Cana’s Feast Chinato
From the May/June 2011 issue
An intriguing entrant in the herbal liqueur category comes from Patrick Taylor, winemaker at Cana’s Feast Winery in Carlton, Oregon, with his Northwest interpretation of a rare Italian infusion known as Barolo Chinato.
In its traditional form, chinato is a class of digestifs made by steeping the bitter-flavored bark of the cinchona tree—a source of quinine—in aged Barolo wine. An array of other herbs and aromatics are added and the whole is aged in oak for many years.
In its Northwest form, Taylor’s Chinato d’Erbetti uses Nebbiolo grapes (the same grape that produces Barolo) from the Coyote Canyon Vineyards in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA, along with gentian, a well-known medicinal bittering agent, in place of cinchona. Extracts of 18 different botanicals, including mace, fennel, coriander, black pepper, rhubarb, elderflower, dried orange peel, rose, clove and cinnamon (plus a few secret ingredients, naturally) are added to the wine, plus an eau de vie made by Clear Creek Distillery.
“I tasted my first chinato a year ago and it was a real game changer for me,” says Taylor, “it really inspired me to think about making my own.” It helped that Cana’s Feast was one of the very few Northwest wineries already making one of the key ingredients: Nebbiolo wine. Enlisting the help of the executive chef for Cana’s Feast, Lisa Lanxon, the pair began working with extractions of different herbs and experimenting with formulations.
“Working with the extracts was a revelation,” says Taylor, “and opened my mind to many possibilities.” After long hours of blending trials and formulation experiments, the final product emerged as Chinato d’Erbetti (Italian for “herbs”). The first release was only 31 cases, and the next will be double that, so production is very limited. But demand has been high, and Taylor’s aspirations are growing. He’s working on new formulations to extend the line, and new ageing techniques that he suspects will add different flavor qualities to future products.
“This whole project has been fantastic,” he says. “It has almost become an obsession, it occupies nearly all my gray matter, and it is so much fun to make and to have people enjoy.”