"On March 20-21, 2010, food and wine enthusiasts gathered at the beautiful Hotel Healdsburg and Dry Creek Kitchen as Chef Charlie Palmer welcomed visiting chefs Tyler Florence, Roland Passot, Bryan Voltaggio and Top Chef Pigs & Pinot challenge winner, Kevin Gillespie as well as winemakers Tony Soter, Paul Hobbs, Ben Papapietro, Michael Browne and Suzanne Chambers for a collaborative epicurean extravaganza benefit, Pigs & Pinot.
The sold-out weekend kicked off with Friday’s Taste featuring over 50 Pinot Noir tastings alongside small bites such as slow braised baby back ribs and carved hot ham from Charlie Palmer at the BBQ Rotisserie. Top Chef alumns Bryan Voltaggio served Tête pressée, kumquat jam, caper, crystal lettuce and cheese puff while across the green, Kevin Gillespie prepared Grilled pork belly with smoked peanut butter and marinated apples. Local Healdsburg restaurants were well represented, including Cyrus, which served a fan-favorite Pork Cheek Po Boys with Braised Cabbage and Green Garlic Mayo. Gala Chefs were joined by Charlie Palmer Group executive chefs including Amar Santana (Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s), Matt Hill (Charlie Palmer Steak DC), Scott Romano (Charlie Palmer at The Joule) and Dry Creek Kitchen Chef de Cuisine, Dustin Valette. Not to be missed was Dry Creek Kitchen pastry chef Yulanda Santos’ bacon maple donuts.
Guests savored the varied pig inspired bites and swirled bottomless glasses of pinot noirs while awaiting the results of the anticipated Pinot Cup. The renowned judging panel for Friday’s 2010 Pinot Cup —a blind tasting competition among 50 hand-picked Pinot Noirs— included Food & Wine’s Wine Editor, Ray Isle, The Press Democrat’s Virginie Boone and The Pinot File’s Rusty Gaffney. Taking top honors was Woodenhead Winery (for their 2007 Russian River Valley, Buena Tierra Vineyard, Pinot Noir) and runner up, Williams Selyem (for their 2007 Russian River Valley, Westside Road Neighbors Block, Pinot Noir).
On Saturday afternoon, Pigs & Pinot participants attended two seminars. At “Tournament Of The Pig,” held at Relish Culinary Adventures, Bryan Voltaggio and Kevin Gillespie with help from Chefs Matt Hill and Amar Santana, went head to head to prepare the best pork dishes from ingredients pre-selected from Dry Creek Kitchen. Charlie Palmer moderated while the judging panel including Tyler Florence, Roland Passot and Philippe Rispoli ultimately chose Kevin as the Tournament of the Pig winner in a close battle.
At the Ultimate Sommelier Smackdown Seminar, a “March-madness” style competition led by master sommeliers, Keith Goldston, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks, and William Sherer, each Master Sommelier entered his personal selection of four Pinot Noirs from around the world and then “pitched” the audience on why each was the best. Four heats later, the audience ultimately chose Kosta Browne, 2007 Koplen Vineyard Russian River Pinot Noir as the winner and Penner Ash, 2008 Dussin Vineyard Estate, Yamhill-Carlton District, Oregon, as the runner up.
Finally, the Pigs & Pinot five-course Gala Dinner was held at Hotel Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen. As a collaborative offering among the master chefs, each different course featured a signature creation from Palmer or one of his guest chefs, paired with limited-production pinot noirs from wineries Papapietro Perry (Pinot Cup 2009 winner), Paul Hobbs, Kosta Browne, Soter Vineyards and Domaine de L’Arlot. The camaraderie was just as strong in the kitchen as it was in the dining room, with each chef introducing his own course alongside his paired winemaker."