Europa Village Winery has earned a well-deserved reputation for hosting elegant, musical, wine-paired dinners—and their new season of dinners promises to continue to exceed expectations. There is really nothing else like these entertaining, exquisite events in the Temecula Valley Wine Country, which is located about an hour from almost anywhere in San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties.
The theme for this season is the Art of Cinema. Bev Stephenson, an owner and founder of Europa along with her husband, Dan, spoke at the beginning of the most recent dinner last week about how films tell stories that pull their audiences into the experience—just as a gourmet dinner with perfectly paired wines and inspiring entertainment pulls its guests into the experience.
Last week’s dinner theme was based on Cinema Paradiso, the famous 1988 film about a filmmaker who recalls his childhood when he learned to love movies at his small Sicilian village’s movie theater. The film, playing on a large screen while guests enjoyed their dinners, also served as a backdrop for the evening’s stellar performances by dancers from various local dance companies.
Bev herself started the evening’s entertainment with a lovely, lilting rendition of “As If We Never Said Good-bye,” originally sung by the character Norma Desmond in the much-celebrated musical, Sunset Boulevard. Throughout the evening, we enjoyed innovative and beautiful performances that reflected the drama and romance of film. The talented dancers were Julie Geary, from All That Jazz, Rachel Banta from The Ballet Studio, and Sean Kiralla, a professional dancer and choreographer.
Dr. Douglas Garman (known around Europa as Dr. Doug), Europa’s Wine Educator, spoke about the special Italian styled wines being served during dinner. He encouraged us to not just wash down our food with the wines but to really taste their nuances and special flavors as they were paired with the food.
The L’Antipasto course was graciously served in the C’est La Vie tasting room. The eggplant caponata crostini was delicious and enhanced by Europa’s lovely La Scappatella Sparkling Wine with its crisp, peachy effervescence. We then adjourned to the warm, welcoming atmosphere of Europa’s Italian wine cave where we were greeted with beautifully set tables. We first nibbled on Sadie Rose Bakery Asiago Batard, a delicious crusty bread served with an absolutely luscious maitre d’ butter made with shallots, parsley, chives and Vienza Pinot Grigio.
The Il Contorno course was my favorite dish of the evening—a colorful beet and watermelon salad with wild arugula accented by pistachios and ricotta cheese, all lightly bathed in a savory, chive, white truffle vinaigrette. This creative melding of flavors was nicely paired with the Vienza 2013 Pinot Grigio, which was fruit-forward with mellow hints of pear, lime and melon and a nice mineral finish.
Our Il Secondo course featured beef that had been roasted in Barbera and mixed with a tangy, tomato ragu, all served atop cheese-stuffed cannelloni and accompanied by roasted but still crisp Peltzer Farm vegetables, including butternut squash, carrots and haricot verts. This rich, flavorful dish needed a bold wine and the Vienza 2012 Barbera was ideal with its strong berry, spicy tastes and fresh acidity.
I love a cheese course and they are served so rarely nowadays. So I was happy to enjoy Chef Dean’s Formaggi E Frutta course of creamy Cambozola cheese served with a crostini and a bruleed fig sprinkled with raw sugar. The ruby-colored Vienza 2012 Primitivo was medium bodied, with tastes of black fruit and sweet spices that brought out the cheese and fig flavors.
Chef’s Dean’s delectable tiramisu was the glorious Il Dolce course of the evening and featured a short bread cookie (rather than the traditional lady finger) that had been soaked in espresso. And there was kahlua somewhere in this dish that really gave it a special, deep, rich taste. Made from a nice blend of Vermentino, Viognier and Muscat, an only slightly sweet, crispy Vienza 2012 Vanita was a wonderful accompaniment that contrasted nicely with the chocolate, coffee bean flavors.
There will be three more musical, wine-paired dinners this season. The next one is October 30 with the seasonably appropriate theme of Spain’s internationally famous Fancine Film Festival (at the University of Malagra), focusing on the genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Guests are encouraged to dress in their most scary, ghoulish attire. The cost is $85 per person ($75 for wine club members) and reservations can be made at the event section of Europa’s website or by calling 888-383-8767.