Pinot Noir & Pork Pairings
The allure of Pinot Noir and pork is more than alliterative.
They share a sweet succulence and smoky undertone. Bright in acidity, with medium tannins and a velvety texture, Pinot complements both pork’s lean and fatty cuts. Meanwhile, the wine’s subtle strawberry, cherry and raspberry notes play well with the other-white-meat’s favorite flavorings: the sweet, the savory and the tangy.
These two tablemates match each other so well, there’s a festival in Sonoma County devoted solely around celebrating this perfect union—aptly called Pigs & Pinot—where top chefs and sommeliers from around the world gather and try to one-up each other with pork-and-Pinot pairings.
To help you embrace this tasty wine-and-swine combination, we tapped three chefs from the upcoming festival to share their ultimate pork dish and its ideal partner.
With Pinot Noir-Braised Dried Cherries, Riz Rouge & Violet Mustard
Recipe courtesy Dustin Valette, chef de cuisine, Dry Creek Kitchen, Healdsburg, CA
1 pound bacon, skin off, whole slab
1 onion, peeled and diced small
1 fennel bulb, cut into eighths, reserving the fronds for garnish
1 garlic, whole head, cut in half
1 carrot, peeled and cut into eighths
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
5 cups fresh chicken stock
4 ounces Pinot Noir
1 ounce red wine vinegar
3 ounces dried cherries
2 ounces olive oil
2 cups Riz Rouge rice
1 cup white wine
½ cup toasted marcona almonds
2 pounds pork tenderloin
1 ounce violet mustard
Fleur de sel, for garnish
Season the bacon lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté in a large pan until it’s golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the bacon from the pan and place in a deep casserole dish.
Preheat an oven to 325˚F. Add half of the onions, as well as the fennel, garlic, carrots, thyme and coriander to the casserole dish.
Bring 2 cups of the chicken stock to a boil in a separate pot and pour over the bacon. Wrap with aluminum foil and cook for 1–2 hours, or until the bacon is tender. Once cooked, allow the belly to cool in the liquid overnight, then discard everything but the bacon.
In a medium-sized pot, bring the Pinot Noir and red wine vinegar to a boil, add the dried cherries and cook for 5 minutes at low heat. Reserve warm.
In a medium-sized pot, add the olive oil and sauté the rest of the diced onion. Once the onions become translucent, add the Riz Rouge rice and deglaze with the white wine. Add the remaining 3 quarts of chicken stock slowly and in small increments until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is tender. Remove the rice from heat and gently stir in the toasted almonds and cooked dried cherries. Reserve and keep warm.
Take the pork tenderloin and make a long slit down the center to make a hole inside without cutting through the sides (basically you’re making a sleeve). Take the pre-cooked bacon and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place the bacon inside the slit you just make in the tenderloin.
Season with salt and pepper and roast in a pan over medium heat until cooked to about 160˚F. Since the bacon is already cooked, it just needs to be heated through. Once the pork is cooked, reserve in a warm area.
Start plating by placing a line of the Riz Rouge in the center of the plate. Slice the cooked tenderloin, placing a couple of slices on top of the Riz Rouge, stacking one by one.
Put a couple of artistic dots of the violet mustard on the right side of the plate and sprinkle fleur de sel. Place the fennel fronds on top of the tenderloin and repeat with the remaining three plates. Serves 4.
Rippon 2010 Mature Vine Pinot Noir (Central Otago); $40
Rippon’s powerful Pinot from some of Central Otago, New Zealand’s oldest vines is tightly textured, expressive in black cherry fruit, cola and brown spices. Its fine tannins will stand up to the bacon and completely complement the dried cherries, with a hit of herb on the finish racing neck and neck against the violet mustard for most-delicious honors.
With Creamy Mascarpone Polenta and Warm Roasted Pepper Salad
Recipe courtesy Charlie Palmer, chef and owner, Dry Creek Kitchen
6 sea scallops
6 bacon strips
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into thick strips
2½ cups chicken stock
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon piment d’Espelette or paprika
¾ cup instant polenta
3 tablespoons mascarpone
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup dry white wine
4 large basil leaves, torn
Salt to taste
Wrap a strip of bacon around each scallop. Slide rosemary twigs or bamboo skewers into the scallops to secure the bacon and to make the scallops easier to turn when sautéing. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
Toast the garlic in the olive oil until light golden-brown, swirling the pan constantly. Add the peppers and season with salt to taste. Cook just long enough to heat the peppers through, then tip them onto a plate and set aside.
Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Season with salt and piment d’Espelette. Whisk in the polenta and cook for 10 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and fold in the mascarpone. Adjust the seasoning. Set aside, covered, until ready to serve. If the polenta cools, it will stiffen up. If this happens, reheat the polenta over low heat as you vigorously whisk in a little more stock to restore the creamy texture.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick sauté pan until smoking. Season the scallops (leave them on the skewers) with salt and pepper. Sear the scallops, and then reduce the heat to medium-high once they’ve begun to color around the edges.
Shake the pan gently so the oil gets under the scallops; this helps them sear and color evenly. Flip after 3 minutes and cook for 3 more minutes. Remove the scallops from the pan and keep in a warm place loosely tented with aluminum foil.
Pour the wine into the pan and simmer for 1 minute, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the peppers, and cook until the wine has fully reduced. Remove from heat and toss in the basil.
Spoon a pool of polenta onto heated plates. Lay a skewer of scallops over the polenta and then pull out the skewer. Serve the warm pepper salad on the side. Serves 2.
Soter Vineyards 2010 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir (Yamhill-Carlton District ); $55
The scallops call out for an elegantly structured Pinot from Oregon or the Sonoma Coast. The cooler imprint of these regions will impart a smattering of spicy pepper to the wines, subtly accenting the pepper salad without overpowering the delicacy of the scallop. Former California-based winemaker Tony Soter makes Pinot in Oregon these days. This one, from his estate vineyard, offers subtle richness and minerality, with scents of spice and sandalwood.
With Saffron-Tomato Stew and Crushed Fingerling Potatoes
Recipe courtesy Louis Maldonado, executive chef, Spoonbar, Healdsburg, CA
2 tablespoons toasted and crushed fennel seed
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons toasted and ground coriander
Zest of 2 lemons
10 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
3 racks of St. Louis style spare ribs
36 French fingerling potatoes
2 cloves garlic
5 bay leaves, divided
3 medium-sized yellow onions
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons minced shallot
3 tablespoons minced thyme
1 cup diced carrot
4 ounces Red Boat Fish Sauce
4 ounces white wine
6 cups peeled plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon saffron
Combine the fennel seed, Aleppo pepper, coriander, lemon zest and 6 tablespoons of kosher salt. Heavily season the spare ribs and let sit overnight. The next day, preheat an oven to 400˚F. Pull the ribs out early so they can temper, wrap each rack tightly with foil and put into the oven for 2 hours. Remove and loosely open the foil to release the heat. Let the ribs cool to room temperature, and then cut the ribs individually.
In a large pot filled with water, add the potatoes, garlic, 2 bay leaves and 4 tablespoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are tender. Allow the potatoes to cool in the water. Remove and individually smash each potato like a pancake. Set aside.
Cut the yellow onions in half. In a very hot cast-iron pan, burn the cut side until very black. In a large saucepot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic, shallots, thyme, carrot and 3 bay leaves. Sweat for 25 minutes, deglaze with the fish sauce and white wine and reduce until nearly dry (au sec in French). Add the tomatoes, burned onions and 1 cup of water, bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer. Add the saffron and continue to cook for 1 hour. Constantly check the seasoning and keep adjusting the salt.
In a large casserole, lay down the spare ribs and pour the tomato stew over them. Place the potatoes throughout and cover with foil. Bake at 375˚F for 45 minutes. Serve family style. Serves 6.
Rochioli 2011 River Block Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $72
To match the richness of the ribs and complexity of the saffron-tomato sauce, look for a velvety smooth, seductive Pinot from the Russian River Valley, like many by Rochioli, Merry Edwards or Kosta Browne. Rochioli’s River Block from the 2011 vintage has the appellation’s classic cola spice and mouth-coating wild cherry notes, with enough brightness and structure to remain interesting over many years.
- 2Bacon Lardon-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
- 3Bacon-Wrapped Scallops
- 4Fennel & Aleppo Pepper-Spiced Spare Ribs