at the end of the day a meet-and-greet, along with wines, and hors d’oeuvres.

Not many tickets remain. For those who plan to attend, now is the time to act. Go online to register at

Oh, and if the start of this article implied that Christie was more or less a party pooper and a sourpuss when it comes to marijuana and alcohol, consider the quotation on the Wine and Weed website from author Kurt Vonnegut: “Alcohol and marijuana, if used in moderation, plus loud, usually low-class music, make stress and boredom infinitely more bearable.”

Jonah Raskin, a professor emeritus at Sonoma State University, is the author of Marijuanaland, Dispatches from an American War, published in French as well as English, and shares story credit for the feature length pot film Homegrown

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