Sweet Dreams Vineyard, and founder Bill Gibbs, have brought a cutting-edge product to the cannabis industry.
As of early 2021, the company released a nonalcoholic, THC-infused red wine and margarita, dubbed “Cannabernet” and “Marijuarita,” respectively.
Both products are sold to anyone over the age 21 at Herbal Wellness Centers, as well as a growing number of dispensaries around the Valley.
The cost is in the low to high teens for the 187 ml bottle of either Cannabernet or Marijuarita and in the low to high $30s for a 750 ml bottle of Cannabernet, depending on the strength. As they are both essentially juices, both products must be refrigerated after opening.
“The impetus for this is I’m older and I love to drink alcohol, but it’s just getting harder and harder for me to do,” Gibbs says. “But I love the social experience of being around people. So that was kind of the impetus about why I did it. It was selfish on my part. I wanted to drink less alcohol, but I didn’t want to change my lifestyle at all.”
These beverages also offer fast-acting effects similar to that of an alcohol-based beverage without the hangover. By using nano-emulsification technology, which makes the THC water-soluble, the effects are felt in as little as 15 minutes.
Cannabernet has half the calories of traditional wine per serving, and the Marijaurita only has 45 calories, which is far fewer than the traditional version of a margarita. Gibbs says keeping his products healthy was at the top of his list for things to accomplish.
“People are more health conscious these days, as they should be, and as am I,” he says. “So, you want to try and be as healthy as you can.”
No stranger to the marijuana industry, in 2012, Gibbs founded a dispensary called Urban Greenhouse Dispensary in Phoenix and served as its CEO until he later sold the company to Harvest Health and Recreation.
While he was with the company, Gibbs was at a marijuana convention in 2016 when, for fun, he threw a cannabis label on a bottle of wine.
“Just out of a lark, I took a bottle of wine and put a cannabis label on it,” Gibbs says. “I got calls from — and that convention attracts an international crowd — all over the world, from people going, ‘We’re going to get the wine in my location.’ That was kind of an amazing response. I also literally got probably around 100 emails from people.”
After selling that dispensary in 2019, Gibbs took a break from the industry. When he decided to get back into it, he followed up on that response he received at that convention.
“I thought there would be a million products out there by that time because at that time nobody had done it,” he says. “I was surprised to see that there was virtually none. There were plenty of people that I saw websites for where they said they were going to do it, but they never did. So basically, I just started investigating that and I thought it would be relatively easy.
“You know, we’re close to California. I thought I’d get some (nonalcoholic) wine and put THC in it. There you go; there’s the product.”
What Gibbs hadn’t realized is that nonalcoholic wine is not exactly fruitful in the taste department.
“It’s not just awful; it’s incredibly terrible,” he says. “You would never want to have it by the glass. I don’t know exactly what causes that, but without the alcohol in there, it really is bad. Nobody would ever want to drink that. It was like, ‘Oh, man, that’s not going to work.’”
From there, Gibbs hired a sommelier and purchased “every kind of juice known to man.” The two of them, Gibbs says, sat in his kitchen to try and figure out the juice combination that would best mimic the taste of a glass of red wine.
After finding the correct combination, Gibbs wasn’t exactly done with the beta stage. He said the “edible experience” is something he did not want his cannabis-infused beverages to mimic, as edibles can be unpredictable and take a long time to take effect.
“When I was able to do some research, I realized that this was an issue that the pharmaceutical companies had solved a long time ago to be able to have the active ingredients enter the bloodstream at a much quicker rate,” Gibbs says. “Then, I just went about trying to figure out how to do that.”
Gibbs wanted his product to have the quicker response time that alcohol has — roughly 15 minutes. He says it would be his “holy grail” if he could figure out a way to achieve that, but that as well would not be an easy task.
“With cannabis, it’s been illegal for so long, so there’s no manual,” Gibbs says. “Nobody writes any of this stuff down; it’s not like almost any other industry. If you go into any other industry, there’s long legions of people that have done stuff before. Well, this had never been done.”
After learning about nano-emulsifying technology, he was able to figure out how to correctly utilize it, and he had his finished product. In this case, nano-emulsification converted the THC into something that would allow it to enter the bloodstream faster.
In addition, the cannabis is not able to be tasted in either Cannabernet or Marijuarita. Gibbs said the flavor the of the juices serve as a blocker to the bitter taste cannabis brings.
Gibbs, however, says he doesn’t want people to expect a perfect flavor profile to a classic cabernet.
“You’re never going to drink that and go, ‘That’s the best cabernet I’ve ever had,’” he says. “You’re going to say, ‘It’s wine-like, and it tastes good.’”
Gibbs says his products are in about a half a dozen dispensaries around the Valley and he is looking to be in 25 by the end of the year. He’s cautious about growing too quickly, however.
“I kind of want to be selective about how we do it,” he says. “I’ve had experience of growing, and it’s better to make all your mistakes when you’re smaller.”
For Gibbs, it all comes back to the social aspect.
“The big reason about why I wanted the alcohol experience is that it includes the social aspect of it,” he says. “You could bring a bottle of this to a party where you might not be able to bring a joint. This encourages the social aspect, which for alcohol, for me, I think is one of the most important and endearing properties of it.
“You kind of do with other people and have a good time.”
Sweet Dreams Vineyard