We barely had time to catch a couple of winks aboard NWA’s red eye flight out of Honolulu
before touching down at SFO and heading straight to the Ferry Building Marketplace and the
Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Why the rush to go grocery shopping? To find the freshest
produce and meat for the Pigs & Pinot event in Mill Valley. Didn’t Top Chef already air that
episode? Same name but different event. This one hosted by none other than one of the Two
Japanee Bruddahs with a simple invitation request; to bring one pork dish and a pork friendly
bottle of Pinot Noir. Finding a suitable Pinot Noir should be no problem at the Ferry Plaza
Wine Merchant but what dish do I create?...
I could have taken the simple path and simply purchased product from Boccalone Salumeria
where Chef Cosentino is known for producing “Tasty Salted Pig Parts”. However cured pork
products are usually a little too robust for Pinot Noir. Though Pinot pairs with a wide range of
foods, salted pork products usually aren’t one of them. Think robust fish, any white meat
including pork, chicken or (gasp) rabbit along with a bevy of hearty vegetables… you get the
idea. How about stuffed pork tenderloin with roasted spuds? Pork tenderloin, check. Assorted
fresh mushrooms, check. Fresh thyme, check. Fingerling potatoes, check. Porchetta sandwich,
check. Wait a minute, what’s the porchetta sandwich for? Lunch silly, ok check.
California Pinot Noir
As I highlighted in a column several years ago, Pinot Noir is a fickle grape variety that’s prone
to genetic mutation over time. While it can grow in most wine producing areas, it tends to only
produce great wine in marginal growing conditions where the south facing slopes give just
enough sun exposure for sugar ripening but cool breezes allow for physiological maturity. In
California, the major growing areas are the Central Coast including the Santa Lucia Highlands
and farther north in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Both provide cool offshore
breezes that delay sugar ripening and allow the grape to develop physiological characteristics like
phenolic flavor components and acid that is necessary for great Pinot Noir wine.
I find that the wines of the Central Coast tend to have richer flavor profiles and fruit
concentration with loads of spice including Asian spice in their flavor profiles than their
northern cousins. If you enjoy Syrah and Zinfandel, these are the Pinot Noirs for you. These
wines are as hearty as Pinot Noir gets and can pair with rich pork dishes including cassoulet.
With Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast Pinot, it’s more about terroir and finesse. These
wines are usually lighter in color but balanced on the palate with a pleasing balance of earth,
fruit, acid and tannin. If you enjoy Champagne and white wines, these are the Pinots for you.
Oregon Pinot Noir
Still farther up the continent is another hotbed of Pinot Noir; the Willamette Valley of
Oregon. As California wine prices started to climb in the early 90s, Oregon wines were initially
seen as a cost-friendly alternative. Maybe not as good as California wine but a lot more
affordable. Today the quality of Oregonian wines, especially Pinot Noir rivals those in the
Golden State. Unfortunately the cost has also followed suit where great California and Oregon
Pinot Noir will set you back the same dinero. Oh well. Oregonian Pinot Noir seems to sit right
between the flavor profiles of Central Coast and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. A little more
concentrated than Sonoma Coast wines but a little more terroir than Central Coast wines.
Alternative Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir also is grown in New Zealand and Germany with New Zealand surprisingly producing
rich, fruit forward wine (surprising because the Central Otago region of New Zealand is as cold
as grape vines tolerate making Chicago look balmy) while Germany expectedly produces a
lighter, perfumy wine due to the extreme climate there. I could elaborate further but that’s
material for another column.
2007 Peay Scallop Shelf Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
One of my top 3 favorites, very nice balance of fruit, earth, acid and tannin with a seamless flow
across the palate.
2006 Anthill Farms Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Finesse on the nose and palate and very food friendly.
2004 Whitcraft Winery Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Also about finesse more than concentration with earthier terroir and a touch more spice.
NV Jean Vesselle Oeil de Perdrix Brut
Not pure Pinot Noir but pure Pinot (Noir and Meunierre that is).
2006 Aubert UV Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
A perennial favorite of mine. A perfect marriage of old world Burgundian restraint and new
world fruit centered flavor. Seamless on the palate!
2005 Roco Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Rich, concentrated fruit with hints of mineral.
2006 Elk Cove Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
A little more restrained that usual Oregonian Pinot with semi-dried red fruit, a touch of
mineral and a nice finish
2007 Joseph Swan Vineyards Cuvee de Trois Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Another of the top three faves with a nice balance of fruit, acid and silky tannin and very food
2005 Siduri Gary’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Rich, ripe concentrated fruit with loads of Asian spice and a long finish.
How did my creation turn out?
For starters, it was a treat to finally be able to shop at the Farmers Market during our brief
vacation here. We always pay homage to the Ferry Building Marketplace but are usually left a
bit… unfulfilled after leaving knowing that all we can do is “window shop” at the Farmers
Market. I don’t think the staff at the Kabuki Hotel wants us using their kitchen to cook
seasonal mushrooms and produce and baking with fresh cheese and butter. However the Japanee
Bruddah’s ample kitchen allowed us the “luxury” of purchasing AND cooking the bounty of the
I first purchased a couple of pork tenderloin from the Golden Gate Meat Company – I originally
intended on procuring my pork from an independent Farmers Market vender but $40 plus for a
2 pound tenderloin!... I then picked up several pounds of mixed fresh mushrooms from Far West
Fungi – shiitake, crimini, oyster, etc then some fresh herbs – mainly thyme and parsley – from a
Farmers Market vender. Lastly I intended on roasting mixed fingerling potatoes (from another
Farmers Markey vender) and mushrooms coated in cured pork fat (lardo from Boccalone) or
artisanal bacon (to keep within the Pork theme) but decided that too much pork fat might be
too much of a good thing and left discretion as the better part of valor (I settled on extra virgin
olive oil). The pan sautéed mushroom stuffed pork tenderloin with simple pan reduction sauce
served with roasted fingerling spuds and mushrooms I believe lived up to the Pork & Pinot
theme adequately… but you’ll have to ask guests that were present.
Pigs & Pinot