Over the last few years, Gage Green Group’s flagship strain, Mendo Breath, has found its way into the gardens of some of the best growers in the world.
It all started when Gage Green Group hit the market in 2010 with its initial lineup that included Mendo Montage, Blackberry Pie and an array of G13 Skunk crosses.
From the beginning, the cultivation group organized itself around the philosophy that cannabis can be creative and joyful. They named themselves after “gage,” the word that legendary musicians like Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller used to refer to cannabis.
“The herb has brought countless people renewed creativity and joy,” the Gage Green Group explains on its website. “We cultivate inspiration through growing the finest gage.”
When it came to forming the California-based company, internet forums served as the catalyzing force for the creative partnership behind the Mendo Breath phenomenon.
“I have to give kudos to a guy I met on Craigslist back in 2007 who goes by Jojo Rizo,” Jeff of Gage Green said. “He was big on all those old boards. He was just very renowned for trying new things and working with ruderalis and landraces and he really had some good gear.”
Jeff and Jojo became friends and began trading genetics. Auspicious circumstances — Jeff had a mishap in his garden at the same time Jojo’s wife wanted him to thin out the pack — meant Jeff ended up with a large piece of Jojo’s prized collection of genetics.
“He gave me like 14 different purples, landrace seeds,” Jeff said. The lineup Jeff acquired included Mendo Purple, Killer Queen and Crystal Locomotive. Each was exceptional in its own right. Jojo told Jeff that breeding is where he was going to have the most fun, but warned him to be prepared for the challenges ahead.
Jeff started the first breeding project from those donated cuts in Oakland, California. Not long after, he dropped the first batch of Grape Stomper seeds.
The next big project involved crossing Jojo’s hyper-elite Mendo Purps cut with Crystal Locomotive. The Crystal Locomotive was a cross between Trainwreck and Aloha White Widow. When the Mendo Purps and Crystal Locomotive were paired, Jeff got a strain that he named Mendo Montage.
Jeff went on to cross Mendo Montage with various other winners for a few years. Finally, in 2012, Jeff and the Gage Green team began work on the Mendo Breath line.
In the earliest part of the project, the breeders only crossed one plant, resulting in a handful of seeds. They began to pop the seeds with their partner on the project, NorCal, a popular breeder on the forums back in the day and now the patriarch of NorCal Genetics. NorCal popularized OGKB, his own Cherry Pie Kush cut, and gave a cut of the strain to the Gage Green team. They were the only other people who had it besides him.
“We pretty much created Mendo Breath and Grateful Breath out of that collaboration,” Michael of Gage Green said.
In that first batch, NorCal’s OGKB female was pollinated by a Mendo Montage F1 male that would find its way into many of their crosses. They called that plant “the four-star male,” as he had already been a proven winner for them before they got their hands on the OGKB cut.
After splitting up the roughly 50 seeds in the Mendo Breath F1 stock with NorCal, the Gage Green team discovered multiple winners. As they went through both sets, killer moms and dads appeared, primed to take Mendo Breath forward.
They ended up with five star females that were at the top of the pack and cut the males down to one winner. This parentage line has gone into numerous strains in recent years like the Benevolence and Breath Work #1. They also, of course, bred the Mendo Breath F2 they would release to the public in 2013.
When this popular generation of Mendo Breath hit the market, it quickly established itself as unique for its gassy edge, topped by other aromas uncommon in purple strains.
“It definitely has gas,” said Michael of Gage Green. “The Mendo Montage is why Mendo Breath is not like any of the other [strains closely related to it] — Cherry Pie Kush, OGKB, whatever you want to call it. It’s kind of unique. It doesn’t taste like everybody else’s crosses.”
Michael’s reasoning is that the Mendo Montage side of Mendo Breath’s genetics — all the selection time and experience that has gone into each of its ingredients — is what allows Mendo Breath to shine better than other OGKB cross attempts.
Jeff said he can detect the purples coming through as a background flavor and he believed the resin quality was a result of the Aloha White Widow traits popping up. He called it the frostiest strain he’d ever seen.
Now, five years since that first public drop of Mendo Breath, Jeff spoke on seeing it in the gardens of some of the top cultivators on the planet.
“I think it’s incredible,” Jeff said. “It’s really nice to see the way people stack up some of the things you have done.”
Michael said that a sign of Mendo Breath’s new prominence is the number of growers who look to the strain as a cornerstone.
“You see people will have their main phenos, and Mendo Breath is like one out of five of them,” Michael said. “That, I think, is a really awesome statement to where and how far we’ve come.”
When the strain was just in their personal group, it felt like a team effort, but when the seeds got out, it turned into a community project, Michael said.
Today, the Gage Green team says they think other cultivators are doing a great job with Mendo Breath. Like most growers, the Gage Green team are very selective over the cannabis they choose to consume. Just because the jar has their strain’s name on it doesn’t mean they are going to puff it. That being said, the team said a lot of the Mendo Breath they’ve seen in the wild has been outstanding.
“There are going to be seeds that don’t come out good, that’s just part of every pheno hunt,” Michael said. “But honestly the Mendo Breath hits really well, and every variation of it has come out really unique. They’ve all been just beyond our expectations. We’re proud to see where it is.”
Mendo Breath Stain Statistics
Lineage: OGKB x Mendo Montage
Profile: Indica-dominant hybrid
Flowering Time: 7-9 weeks
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Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE