The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2016

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44  /  the tasting panel  / july 2016 F or foodies, Cochon555 is like the Superbowl. Now in its seventh year, it's one of the best-known touring culinary competitions in North America. In ten different cities, each of five different locally beloved chefs cooks an entire heritage breed pig, and guests of the event vote for their favorite chef. So why are we talking about this in Virtuous Vine? It is the world's first "environmentally conscious nose-to-tail pig competition" and raises money for Piggy Bank, a charitable foundation that aims to create open- source agriculture for family farming. This year, one of its stops was at the Viceroy in Santa Monica, CA, and featured Chef Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, Bruce Kalman of Union, Jason Neroni of Rose Café, Brooke Williamson of Playa Provisions and returning cham- pion Walter Manzke of République. Cochon555 isn't just five different pigs prepared in the most creative ways imaginable. There were also cocktail stations and wine booths strategically located between the chefs' stations. Naturally, The Tasting Panel was just a tad more interested in the wine than the swine, and what hogged most of our time was the Wine of the World portion of the event, the Somm Smackdown. For this, five of the top sommeliers in each city champion a wine that they think pairs best with heritage breed pork, and a winner is also chosen. The line-up of high-caliber Angeleno somms included Nathaniel Muñoz of Rose Café, Fahara Zamorano of Viviane, Phillip Dunn of Spago, Jared Hooper of Faith & Flower and Sarah Clark of Mozza. Their selections, respectively: Château Guilhem Tournier 2011 Bandol Cuvée la Malissonne; Ruinart NV Rosé, Champagne; The Central Coast Group Project 2012 Names Syrah, White Hawk Vineyard, Santa Barbara County; Alain Michaud 2013 Brouilly Prestige de Vieilles Vignes; and Herman Story 2013 Nuts & Bolts Syrah, Paso Robles. All incred- ible contenders—especially since the wines for the event were donated by the wineries—but it was the newbie, The Central Coast Group Project's Names, that had most coming back for a second taste. The rich and savory Syrah could hold its own at even the most discerning gourmand's barbecue. Alas, the well-established Ruinart Rosé was determined the winner by a smaller panel. But still, says winemaker Scott Sampler, "When Phillip placed my Names Syrah on the list at Spago, it was humbling. He's a veteran, award- winning somm directing one of the best wine programs in the country. And I'm a brand new, relatively unknown Santa Barbara producer with an inaugural vintage under my belt. Then when he subsequently informed me that he had also selected Names to pour in a friendly competition among his peers, it was another level—like the Platonic Form of humbling. It's a great feeling when someone with Phillip's experience and palate believes in your work." At the end of the day, regardless of who wins, it's the good cause that triumphs. PHOTO COURTESY OF GALDONES PHOTOGRAPHY AND COCHON555 PHOTO COURTESY OF GALDONES PHOTOGRAPHY AND COCHON555 Wines of the World at Cochon555 FIFTY OF THE NATION'S TOP SOMMS PICK THEIR FAVORITE HERITAGE BREED PORK PAIRING PHOTO COURTESY OF GALDONES PHOTOGRAPHY AND COCHON555 Cochon555 at the Viceroy, in Santa Monica, CA. by Jessie Birschbach Phillip Dunn, Wine Director at Spago Beverly Hills.

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