Back when she was a student at Cal Poly, Jamie Evans would finish her viticulture classes for the day, come home, and enjoy the decadent aroma of a cannabis strain. Unfortunately, the language of terpenes and terroir we now attribute to weed was not yet then in play.
In those days, Evans’ interest in cannabis was instead largely recreational. Nonetheless, she knew even then that weed and wine had more than a little in common with one another.
“I remember thinking that these cannabis strains had similar aromas and flavors to the wine that I’d been evaluating, which was crazy to me,” Evans tells SF Weekly.
Following college, Evans would go on to work in the wine field for over a decade — including stints with respected brands like Mondavi and Jackson Family Wines — before the experience of witnessing a terrible car accident caused her to suffer from severe insomnia.
“I didn’t want to take pharmaceutical drugs because they’re super hardcore,” Evans says. “So I figured I would try cannabis to help with my sleep. I was really using it with intention and I think that was the point where I saw just how much cannabis was helping me.”
In addition to enjoying a more restful slumber, the Sausalito resident says her medicinal cannabis use also caused her to start drinking less and to take better care of herself. Around the same time, Evans attended a ‘Women and Weed’ conference in Oakland. Seeing the faces of female CEOs and powerful women filling the room, Evans knew then and there that she had to get involved in cannabis somehow.
The result was the launch of The Herb Somm in 2017. Functioning mainly as a blog, Evans says her express goal was to create a site where she could combine her love of wine with a budding interest in the gourmet side of cannabis. In addition to offering recipes and educational tips to consumers, The Herb Somm also features interviews with prominent chefs in the culinary cannabis space.
In 2018, Evans expanded her reach by hosting a series of private dinners around the Bay Area and L.A. featuring cannabis-infused gourmet cuisine prepared by a rotating cast of guest chefs. Dubbed “Thursday Infused,” the series serves to correct what Evans views as a widespread misunderstanding about the potential for pot-enhanced food to be delicious.
“It was really an event series about educating people on how to eat cannabis food safely and responsibly,” she says. “And also to help them realize that cannabis can be a gourmet ingredient in a fine-dining experience. My whole spin on it, coming from the wine side, was that I wanted to present what amounts to a pairing concept, so for every event I would bring in a winery and then work with the chef to craft a pairing menu highlighting specific terpenes.”
While some wineries were eager to take part in the series, Evans concedes that some institutions were skittish about associating their product with cannabis. Part of the problem, as she sees it, stems from the fact that California law currently prohibits the public consumption of cannabis with the exception of permits geared entirely toward large-scale festivals.
That’s why she recently took the role of executive director for Crop-to-Kitchen, an advocacy group focused on supporting the culinary cannabis community. Founded by noted Bay Area cannabis activist Terrance Alan and restaurant consultant Kimberly Belle, the organization advocates for improvements to the industry like more on-site consumption lounges, cannabis cafes, and a permit system that would make dinners like the ones Evans regularly hosts available to the public.
“Cannabis cuisine is still illegal,” Evans says. “There are a lot of hurdles that we still have to get through. Our job is to work with policymakers to help them create some standards for how this could actually be possible and to pave the way for us to have some cannabis restaurants in the future.”
In the interim, Evans is looking forward to the release of her first book, The Ultimate Guide to CBD, on March 17. Presented as an educational guide worthy of newcomers and seasoned pros alike, the text also features a number of recipes as well as guest articles from an impressive array of cannabis experts.
That includes useful information that even regular consumers of CBD might not know. For instance, those taking medications that warn against eating grapefruit should also steer clear of the popular cannabinoid.
“CBD can impact some of the enzymes in your liver, meaning it has the ability to either enhance or inhibit some medications,” Evans says. “One message I really want to share with people is to be careful if you’re taking other things with CBD.”
As far as her efforts to transform our understanding about the culinary potential of cannabis go, Evans is excited to continue her efforts to bridge the gap between the worlds of wine and weed.
“I’m trying to bring winery folks to visit cannabis shops with me,” she says. “I want them to meet these cannabis farmers so that we’re all in the room together and we’re talking. When that happens, you realize there are so many similarities between wine and cannabis in terms of what we’re doing. I think that really helps to bring the connection closer.”
The Ultimate Guide to CBD by Jamie Evans,
available March 31, (Fair Winds Press, $26.99). Personal appearance Tuesday, May 19, 6 p.m., at Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building.