As the top producers of wine in the United States, the world famous vineyards of Napa Valley are a popular destination for wine lovers and vacationers who want to enjoy this scenic locale. A truly memorable way to see the beautiful Napa Valley and its rich, winemaking history, is by taking the Napa Valley Wine Train.
The countryside of Napa Valley provides an abundant variety of things to do including touring the many wineries and lush vineyards, eating at one of the fine dining restaurants, shopping at quaint boutiques, and staying at luxury hotels, resorts and inns. But one of the most popular things to do in Napa is ride the famous Napa Valley Wine Train. Departing from downtown Napa, you journey along roughly 18 scenic miles of vineyards and rolling hills. It’s a unique experience and a chance to also enjoy one of the best Napa restaurants.
The Napa Valley Wine Train offers several lunch and dinner packages. In addition, they have partnered with some of the local hotels to offer “overnight getaways.” You can also enjoy a private tour and wine tasting as part of their winery tours. For the dinner tour, the train departs at 6:30 p.m. from the McKinstry Street Station in Napa. The train passes through the beautiful cities of Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and then St. Helena. The train rides through the heart of this famous wine region of California. After traveling about 18 miles north towards St. Helena, the train makes a brief stop before its return trip. In all, the 3 hour train ride covers 36 miles of picturesque landscapes.
As you first board the train to start your experience, it feels like you stepped back in time. The vintage rail cars have been carefully restored to their original beauty. The long line of train cars consist of a combination of 1915-17 Pullman dining cars and lounge cars, in addition to a 1952 Pullman Vista Dome car. One of the train’s cars is the unique Silverado Car. This saloon-style car has been fully restored. As the only car without air-conditioning, between the months of May and October you can enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch menu and slide open the car’s windows to take in the Napa Valley breeze. But what is most enjoyable is the unforgettable, culinary experience. Kelly Macdonald is an award-winning Executive Chef and he cooks each meal to order aboard the train. It’s the ideal way to combine wonderful tasting food and sipping fine wine from Napa Valley. If you are looking for an intimate and private dining experience with a view, consider booking your table in the Vista Dome Car. There you can enjoy a delicious 5-course meal and gaze out of the elevated observation windows and take in the stunning views of Napa Valley’s wine country. This luxury dining car has been meticulously refurbished with decor that utilizes stunning Honduran Mahogany paneling along with classic, brass accents.
Our multiple-course gourmet dinner included hors d’oeuvres of seasoned vegetables, grapes, artisan cheeses and finely cut meats and salmon. The first course was either a Baby Lettuce Salad or Soup du Jour. Next, we had a choice of four delicious entrees: Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Salmon Hash Brown, Pan Seared Bacon Wrapped Pork Medallion or Sweet Pea Raviolis. There is also a special of the day that changes over time. Every course was excellent and with the train rolling through the scenic Napa Valley, it made for a perfect occasion.
You can’t have a gourmet meal without pairing fine wine. There were many choices of local Napa wines to choose from, such as – Jericho Canyon “Creek Block” Cabernet Sauvignon 2009; Reata “Three County” Pinot Noir 2012; Castello di Amorosa Sangiovese 2010 and Swanson Pinot Gregio 2011.
After our dinner was complete, we were served a delicious Harlequin Sorbet that was made from the Wine Train’s own sorbets. Next we moved to the dessert car. We had two dessert choices to choose from: Chocolate Tiramisu and Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee. Yum! My wife and I both agree they were superb and the ideal way to end an exquisite meal.
The Napa Valley Wine Train also offers on board wine tasting for an additional fee and well worth it! You can choose 4 tastes at the wine bar from about 30 different boutique wines exclusively from Napa Valley. After wine tasting, as night fell, we returned to our plush swivel chairs and gazed out the large windows at the passing Napa Valley scenery.
If you plan to visit Napa and enjoy the Wine Train, be sure to plan ahead. It’s a very popular activity during the summer and fall months, when grape harvesting begins, so make your reservations early.
The Napa Valley Wine Train is truly an amazing experience and a unique chance to view the beautiful local scenery. I highly recommend it; it’s a true luxury experience you will never forget and a simply a terrific way to enjoy a gourmet meal and sip delicious, fine wines from Napa Valley. Enjoy the ride and take in the breathtaking Napa Valley scenery in a historic, yet elegant train. All aboard!
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