Bryan Voltaggio's taco stand. Photo: Damion Hamilton

Celebrating the Mighty Pork at Pigs & Pinot

There is a harmony that is created when sipping pinot noir along with pork. The matchup is nothing short of magical. This marriage was celebrated in one of the nation’s most lauded food and wine festivals, Pigs & Pinot, in Healdsburg, California, on March 17–18. Hosted by master chef and hospitality entrepreneur Charlie Palmer, whose acclaimed restaurants across the country include Las Vegas’ Aureole and Charlie Palmer Steak, the festival, now in its 12th year, took place at Charlie Palmer’s distinguished Hotel Healdsburg, located at the confluence of the Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River Valleys.

The celebratory weekend offered a series of intimate dining and educational events hosted by Palmer himself, along with a number of master sommeliers, winemakers and international celebrity chefs.

Friday evening’s festival kickoff was the lively “Taste of Pigs & Pinot,” featuring 60 highly acclaimed pinot noirs from Sonoma County and around the world, served with a variety of pork dishes—from foie gras and pig trotter dumplings, pork belly banh mi, braised pork jowl and malted potatoes to whole-pig porchetta.

Damion Hamilton

Saturday morning’s highly anticipated “Tournament of the Pig” divided the four gala chefs into two teams pitting them against each other in a competition.

Later that day, “The Ultimate Sommelier Smackdown Seminar,” led by master sommeliers Keith Goldston, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Michael Jordan, was a head-to-head competition of 16 pinots. Each master entered his personal selections from around the world and then “pitched” the audience on why their wine picks were the best. Four rounds later, the audience ultimately named Michael Jordan the 2017 Smackdown King for selecting the winning wines: Kosta Browne 2014 Pisoni Vineyards, Santa Lucia Highlands (1st place) Penner Ash 2014 Zena Crown Vineyard, Eola Amity Hills, Oregon (2nd place).

The weekend ended with a sumptuous five-course gala dinner, which was held at Hotel Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen. Signature creations from Palmer and Scott Romano of Dry Creek Kitchen, as well as guest chefs Elizabeth Falkner, David Burke, Nancy Silverton and  Brian Voltaggio, were each exquisitely paired with pinots from acclaimed winemakers Aubert Lefas (Domaine LeJeune) Michael Browne (Kosta Browne and Cirq), Daniel J. O’Connell (O’Connell), Lynn Penner-Ash (Penner-Ash) and Ben Cane (Westwood).

Throughout the weekend, toasts were made to food, wine, gatherings of colleagues and guests, and progress for a singular mission of ending childhood hunger in America. Palmer was proud to announce that efforts from Pigs & Pinot would reach $1 million raised for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign and local scholarships and charities.

Many glasses were raised, indeed!