Frenchy Cannoli at The Green Door in San Francisco. PHOTOS Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now
Leo Stone had just won first place in the 2012 Emerald Cup for his cut of Mendocino County-grown Chemdawg Special reserve. Following his acceptance speech, he was walking off the stage, trophy in hand, when a stranger accosted him.
The stranger was a small, funny-looking man with a prominent nose and pointy ears, an enchanting smile like the Cheshire Cat’s, and a foreign accent, thick and rich like resin. He had something to show Stone, and he needed to show him immediately — no time for being coy or waiting in line to offer the winner his well wishes.
“He bum-rushed me and showed me the loudest hash I’ve ever smelled in my life,” recalled Stone, the founder of Aficionado Estates, a leading seed bank with more than 20 major cannabis cup awards to his credit.
As far as icebreakers go, Stone’s introduction to Frenchy Cannoli, the Northern California master “hashishin,” educator and personality who died July 18 was an unprecedented success.
“I told him right then and there, ‘You’re my hash guy forever,’” Stone told me in an email. Keep in mind this was before they’d even exchanged names — Frenchy’s, a sly and playful adaptation of the French and Italian influences on his real name (which as far as I know, was never revealed publicly). “He was officially my hash guy without even smoking his hash — the nose alone sold me,” Stone added. “And his energy.”
For the rest of Frenchy’s life on this earth, which ended at age 64 following complications from a surgery, he and Stone remained close friends and collaborators. Frenchy immediately zeroed in on Stone for two reasons. Stone recognized the importance of the dirt in which his cannabis was grown. For winemakers, this concept is known as “terroir,” a word Frenchy would deliver with inimitable magic, in his sun-seasoned Marseille accent, many times over the next few years. And Frenchy appreciated the way Stone’s Aficionado labels prominently featured the word “MENDOCINO.” Presenting the region where his cannabis was grown first — before himself and before his brand — reminded Frenchy of how French winemakers classify and market their wine. “Mendocino,” he would later say, “could become the Bordeaux of cannabis.”
The two had more in common — both had lived in Japan, where Stone was stationed in the military, and where Frenchy’s daughter was born — but the root of their connection was just that: roots in dirt.
“That’s what we agreed on first and foremost and above all: We agreed on the fact that the farmer is only as good as his terroir,” Stone told me.
Frenchy’s signature logo on a Pyrex container filled with his hash cannolis.
This meant that, like a winemaker, a top cannabis farmer needs to be somewhere in particular. The land is important; the land allows the plant to fully express itself. (Frenchy once described it this way: if sun-grown outdoor is a wolf, indoor cannabis can be a caged dog.) By that time in his life, Frenchy had been just about everywhere cannabis is found, but he recognized there was something extremely special about the hilltops shaded by the towering redwoods and pines in remote Northern California.
“After staying at my farm for many weeks and months, he fell in love in Mendocino, as it reminded him most of his times in the Himalayas making hash,” Stone said.