It was truly a Bella Notte—a “beautiful night” at the Europa Village Winery in the Temecula Valley Wine Country in Southern California, where the winery’s first musical, internationally-themed wine dinner of the fall season took place recently. Europa holds these wine pairing dinners occasionally and they are always exceptional events.9008797876?profile=original

We were with friends from Nebraska who had never before experienced the magic of a wine country evening with such luscious food, exquisite wine, and musical entertainment from the winery’s “singing waiters.” Needless to say, they were very impressed, as we always are at these Europa dinners.

The food was prepared by Europa’s Executive Chef, Dean Thomas, and it was superb, reflecting the Italian focus of the evening. Wines were introduced by the winery’s charismatic and knowledgeable sommelier, Stefano Buttò.9008798070?profile=original

We started with an “L’Antipasto” of skewered prosciutto and melon in Europa’s charming, French-themed tasting room. This sweet and salty treat was nicely paired with a crispy, fruity Vienza 2012 Pinot Grigio that had hints of green apples.

Next we adjourned to the adjacent “wine cave” where tables were beautifully set with bright fall flowers and sparkling candles, adding to the romantic ambiance of the evening. The “Il Contorno” course featured a “Triple A” salad of apple, almonds and arugula, accented by sea salt and roasted fig with ricotta. We enjoyed this course with Europa’s light but flavorful Vienza 2012 Vermentino, which was crispy with nice minerality.

The "Il Secondo" course featured rich and delicious pork and spinach cannelloni served with a fennel sauce, pesto ricotta, roasted zucchini and baby heirloom tomatoes. The accompanying clear red Vienza 2011 Barbera perfectly complemented this course with bold tastes of cherries, strawberries, nutmeg and vanilla.

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The finalé of the evening was the “Il Dolce” course, a delectable apricot and thyme semifreddo, a frozen mousse-like dessert served with preserved balsamic rhubarb that had been simmered in Europa wine (of course). We learned from Stefano that when you pair a wine with a dessert it should be at least as sweet as the dessert and this was the case with the newly released Vienza 2012 Vanitá, a blend of Muscat, Canelli, Viognier, and Vermentino, which enhanced the dessert with its sweet floral notes.

These dinners are particularly special because of the talented singers from Temecula’s Fine Arts Ballet Theatre, founded by Bev Stephenson, who with her husband, Dan, is a founder of Europa Village Winery. This evening’s singers were John Campbell, Katie Pavao and Josh Pudleiner. Among many wonderful songs for a romantic night in the wine country, John sang in his rich baritione “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Strangers in the Night.” Katie’s soaring and wide-ranging soprano voice entranced us with “Que Sera Sera” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” Josh, who is currently performing at Temecula Old Town Community Theatre as the lead in “Pippin,” sang in his vibrant tenor “That’s Amore” and the theme song of the evening, “Bella Notte” (This is the Night) from “Lady and the Tramp.” At one point, the guests joined the singers in a rousing rendition of “Volare.” The music distinguishes these dinners from other nights out with good food and wine, and the guests this evening savored every second of these performances.9008798890?profile=original

The next musical wine dinner will be held on Thursday, November 14, with a European Amuse Bouche theme, featuring the wine, cuisine, and song of France, Spain and Italy. There are still some tickets remaining for this glorious night. To purchase tickets go to Europa Village Winery’s website or call 888-383-8767.

Europa Village Winery is only about an hour’s drive from most places in Riverside, San Diego and Orange Counties. And if you want to linger and sip for a while, you can always stay at the lovely Inn at Europa Village overnight and the next morning savor one of Chef Dean’s delectable breakfasts made from local, seasonal ingredients.

On the winery’s website you can also find out about becoming a member of Société Europa, which will give you many benefits, including special wine shipments (or pick-ups), complimentary wine in the tasting room, complimentary parties for members, and discounts on wine and gift purchases, plus discounts on events such as the wonderful musical wine dinners.

We love all the wine country music—the rock, jazz, blues and country—but there is nothing like hearing the classic old favorites while enjoying stellar wine and gourmet cuisine. Europa’s musical dinners are a not-to-be-missed experience.