Napa Valley Wine Train

One of the most fabulous things we did while in California was take a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train. While we’re certainly not oenophiles, I do enjoy a nice glass (or two) with a nice meal, and you all know how much Alex likes trains, so it seemed like a nice activity.

Luckily for us the weather was lovely. Clear blue skies and a warm breeze made it the perfect day to drive up from San Francisco to Napa. There was a ferry/bus option, but it would have meant leaving San Fran at 7:30 in the morning for an 11:30 train departure, which just sounds ridiculous. So instead we did the typical middle-American thing and drove. It was strange having a car again, after living car-free here in London for more than a year. And I have to admit, in certain situations it makes sense. Overall though, it affirmed for me that our choice of lifestyle is the right one for us.

But back to the wine train!  Yes, it’s a train, and yes, there’s a lot of wine. The furnishings onboard are lovely (we overheard one gentleman raving about the solid brass accessories… “Hey look Jerry, this isn’t any of that cheap plated crap!”) There was definitely a historical ambience to the experience, while I greatly enjoyed. I wish the train would make a loop instead of simply out and back on the same track, but Alex said I was asking too much!

We were served an appetizer in the lounge car, which had nice comfy seats facing the windows so we could enjoy the view. Unfortunately, for the first 30 minutes or so, the view consists of trashy back alleys and dirty roads of suburban Napa.  Then we finally emerged into the vineyards.

Alex and I took the opportunity to walk through the train to the Sampling Carriage, where we tried 5 different wines for only $10. We learned that Alex likes the really dry whites, while I like the really sweet ones. I tried a Riesling that was just lovely. Alex was taken by a bottle labeled “Conundrum”, because no one knows what kind of grapes are used to make it!

The wine train schedule is a bit complicated. There are lots of different ticketing options, including a BBQ car popular with kids, a regular dining menu, and a fancy dining option. There was also an exclusive ticket for the glass-topped car!  They shuffle people around in large groups, based on tickets, in order to get everyone into the dining cars at the right time. But it didn’t feel chaotic at all, and everything went quite smoothly.

For lunch, I had beef and Alex had chicken. It was pretty complicated, but tasted delicious.

The only complaint I have about the whole experience is that none of the wine was included in the ticket price — so you end up paying quite a lot for the train, and then paying even more to drink anything!  I think they should offer at least a glass or two with your meal.

The scenery out the window was lovely, although most vineyards tend to look the same after awhile.  I’m glad we took the time to go up to Napa, but I don’t think it’s going to be high on our list of places to visit again.  On the way back to San Fran we briefly drove through Sonoma, and that looked like a lovely little town with a more historic town centre.

The view out the window on the wine train.



The dining car.


Posted on 16/02/2011, in travel, Travel to the States and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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