Monday, April 4, 2011

An Afternoon at Cana's Feast

Since meeting Winemaker Patrick Taylor almost a year ago at Edgefield's Celebration of Syrah, Josh and I have been increasingly intrigued with his approach to winemaking at Cana's Feast. While we absolutely love the phenomenal Pinots that come from the Willamette Valley, it's refreshing to see something different brewing in the heart of Pinot country. While I had the opportunity to visit Cana's Feast for their Southern Mediterranean Festival last Summer, none of us had actually had the opportunity to do a full tasting and winery tour. This had to change.

On a somewhat cold and dreary Saturday morning, Josh, Alyssa and I started the trek to Carlton, OR. Patrick was slated to meet us upon arrival and while Josh and I were certainly excited about tasting some incredible wine, we were equally excited at the prospect of figuring out where Alyssa's wine palate lies. While we had initially expected more wine newbies to join us, Patrick had been warned ahead of time that the primary mission of this visit was to expose people new to wine to different types of varietals. Alyssa had shown much interest in Italian varietals in the past, so hopefully this trip would confirm what Josh and I had suspected.

Now that we're here, it's time to taste some wine! Patrick was stuck behind a tractor, but the fine folks behind the counter weren't going to let us stand their thirsty. We started with some of their Italian varietals; Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and a red blend. After that, a Syrah and even a Pinot Noir graced our glasses. While Josh and I were loving every pour, we especially paid attention to Alyssa and her reaction to what she was drinking. It turns out we were absolutely correct. Patrick greeted us at just the right time and quickly explained to Alyssa in completely understandable terminology that the reason she typically likes Italian varietals over French ones is a lower amount of tannin. With each pour he further dug deeper into her reactions and explained why she tasted certain flavors and why her palate either agreed or disagreed with a certain varietal. It was incredible to watch and Alyssa especially learned a ton.

With our science lesson out of the way and armed with a sense of confidence, it was time to do some barrel tasting! Did you know that in his spare time, Patrick works on his ninja skills in the barrel room?

Accompanied by a couple who have been long-time wine club members, Josh, Alyssa, and I had the privilege of trying Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Counoiuse, Cinsault, Sangiovese, and I believe I recall a Syrah. In short, Cana's Feast has a ton of varietals fermenting at any given time. While wine from a barrel at such a young state is hardly refined, it's always a fun experience tasting something in the process of achieving greatness and then trying it again when finished.

You'd think we'd be finished after tasting released wines and then hitting the barrels, but oh no. Patrick had something else for us to try in the lab. It's called Chinato and you've probably never had anything like it. In a sense, it's Cana's Feast's take on vermouth.

We had the opportunity to try it straight up without any sort of mixer, so I can't speak to its taste if you prefer vermouths that way. My explanation isn't going to do Chinato the justice it deserves, but picture a heavily herb-infused wine with an extra alcohol punch and a lot more bitterness. I told you I wouldn't do it justice, so I'll turn to Cana's Feast's description:

A base of barrel-aged nebbiolo renders this vermouth earthy, rich and ruby red, with notes of gravel, graphite and dark chocolate. This chinato includes many of the botanical infusions found in the Imbue, with the additional spicy warming notes of black pepper, cinnamon, fennel, lavender, mace, rose petals, sarsaparilla and vanilla. Drink on the rocks with soda and an orange twist, blend with whiskey to make a vermouth-y Old Fashioned or a Manhattan or serve straight up, alongside chocolate, for dessert. 17.4 percent alcohol by volume.

See, much better. While I can't say I'm a huge fan of it straight up, Patrick heavily recommended splitting it with club soda and perhaps an orange rind. I can see how this combination would be much easier to sip and look forward to trying it in the future.

Did I mention that Cana's Feast also has a gourmet restaurant attached to it? Oh, I didn't? We did that next.

Cana's Feast's Cucina restaurant is headed by Executive Chef Lisa Lanxon. Attached directly to the tasting room, the Cucina is the perfect way to indulge one's self in local Willamette Valley cuisine inspired by the Mediterranean. I could write an entire article on the Cucina alone, which is exactly what I'm going to do since it is completely deserving of one. In the mean time, I'm going to throw out that the braised short rib empanadas are incredible and Alyssa ordered the best lasagna I've ever had.

With a case worth of wine now in our possession, we left Cana's Feast incredibly satisfied and with smiles on our faces. This winery is truly a gem in the Willamette Valley serving up a ton of varietals you won't find elsewhere. If you are planning on being anywhere near the Carlton area, you owe it to yourself to stop by and expose yourself to their non-traditional take on Northwest wine. A huge thank you goes out to Patrick as well as the entire staff at Cana's Feast.


  1. Patrick is totally a wine ninja!

  2. So glad you were able to make it for a visit and see what we're all about. A huge thanks to you and yours for all the kind words about our wines, the Cucina and Patrick's relatively unknown Ninja skills (until now that is), the man really does have so many talents. We hope you drink through that case quickly so you have to make a return visit. I'm sure we'll have something new and innovative for you to taste. Until then... saluté.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Had a chance to meet Patrick, absolutely love the Chinato sweet vermouth. Now I'm all excited about making vermouth cocktails.

    Made a little video about it: Vermouth Wine Video