Napa Valley Wine Train
Highlight in San Francisco
The Napa Valley Wine Train combines a distinctive dining experience with an atmospheric journey through California’s wine country, with plenty of treats in store for wine connoisseurs, foodies and nostalgia fans.
California’s Napa Valley offers many delights for the discerning traveller from a choice of top class wineries to luxurious spa retreats. But whatever your tastes, discovering the scenic landscape of wine country aboard an antique train with a tipple of the region’s finest is an unforgettable experience for any visitor.
The Wine Train evokes the glamour of luxury train travel at the start of the twentieth century with its nine vintage rail cars, consisting of lounge, dining and observation cars. It is a treat for nostalgia buffs and fans of classic movies involving train station romances – this reviewer confesses to shedding a tear over Brief Encounter on more than one occasion.
Several packages are available and we opted for the Castle Winery tour, which consists of a three-course gourmet lunch aboard the train and – with a romantic twist – a wine tasting at “Castello di Amorosa”, the “castle of love”.
We boarded at 11am onto a heritage dining carriage complete with pristine white tablecloths and large windows that promised stunning views to come.
The train meanders northwards from Napa at a leisurely pace through the towns of Yountville, Rutherford and Oakville towards St Helena and skirts many of the region's notable vineyards and wineries. A glass of wine on board the train is included with the tour, as well as later tastings at the Castle.
It is advisable to have a light breakfast as the maître d' begins to serve soon after the train glides out of Napa station at 11:30am. For a starter, we opted for baby lettuce salad with candied walnuts and smoked goat’s cheese in a honey cider vinaigrette along with a tasty tomato soup.
My main comprised of salmon hash brown with sweet peas and sautéed kale in a lemon-thyme sauce while my companion chose roasted beef tenderloin on black truffle cake with parsnip chips and cambozola cheese. Both courses come with wine recommendations. All food is prepared with seasonal ingredients and is locally sourced by chef Kelly MacDonald.
For dessert, we moved to a lounge car where we shared – and scoffed – a delicious crème brûlée and a sinfully indulgent chocolate brownie. Coffee and tea is included in the meal. Outside, views of lush valleys and vineyards drifted by in hues of amber and green to provide an idyllic backdrop to the perfect lunch date.
We disembarked at St Helena around 1pm where a motorcoach brought us towards Castello di Amorosa, a spectacular replica of a 13th century Tuscan castle that looms over the hills.
Built over a 15-year period by winemaker Dario Sattui, owner of V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena, California, the winery spans 30 acres of estate vineyards and is surrounded by high walls with five defensive towers. As befits an authentic castle, it even boasts a torture chamber to satisfy wine aficionados in a ghoulish frame of mind.
After an entertaining tour of the Castle, we were treated to a wine tasting in the cellar that included the vineyard’s speciality, a rich and fulsome Cabernet Sauvignon. Afterwards, the motorcoach returned us to Napa train station at 4pm, where we emerged into the haze of Californian sunshine – a little tipsy perhaps – but definitely enlivened by a unique train journey.
Muireann Bolger is a journalist based in London, Cambridge and Ireland who has travelled extensively to South Asia, mainland Europe and the US.
|Reviewer's Rating||★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Type||Culture / Sightseeing|
The Wine Train offers an atmospheric treat for vintage lovers and fans of Americana. During the journey, guests can explore the train and take a trip into the past as the rail cars are designed to reflect the design aesthetics of different eras. Built in the early 1900s, they have been meticulously restored with Honduran mahogany, brass fittings, etched glass partitions and velveteen fabric armchairs. The Vista Dome Car is an elevated observation car that evokes a classic 1950’s-style interior, while the open-rail Silverado car has been remodelled to resemble the saloons of a Hollywood Western. You can also pop into the kitchen car to see the chef in action.
Lunch and dinner packages range from $99- $144 (£61-£89) per person, while winery tour packages range from $139-$234 (£86-£145) per person.
Last updated on 02-11-2013