Event: Pigs & Pinot 2013


This past weekend, downtown Healdsburg witnessed the 2013 Pigs & Pinot benefit celebration, a lineup of food and wine seminars, tastings and cook-offs, with all net proceeds benefiting an impressive range of scholarships and charities (including: Sonoma County children’s sports teams like the Healdsburg Bulldogs,  Share Our Strength, Russ’s Kitchen Project, and scholarships to the Culinary Institute of America and the wine program at Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics.)

Begun as a gala dinner eight years ago, this benefit event has grown into a two-day extravaganza, with associated events and special offers lasting the entire month and beyond.  Chef Charlie Palmer hosted the charitable event at Hotel Healdsburg and its restaurant, Dry Creek Kitchen. This year, it showcased 60 wineries and more than 20 chefs.

This year’s featured chefs included:

  • Elizabeth Falkner, chef/owner of Krescendo, Brooklyn
  • Dean Fearing, chef/partner of Fearing’s Restaurant, Dallas
  • Jose Garces, chef/owner of Garces Restaurant Group
  • Craig Stoll, chef/owner of Delfina Restaurant Group, San Francisco

This year’s featured winemakers were:

  • Brian Maloney of De Loach Vineyards;
  • Caroline Parent of Domaine A.F. Gros;
  • Michael Brown of Kosta Browne
  • Lee Martinelli of Martinelli Winery
  • Victor Gallegos of Sea Smoke

Hotel Healdsburg

Kicking off the event on Friday evening, 60 highly-acclaimed Pinot Noir wines from Sonoma County and around the world competed in the Pinot Cup competition. These tastings were served alongside a variety of pork dishes created by Chef Palmer and Dry Creek Kitchen Chef de Cuisine Dustin Valette, guest chefs, and local Healdsburg restaurants. The winning wine will be featured in several post-event dining menus.  Other events included a silent auction, a pinot smackdown, a gala dinner, Spoonbar’s swine and wine dinner, and the tournament of the pig!

Taste of Pigs & Pinot Silent Auction
Friday evening, Hotel Healdsburg’s Event Green hosted this silent auction. Items available for auction this year included a collection of award-winning pinot noirs, a private dinner at Hotel Healdsburg, a guided winery tour with two-night luxury accommodations for six.  (All proceeds from the event were donated directly to the beneficiaries.)

Ultimate Pinot Smackdown
Saturday afternoon on Hotel Healdsburg’s Event Green, master sommeliers Keith Goldston, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Michael Jordan each brought four favorite Pinots. Guests enjoyed the opportunity to sample their wares and vote on the winner. During the tasting, the sommeliers regaled the tasters with the virtues of their wines, and no small amount of abuse toward their competitors—all good-natured, of course.

Ultimate Pinot Smackdown in progress

Gala Dinner
Saturday evening’s Pigs & Pinot Gala featured a sumptuous five-course dinner at Hotel Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen. Each course was a signature creation from Palmer and his guest chefs, paired with limited-production Pinot Noirs from highly acclaimed wineries. After the dinner, the Pigs & Pinot Late Night celebration offered after-dinner drinks and dessert in the Hotel Healdsburg lobby to all Pigs & Pinot celebrants.

Spoonbar’s Swine and Wine Dinner
Saturday evening, this casual-chic four-course meal from Executive Chef Louis Maldonado and several guest chefs featured wines from two acclaimed Sonoma County Pinot Noir producers, Cobb Wines and VML. The evening began with an artisanal cocktail from Spoonbar’s ingenious mixologist Daniel “Cappy” Sorentino followed by four distinct courses, featuring locally-raised pork, vegetables, and (of course) Pinot Noir, all local.

Tournament of The Pig (Charlie Palmer & Guest Chefs)
Late Saturday, Relish Culinary Adventures hosted a competitive event. Two teams of chefs, each using only a whole pig and ingredients from Dry Creek Kitchen, attempted to make the ultimate dish, with the winner determined by a panel of judges.

Even though this year’s Pigs and Pinot weekend is past, the celebration continues at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen  and Hotel Healdsburg. Charlie Palmer and the team at Hotel Healdsburg and Dry Creek Kitchen have created a variety of other ways to celebrate heralded Pinot Noirs, Sonoma wines, and delectable pork pairings in the form of weekend-stay hotel packages, winemaker’s dinners and menu specials.

I had a wonderful time, and I recommend you check it out next year.

Article and photos by Jim Marcolina