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."
About 16 guest chefs from Healdsburg and Geyserville will also be putting their best pork dishes forward on Friday night.
Dino Bugica, chef/owner of Diavola in Geyserville, is going to braise pork trotters (pigs' feet) in vinegar and serve them with crispy farro, an Italian grain.
"It's like an Italian fried rice," he said. "The pork stock and the onions had an earthy and sweet flavor, with a little bit of acid, so it went well with the pinot."
Chef/owner Jeff Mall of Zin restaurant will be serving some of his own honey-cured, smoked ham on Sunday biscuits with a sweet and spicy mustard made from his Indian Blood Peach Jam.
"Ham biscuits are very Southern," he said. "Our ham is moist and really flavorful, and it's just delicious."
Mike Matson of Vintage Valley Catering in Healdsburg plans to serve Pork Belly Spears with Grapes and an Arugula Pumpkin-Seed Pesto.
"People really get into pork," he said. "It's my favorite thing to eat. ... You can trim it up, make it leaner, and do it 10,000 different ways."
Louis Maldonado, chef of Spoonbar at the H2Hotel in Healdsburg, plans to give guests his own twist on the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich.