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Love and romance in the wine country

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It’s hard to imagine a more romantic and unique Valentine’s Day celebration for lovers than what took place last weekend at Europa Village Winery located in the Temecula Valley Wine Country about an hour from San Diego, Riverside or many parts of Orange County. Orchestrated by the winery’s Executive Chef, Dean Thomas, the four-course meal was exquisite, as his meals always are, especially when paired with wonderful Europa wines.

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But making the evening even more special was the play presented cabaret style as the meal progressed. Titled “Immortal Beloved, Love Letters for a Lifetime,” and beautifully created by Beverly Stephenson, this inspiring production featured excerpts from love letters that famous men and women throughout history wrote to their loved ones.

We heard dramatic readings from letters written by such well known personalities as Ernest Hemingway, Napoleon, Georgia O’Keeffe, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Oscar Wilde, John Adams, Lord Byron, Wolfgang Mozart, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Theodore Roosevelt. These heartfelt readings were interspersed with passionate love songs. The actors who read the letters and sang the love songs with deep feeling were Stacey Krause, Sean Kiralla, Ashlyn Mayo, John Campbell, Tysa Slad, Sean Sheldrake, TD Daniel Baca and Beverly Stephenson. It was an innovative and enjoyable production, which set the perfect tone for a magical Valentine’s Day evening.

And now to the other highlights of the evening—the food and wine. As we mingled in our festive holiday attire in Europa’s charming tasting room with its aura of France, we were served delicious smoked oysters (well known as an aphrodisiac), and fingerling potatoes topped with crème fraiche and caviar served on a spoon. These gourmet appetizers were enhanced by an elegant La Scappatella Sparkling Wine.

We then entered the atmospheric cave for our dinner. Tables were beautifully set with glistening china and centerpieces of flickering candles imparting a warm glow, all accented by splashes of red. As we sipped Europa’s fruity and balanced C’est La Vie 2012 Viognier, we savored lobster ravioli in a fennel sauce and served with a crunchy apple slaw.

But the most outstanding dish of the evening was the tender, flavorful, java-rubbed beef tenderloin served with chanterelle mushrooms, truffled parsnips, haricots vert and garlic roasted tomatoes. This savory dish was ideally matched with a full-bodied C’est La Vie 2011 Syrah full of black fruit tastes that brought out the deep rich flavors of this special entrée.

As the meal was served, we were able to pleasantly pause a few times as we enjoyed the eloquent readings, but finally it was time for dessert—a luscious, white chocolate, passion fruit mousse served with “estate” pomegranates and banana brulee. This scrumptious dessert was enhanced by a Vienza 2012 Vanita, a crispy, sweet blend of muscat, viognier, and vermentino.

We are never disappointed at Europa after an evening of wonderful food, wine and theatrical presentations. We also appreciated the gift of a special CD of famous love songs. To find out what’s coming up at Europa next (and there’s always something going on) go to Europa Village Winery’s website.