In a sign of changing times, Flow Kana, a California distributor of sustainably sun-grown cannabis, has agreed to purchase Fetzer Winery’s old stomping grounds in Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley. The 80-acre ranch and vineyards are still in escrow. Neither party has disclosed the sales price, but the property was listed for $3.5 million.
Fetzer produced its first commercial vintage at the site in 1968, but shifted primary operations to the North Coast Winery in Hopland later as the company grew. Brown-Forman bought the Fetzer company in 1992 and sold it to Concha y Toro in 2011, but the Redwood Valley property has remained owned by members of the Fetzer family. They will continue to own another part of the property.
Flow Kana distributes cannabis to more than 100 dispensaries throughout Northern California, but transforming the winery into a cultivating, processing, manufacturing, distribution and retail hub would be its biggest project so far. John Fetzer, former CEO of Fetzer Vineyards and cofounder of Saracina Vineyards in Hopland, says it may be hard for some people to accept, but he believes that Flow Kana has the best interests of the community in mind, and doesn’t expect the area to become overrun with cannabis companies.
“Flow Kana fell in love with the property because it promotes agricultural,” said Fetzer. He doesn’t see his family’s history or legacy being damaged by the transition. “It’s going to be a new beginning and great opportunity for a lot of new people.”
Some neighbors have expressed concern over potential added traffic, influx of potentially seedy visitors, as well as odors. Flow Kana could not be reached for comment, but did release an information sheet to try and allay neighbors’ concerns, saying that security will be a priority and smell should not be a concern.
Fetzer believes that the property, which is relatively hidden away, should be fine. “There won’t be any 18-wheelers and trucks destroying the road, and because the product is highly regulated, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of problems. We still have a warehouse on property, but we aren’t worried.”
The legal selling and taxation of cannabis will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2018, and cities and counties have yet to vote on how to regulate and tax that usage. While a commercial cannabis boom is expected since California voters backed legalization, it’s unknown how much the industry could impact wine.
Claudio Miranda, executive director of Guild Enterprises, a family of cannabis brands, doesn’t foresee the Fetzer purchase as the beginning of a trend. “It would be an alarmist way to look at this to say that wine and cannabis will compete,” said Miranda.