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The Peter Franus wine dinner at Elway's Downtown catered equally to vegetarian and omnivore palates

Winemaker Peter Franus holds a journalism degree from the University of California at Berkeley -- and his collegiate proximity to Napa Valley ended up being pivotal to his career choice, which is winemaking. His first wine, a zinfandel, was produced in 1987, and Franus has been creating delicious wines ever since.

Last night, Elway's Downtown hosted a special wine dinner featuring Franus's beverages -- and Franus himself -- and chef Robert Bogart created a host of seasonal dishes, meat-laden and vegetarian, that paired beautifully with those wines, which Elway's sommelier Jeff Reebie described as having elements of balance, elegance and harmony.

Flip the page for a peek at what we ate.

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The first course was a seared sea-scallop grapefruit arugula salad, paired with a fruity, smooth sauvignon blanc. The vegetarian version used round scoops of avocado in place of the scallops.

(There were some technical difficulties with the camera that were later resolved, but you can get an idea of how beautiful the plate presentation was.)

The second course comprised seared duck breast, butternut squash croquette and plum demi, paired with an oaky, delightful merlot. Franus mentioned Warren Buffet's advice to "get into something as everyone else is getting out," and there were mutters around the table about how Sideways "killed" merlot. This example, however, was balanced and approachable. In the vegetarian version, Bogart replaced the seared duck with tender grilled tofu. The main event featured a delectable 2005 blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot paired with a flat iron steak, parsnip puree and Brussels hash. The veggie offering kept the parsnip puree and Brussels hash, and replaced the steak with marinated, grilled mushroom -- oftentimes a lazy meat replacement, but in this case, the flavor and texture of the mushroom were amazing. The final course was blackberry honey pops with chocolate chamayo -- thin slices of blackberry ice, paired with a restrained, elegant zinfandel.

Delightful.

Franus himself was a fabulous dinner companion; the party was small enough that he could speak with everyone individually, and he is charming, knowledgeable and approachable. He'll be at the Costco at 7900 West Quincy Avenue in Littleton from noon to 5 p.m. today and tomorrow; learn more about his wine at www.franuswine.com.

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