Many of life’s pleasures are more than the sum of their parts. Consider the process by which you enjoy a glass of wine. You uncork the bottle. You take in its scent as you swirl it in your glass. You sip it slowly, with a meal or a friend, or perhaps in a bath or with a book. Though a glass of wine and a cannabis edible have similar relaxation properties, edibles are often so tiny that it’s impossible to truly enjoy the unwinding process in the same way. Enter House of Saka, a new infused ‘wine’ that promises a microdosing experience with all the flavors of a Napa Valley varietal—and none of the alcohol.
House of Saka comes via Tracey Mason, who’s been in the wine industry for 25 years, and Cynthia Salarizadeh, a seasoned PR specialist and cannabis entrepreneur. Their luxury line consists of a still pink, sparkling pink, and bubbly beverage, and takes its name from an ancient nomadic group of women warriors Salarizadeh had researched while attending the University of Pennsylvania.
“Saka are the same as the Scythians, which were a Central Asian civilization stretching from Ukraine to Persia. They are where the mythological Amazonian women come from, so essentially, Saka stands for ‘Wonder Women,'” Salarizadeh explained.
The focus on women goes far beyond the name Saka and warrior women label art. Salarizadeh is also a co-founder of Industry Power Women, a group for women entrepreneurs and executives in the cannabis industry. It was important for House of Saka to not only have women founders and leaders but an all-women advisory board as well.
“Everyone [on the advisory board] has specialties either in regulatory law for alcohol or cannabis specifically, or they own dispensaries, they’re investors, or they’ve been running wine country for the last four years,” Salarizadeh said.
And—like a lot of alcoholic rosé brands—Saka is geared towards women consumers. According to Salarizadeh, women tend to be the largest purchasers in the consumer market, “but they’re definitely the fastest growing segment in cannabis.” Salarizadeh also predicts that as legalization continues to spread across the U.S., we’ll see a rise in “sophisticated consumers” who desire a “smooth, clean, enjoyable experience, which tends to come from a microdosing platform.”
Some surveys indicate that may already have come to pass, however. A study from the Cannabis Consumer Coalition suggests that women consume cannabis more often than men, but that respondents prefer lower doses of 10 milligrams or less of THC. And when cannabis delivery service Eaze sent a survey to over 10,000 customers, they learned that of the 78 percent of women respondents who drink alcohol, 86 percent of them reduced their alcohol consumption thanks to cannabis while 13percent replaced alcohol with cannabis entirely.
Every bottle of Saka contains a proprietary, water-soluble, three-to-one THC/CBD solution, the specifics of which remain a company secret. And though each glass contains between five to 10 miligrams—the still version is less potent than the sparkling—the solution is both odorless and tasteless, meaning it tastes like a wine, not cannabis. High Times’ Taylor Bush, who recently sampled Saka’s offerings can confirm. “It’s true, it doesn’t taste like weed,” Bush said. “It tastes like a crisp rosé.”
So how do they do it? According to Mason, House of Saka begins with grapes sourced from a single vineyard in Napa Valley’s Los Carneros AVA.
“[The region] is renowned worldwide for pinot and Chardonnay production, based on the cool climate present in that particular area,” Mason said.
They make a “full-blown Napa Valley rosé and pinot noir,” but then carefully extract the alcohol. Mason noted that bringing the alcohol content to zero percent removes certain sensory compounds within the wine. Some of the weight is lost, as is the “bite of the alcohol” and “certain flavor compounds.”
To restore those flavor compounds, Saka does two things: they first look at specific terpenes within their cannabis infusion that marry to the flavors common in rosé (such as bright berry and peach flavors), then work with a flavor house to ensure that their infused beverages match as closely as possible. According to Mason, the cannabis solution is self-homogenizing, meaning the first glass is just as potent as the last glass, with effects kicking in about 10 to 15 minutes after consumption.
“It’s a laborious process in the sense that we’re doing everything with one true mission, which is to deliver to the consumer that luxury wine experience without the residual effects of alcohol,” Mason said.
The question one might be inclined to ask is what the average consumer gets out of a ‘wine’ without the effects of alcohol. For one, the average glass of wine has between 120 and 150 calories, while the average glass of Saka—though a final caloric count is not yet available—is estimated to contain half that. Then, of course, it’s a different kind of high without a hangover.
“Both [alcohol and cannabis] initially accomplish the same thing, which is at the end of the day, they help your shoulders drop and take the edge off,” Mason said. “What I prefer about [Saka] as opposed to alcoholic wine is that you never lose sight of yourself. It’s not a sloppy high. We’ve all been in situations where people start to drink wine and they get sloppy and start to slur. With cannabis, people tend to mellow out and if anything, maybe get a little quieter.”
House of Saka plans to launch in California and Nevada in early 2019, followed by 23 additional states within the next three years. Estimated prices are $39 for a still bottle and $89 for sparking. There are roughly four to five glasses in each, depending on the pour. Saka will also be releasing cans and splits. Future plans for the company include an infused ice cream by the end of 2019, followed by a line of infused beauty and wellness products, such as lotions and night creams, in 2020.