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Cannabis Appellations

map for Mendocino

For years before we guided weed tours we brought tourists and wine lovers on tours of Northern California wine country, conducting tours of the Sonoma Valley, the Napa Valley, and the Carneros region.  These aren’t just beautiful places to visit in northern California.  These are examples of appellations.  An appellation is defined as a geographical name under which a winegrower is authorized to identify and market their wine.

Mendocino wineries

As all wine lovers know, terroir – the unique combination of soil and climate particular to a specific region makes an enormous difference in the quality and taste of a wine.  The same varietal of grapes grown in the Bordeaux valley in France, and in the Sonoma Valley of California will taste completely different from each other, and experienced epicures will be able to tell what region the wine came from just by tasting it.  Of course, you don’t have to have the sophisticated palette of a sommelier because the appellation is printed right on the bottle, and appreciators of fine wines will seek out certain appellations that are known for growing the highest quality wines.


Experienced cannasseurs know the same thing, and the boutique cannabis growers of The Emerald Triangle are working to create an appellation system similar to that of wines, so you can tell just by reading the label as well.  Once the appellation system is in place, folks will be seeking out Ukiah Valley cannabis the same way they seek out Napa Valley wines, and northern California’s boutique growers will be able to distinguish themselves from massive central valley corporate grow operations.

California already has a very accurate track and trace system for cannabis that tracks every plant from its point of origin as a seedling or clone all the way up to its point of sale, so authentication is already in place.


Enter the CalCannabis Appellations Project, a program of The California Department of Food and Agriculture.  Since cannabis became legal in California in 2018, it has been regulated by the CDFA, and on February 20th of 2020 the CDFA proposed regulations for appellations of origin of California cannabis. The CDFA defines an appellation of origin as a protected designation that identifies the geographical origin of a product and how that product was produced.  So Appellations aren’t just about where cannabis varietals are grown, but how they’re grown.  For instance, appellation designations won’t apply to indoor grown cannabis, but only sungrown cannabis that is grown in the specific terroir of the region of origin. Their stated goals are to promote regional cannabis products and local businesses, prevent the misrepresentation of a cannabis product’s origin, and support consumer confidence about a cannabis product’s origin and characteristics.

Mendocino County has 11 distinct regions designated to be separate appellations, each with its own unique soil and climatic conditions.

a close up of a map


So weed lovers rejoice!  Before long you’ll be able to enjoy a fine Covelo O.G. Kush as you do a fine Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.