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Alternative Tastes

Columnist: Christina Julian
March, 2019 Issue

Christina Julian
All articles by columnist

Only three months into 2019 and the year is off to a banging start an as alternative taste and pot spots emerge. I’ve accepted that survival as a working gal and mom to toddling twins is largely dependent on easy access to nerve-reducing elixirs and stimulants to the nervous system—mainly wine and coffee.

So, I was more than a little excited to discover a brew that blends both of my go-to drinks in one smooth swig. Rick Molinari, of Molinari Caffè created one of the first alcohol-free, wine-infused coffees. The java is crafted by rehydrating coffee beans with wine, which according to Molinari imparts the dark fruit flavors and blueberry notes of the wine directly into his rich and full-bodied brew. The Molinari Private Reserve (MPR) coffee, infused with Napa Valley red wine is available online, the downtown café and select wine-tasting spots, including Robert Mondavi Winery, Franciscan Estate Winery, JCB Wines, Plum Markets and Feast it Forward Studio. If all that avant-garde brewing doesn’t perk up your taste buds, Molinari, together with brewmaster Jimmy Seifrit of 10 Barrel Brewing Co., are at work on a new wine- to-coffee-to beer product—a stout—, which is expected to release later this year. I suspect this is one boozy trifecta I can get behind.


In other drinking news, I discovered a new spin on wine subscription services from VINEBOX. I learned about the company over the holidays when I procured one of the brand’s 12 Nights of Wine advent calendars; think one glass-sized bottle of wine a night to get you through the season of giving.
This was a gift that both horrified and delighted my Catholic mother, taking high holiness to brand new levels. Beyond the holiday buzz, VINEBOX offers quarterly shipments of exclusive wines (9 per quarter) from regions around the globe, and packages them in nifty “by the glass” bottles. This is a membership model that will surely resonate with the commitment phoebes in the crowd, enabling such customers to explore taste preferences without “committing” to full-sized bottles.

This try-before-you-buy concept also speaks to someone like me, who’s been known to keep her sommelier hopping by tasting through countless wines before landing on a prefect pick for the night. The company prides itself on its fractioning technology (aka packaging those teensy one-glass bottles), which hinges on a closed-nitrogen environment and the use of inert gas to preserve quality during the fractionation process. Partakers of the program can have wine delivered for as little as $72 a quarter, which may or may not be a good deal, depending on your swigging style and sensibilities.

Pot biz a-go-go

Having been one of the only dwellers in my college dormitory that did not smoke weed, and also one of the few who did not partake during my days working and living in Colorado, I’ve felt conflicted over the legalization of marijuana in the state of California. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, pot is setting up shop right here in Napa County. Harvest of Napa, the first medical marijuana dispensary in the county, opened on New Year’s Eve. The outpost is a branch of the Tempe, Arizona-based Harvest Health & Recreation Inc., which operates medicinal outlets in eight other states.

The 1,600-square-foot showroom offers pre-rolled cannabis, vape cartridges, tinctures, lotions and other products, as well as housing a refrigerator case filled with edibles including brownies, snickerdoodles, and crackers, all of which would no doubt horrify that same tightly wound Catholic mother of mine. (Or, maybe it’s just me?).

As a medical dispensary, Napa Harvest can only sell to those customers who present a doctor’s recommendation to use the products for medicinal purposes, such as treatment for insomnia, anxiety, and for pain management. While Prop 64 allows for the use of marijuana recreationally across the state, individual cities can ban or permit adult-use retail outlets. At the time of this writing, at least seven groups have applied for clearances to sell medicinal cannabis within the City of Napa. Of the 417 licensed dispensaries in California, only 49 are medicinal-only outposts, which some may view as a sign that we’re behind the times in the toaking-up department? It’ll be interesting to see how the legalization of marijuana changes (or not) our recreational activities in California. I will say the Colorado of my twenties and the weed-friendly state of today, are two very different places.



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