After working in the wine industry for 30 years and innovation for 15, Tracey Mason was looking for a change of pace — and chemistry.
The wine-to-weed pipeline grabbed a hold of Mason, and she quickly learned how the wine and cannabis industries were similar and differ.
With her current venture — House of Saka — Mason is able to combine these worlds as co-founder and CEO of a de-alcoholized, cannabis-infused wine company.
“After a certain point, with any kind of industry, you have kind of been there, done that,” she said. “With wine, there is only so far you can go. There's certainly packaging innovation, but it is still a pretty traditional industry, and for someone like me that is hyper-creative, it felt kind of limiting after a number of years.”
Founded in 2018, House of Saka offers three different cannabis-infused wines, one of which includes a live resin emulsion which Mason says intensifies the high. Saka Spark MIMOSA — which combines a sparkling Chardonnay with Mimosa-strain cannabis, is accompanied with orange blossom and tangerine essence to tie the flavors together.
The other two offerings are Saka Pink and Saka White, both of which have base wines sourced from Napa Valley.
“Through our contacts we have been able to get our hands on some beautiful wines, we remove the alcohol, and then through a lot of R&D we are able to create something that is a real, wine-like experience without the negative effects of alcohol, which is what we were really trying to achieve,” Mason explained.
“What we do is we take a highly refined cannabis oil, and we break it down into microscopic particles that are both highly bioavailable and self-homogenizing,” she said. “Think about a chain-link fence: If you have a beach ball and you try to throw it at the fence, it is just going to bounce back at you. But if you take a bunch of marbles and throw it at the chain-link fence, they are going to go through.”
Mason says these particles then marry themselves to the water — or in their case, wine. Since these base wines have their own presence of terpenes and proteins, House of Saka had to come up with a proprietary emulsion to ensure the concoction is stable. Due to this house emulsion and the nature of beverage-based edible cannabis, Mason says the CBD, or in the case of their Spark blend, THC, is then absorbed in your stomach lining, resulting in an onset of effects in just 5 to 15 minutes.
“Just like a glass of wine,” said Mason.
Another company in the area, Sip C, also uses Napa Valley wines for their de-alcoholized emulsions. However, instead of using a full cannabis or THC extract, SipC’s “SipCozy” wine is infused with 40 mg of broad-spectrum hemp extract. Their emulsion is made with sunflower lecithin, ultrafine coconut oil and plant-derived emulsifiers in addition to the hemp, with a 12 fluid ounce pour clocking in with a potency of about 20 mg.
Thus, SipCozy drinkers experience the calming effects of CBD, without the psychoactive effects of THC.
While the effects differ between their products, both SipCozy and House of Saka say they seek to serve female cannabis users, who have historically been left out in product development, marketing and the like. In her work in the cannabis sphere before founding House of Saka, Mason first realized how this sect of consumers were neglected, and wanted to take advantage of the existing demand.
“It was very clear that there was a big gap in addressing the emerging female consumer,” she said. “[But] that’s the fastest-growing consumer in cannabis ... There also was a real gap in luxury branding, and so we felt we could really carve out a niche by creating a brand that marries those two things.”
Mason refers to her brand as more “House of Chanel” than “weed this, weed that,” and said their products aren’t for a wake-and-bake type of cannabis user. The wines — even though the alcohol has been taken out — are the star, with the physical benefits playing as sidekick.
“Everyone has had a bad edible experience where you take one and you wait and it doesn’t do anything, so you take another one and then you end up getting way too high ... It is different with beverages because the onset effects come on really quickly, and it gives you incredible information on how to self dose,” said Mason.
“House of Saka is really the only Napa Valley (cannabis beverage) brand, and it’s not because of Napa Valley cannabis ... It’s because we are using Napa Valley wines.”