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Perfect pair

  • Bacon poached swordfish, with a back 'chip', bacon bernaise and black trumpets made by chef Dustin Valette during a media event held at Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg, Thursday, January 24, 2013. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

The annual Pigs & Pinot dinner at Hotel Healdsburg's Dry Creek Kitchen celebrates a match made in heaven.

The mild but robust flavor of pork — less gamey than lamb, but heartier than chicken — balances perfectly with the fruit-forward juiciness of the pinot noir, a light-bodied red wine with good acid but less tannin than most reds.

"I think one of the great marriages of the world is pork and pinot noir," said chef/owner Charlie Palmer of the Dry Creek Kitchen, who started the charity event six years ago with a small dinner, then kept adding more events each year.

This year's Pigs & Pinot weekend, which sold out in two minutes, will kick off with a tasting of 50-some pork dishes Friday night alongside 60 pinot noirs hand-picked from all over the world by wine ambassador Daryl Groom of Groom Premium Australian Wines.

"Pinot noir is one of the most versatile wines you can get," Groom said. "We've chosen 35 to 40 from Sonoma County, and that's become our anchor."

During the Friday night event, Dry Creek Kitchen Chef de Cuisine Dustin Valette plans to offer three different dishes, including a light starter: Miyagi Oysters on the Half Shell with Pinot Noir and Bacon Mignonette.

As a fun twist to ballpark hot dogs and hamburgers, he will also serve up Pork Sausage on a Homemade Brioche Bun with Pickled Mustard Weeds and Pinot Noir Ketchup as well as a Cured Smoked Pork Brisket Slider with Aged Cheddar Cheese.

"It's tender and soft and sweet and smoky," he said of the slider, which could also describe many of the pinot noirs that will be poured that evening.

At a preview Pigs & Pinot luncheon last month, Valette and Palmer unveiled some of the thinking that goes into their porcine pairings.

"We taste the wines, and we start building our flavors," Valette said. "A lot of the Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma Coast pinots are a little fruit forward, so you pick up the fruit —the dried cherry and dry blackberry flavors — and the juicy element."


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