Terese and George Kemble of Saratoga were at the Pigs & Pinot Gala Saturday night at Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen. Each savored the 5-course pork-centric meal paired with 10 pinot noirs.
It was nothing less than a feast for pinot noir-lovers who crave all things pork – from pig’s tail to roasted pork belly and everything in-between.
Pigs & Pinot, in its 11th year, celebrates this delectable pairing. The festivities began Friday night with the Taste of Pigs & Pinot at Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen, drawing nearly 600 people.
There were plenty of highbrow pinots being poured and among them were Fire & Flood, Holdredge, Cirq and Black Kite.
Ingenuity with wine and food was in great supply. Dishes that were particularly inventive included Chef Dustin Valettes’s corn dog with a tasty dollop of pork belly inside, and Barn Diva’s quail eggs appetizer.
A highlight of the tasting was announcing the winner and runner up of the coveted Pinot Cup. While each plaque, with its gold winged pig prominent, is whimsical, it still stands for quality in pinot circles. The first place winner was O’Connell, 2014 O’Connell Vineyard Pinot Noir at $45. The runner up was Charlie Clay, 2013 Russian River Pinot Noir at $40.
As one of the judges on the panel, selecting the top two in the blind tasting took some restraint, considering the caliber of the 61 pinot noirs in the competition. Ben Pearson of Santa Rosa’s Bottle Barn and Master Sommelier Drew Hendricks of Kansas also sat on the panel.
O’Connell is a boutique winery in Sebastopol, while Charlie Clay hails from Healdsburg and is a collaboration between chef Charlie Palmer and vintner/winemaker Clay Mauritson.
The Kembles from Saratoga said they are long-time fans of Pigs & Pinot. They’ve been to the Taste event a total of four times, the Gala twice.
“We’re pinot noir-lovers,” Terese said with a broad smile. “George gave me tickets to Pigs & Pinot for my Christmas gift.”
The Kembles, like others, have made Pigs & Pinot a tradition, happy to partake in the goodwill mission.
Since its inception, Pigs & Pinot has raised more than $500,000 for more than 15 charities. They include Share our Strength, the Culinary Institute of America and The Sonoma State Wine Program, to name a few.
I saw the work that went on behind the scenes and a peek at the beneficiaries. This I can say without a doubt: This madcap pork and pinot mania serves the community well.