For thousands of years, wine has had an inextricably delicious companion: food. Pork and pinot noir is one example, and marrying such indescribable succulence makes them a winning pair.
This spring, the seductive qualities of the classic pork and pinot noir pairing event Pigs & Pinot is being presented by master chef and hospitality entrepreneur Charlie Palmer. The historic town of Healdsburg, California, located 70 miles north of San Francisco in Sonoma County, hosts the event March 16-17.
Palmer, who owns restaurants across the U.S. — including two in Las Vegas — takes over wine country for the 13th year with top food-and-wine talents by his side to celebrate all things swine and pinot wine.
“Pigs & Pinot is the result of a few too many glasses of pinot noir over a pork dinner with my good friend Daryl Groom,” said Palmer. Groom is the wine chair for Pigs & Pinot.
“We thought that it would be great to have an event that celebrates heritage pork and all the wonderful pinot noir available in our part of the world.”
Guests will have the opportunity to taste the creations of more than 60 wineries and 20 chefs at this charitable weekend celebration. This year’s event is the first to spotlight cuisine and pinot noir from Canada.
The lively weekend includes Taste of Pigs & Pinot tasting, which highlights a variety of pork dishes and highly acclaimed pinot noir; an “Iron Chef”-style competition between two teams that each are given a whole pig from which to create two distinct dishes; the Ultimate Pinot Smackdown; and a blind tasting hosted by Master Sommeliers who pitch their favorites before an audience that ultimately chooses the winner.
Pigs & Pinot culminates in a gala dinner for which participating chefs prepare a sumptuous five-course meal held at Dry Creek Kitchen.
In addition to Palmer and Dry Creek Kitchen executive chef Scott Romano, this year’s gala includes participating chefs Rick Moonen, chef-owner of RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room; Susan Feniger, co-chef and owner of Border Grill, Restaurants & Trucks, and Blue Window; Trevor Bird, chef-owner of Fable Kitchen; and Bryan Voltaggio, chef-owner of Volt, Lunchbox, Family Meal, Range and Aggio.
“If I was stranded on an island, the only thing I would pray for is, ‘I hope this island is inhabited by pigs,’” said Vancouver-based Bird. “It would be the one thing I could eat for the rest of my life.
“You can manipulate it as you see fit, and it takes on any flavors you put into it, to bring the best out of a pinot noir. Being from Canada, I hope to bring a style and flavors that you may not be accustomed to.”
Each course will be paired with two limited-production pinot noir wines from highly acclaimed wineries, including TR Elliott, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, Arista Winery and Martin’s Lane Winery.
“I’m very excited to be part of the Pigs & Pinot event,” said Shane Munn, winemaker and general manager of Martin’s Lane Winery. “I’m told we’re the first Canadian winery to be represented at this prestigious event. The winemaking is very traditional, and the wines have quite distinct personalities.”
Pinots from Martin’s Lane possess unique terroir that is firmly rooted in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, which is evident in the glass. Munn says the soil quality is a result of geological history that revolves around the Earth’s most dramatic events — volcanoes and glaciers.
“Granite provides the mother rock below our topsoil,” he explained. “Glacial action (many millennia later) formed the unique valleys and slopes, which are the home to our vineyards. The wines are very reflective of the place they’re grown.”
The event also focuses on an issue particularly close to home for organizers.
“The fundraising efforts of our 13th annual Pigs & Pinot celebration are incredibly critical this year,” said Palmer.
“In response to those affected by October’s fires, this year’s fundraising efforts will have a specific focus on wine country’s fire relief funds. Given the present need in our own backyard, we aim to raise more money than any previous year.”