I have mixed feelings about school fund-raisers: On the one hand, like most parents, I have kids in public schools that fall chronically short of financial resources; on the other, I believe that I already pay more than enough in taxes to expect a properly funded system of public education, that the root of the problem is not the quantity of money available, but rather the means by which it is allocated. In any case, that I am expected to contribute mas coin by way of cheesy gift wrap, inedible chocolate, and the inevitable annual auction remains a truism of my association with public and private education alike, and why, on the morning after our Pigs ‘n Pinot fund-raising dinner, I am hungover, fat, and happy all the same.
I didn’t need to study economics to figure out that I’m far more likely to enjoy what I purchase willingly at auction – presumably, something I actually wanted – than something, like those interminable chocolate bars, that I receive in exchange for what is really just a donation. So, when the dedicated parents of Westside USD put on their annual auction in support of our school’s arts programs (the 2011 event will be at the new Coppola wine center and open to the public – dude, check it out!), I like to step up to the plate, drop some money on the cause, and walk off with some sweet swag. Typically, that means wine (when your kids go to school in the heart of the Russian River Valley AVA, it’s hard not to), but – for us – it also means buy-in dinners, dinners attended by parents we know and love, hosted by the outstanding chefs and winemakers whose kids also attend our school, and at which we not only get to eat and drink like Romans, but get to feel good about doing so.
These buy-ins are always great events but this year, in a Kung Fu Panda-like display of epic awesomeness, Robert Conard of C. Donatiello Winery and Alex Davis of Porter Creek Winery hosted a Titanic feast of wild boar and more fine Pinot Noirs than I’m physically able to recall. (I mean that literally: I have notes on “only” 8 Pinots and 4 Chards, but I’m as certain as anyone who’s tried the better part of two cases’ worth of different bottles can be that I tasted at least another half-dozen wines.) If you’re any sort of food and wine buff, then you don’t need me to point out the effortless affinity that Pinot Noir shows for tasty bits of pig. But for me to say that Pinot “pairs” with wild boar would be like Reese’s saying that chocolate “pairs” with peanut butter, or that you “pair” with the person you will marry: True, but wholly inadequate. No, Pinot Noir doesn’t match wild board so much as it enrobes it, as much a textural sensation – like the great wines of Pommard, an iron fist in a velvet glove – as one of flavor, the sauvage of the grape echoing the unmistakably wild, guttural impression of the animal itself. So whether you join us for next year’s dinner or not, please do this: Get some wild boar sausage, crack one of Alex’s Pinots, and tell me what you think.
The wines deserve their own discussion, and once the Advil and coffee clear my head, I’ll try to offer some reflections in a future post; but I can’t leave this thread without a special nod to Alex, who, as if by some perfectly proximal flash of foodie Karma, wove the wine, the pig, and our daughters’ school into the single fabric of our meal. That probably sounds a bit kitschy, but bear with me: You see, our children all go to school together on Westside Road; Westside Road abuts the vineyard, farmed by Alex, that grew the grapes that he fermented into his elegant and richly textured Fiona Hill bottling; and it was on his property, on Westside Road, that Alex killed the wild pig that died for my dinner, and for our school. It is not inconceivable that the very boar I ate for dinner first fertilized the soil that grew our wine and even, in some small way, leached its way into the groundwater that supplies the fountain from which my daughter drinks after tether ball at recess.