January 17, 2012

January 17, 2012
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Charlie Palmer talking vino during the mini media Pinot Cup; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

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Succulent prosciutto-wrapped tenderloin with violet mustard droplets and cascade of béarnaise; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.

Last week I had the delicious privilege of attending the media preview of this year’s ~PIGS & PINOT~ extravaganza at the Hotel Healdsburg. Our hosts had put together an express version of the event’s Friday night Pinot Cup competition led by its creative mastermind Daryl Groom, as well as a spectacularly porky luncheon coordinated by chefs Charlie Palmer and Dustin Valette. The day began with mixed housemade charcuterie paired with the Aureole Cuvée (made in partnership with Iron Horse Vineyards), followed by an earthy porcini velouté with julienne of crispy coppa (beautifully accented by the sweet cherry of the 2009 Rochioli Three Corner being poured), succulent pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto on a bed of shredded braised shoulder, with violet mustard béarnaise (ideal for the floral, earth-driven silkiness of the 2008 Soter Vineyards Mineral Springs), and a chocolate peanut butter butterbomb that brought out all the rich cocoa notes of the 2009 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard.

In addition to all this piggy goodness, we blind tasted through 14 of the 60 pinot noirs entered in this year’s Pinot Cup, guided by the irreverent humor and infectious grin of Daryl Groom (former head of Penfolds’ winemaking program and current winemaker for Groom Wines and the inspiring non-profit Colby Red). The competition was very stiff, but in the end we media types voted as our winners two first-time entrants to the Pinot Cup: a 2009 Graton Ridge from the Russian River Valley in our top spot, and the 2007 Kings Mountain pinot from the Santa Cruz Mountains as runner up. Everyone agreed that we would have happily drunk just about any of the entrants we tried, so the professional judges will have it pretty hard picking their own winners from the field of 60 on March 23rd.

Charlie Palmer himself popped in to chat about his obsession with pinot noir (he has his own vineyard), his excitement about this year’s event, and the local provenance of the porcine stars. The man is disarmingly passionate, funny, and down to earth. Keep an eye out for him in SF this spring as he redevelops Union Square’s Crescent Hotel into a boutique, “chef-driven” haven from which to enjoy fresh, local cuisine.

If you can’t score a ticket to the seventh annual Pigs & Pinot event (the highly prized à la carte tickets are available beginning January 17th for Visa Signature cardholders, and January 20th for everyone else; check website for details), it’s still worth heading up to Healdsburg before or after for a meal. Dry Creek Kitchen will be offering some of chef Valette’s favorite pork creations and pinot pairings in February, March, and April. Plan a Thursday night visit to score the “20 for $20” discount—20 specially selected bottles of local wine discounted to $20 per bottle for the night—or just bring your own favorite bottle of Sonoma wine to enjoy free corkage, anytime. Dry Creek Kitchen, Hotel Healdsburg, 317 Healdsburg Ave. between Matheson & North Sts., Healdsburg, 707-431-0330.