Napa Valley Wine Train
Step back in time and experience dining in a 1915-1917 Pullman dining car or a 1952 Vista Dome car. Tours are available during lunch or dinner and some tours involve stops at wineries. The Napa Valley Wine Train travels along tracks laid in the 1860’s leading to the resort town of Calistoga. Now the tracks to Calistoga no longer exist, however the section of tracks through Napa Valley still remain mostly unchanged since the nineteenth century.
Samuel Brannan founded the town of Calistoga and built a resort. He use to take people from San Francisco to Calistoga by horse and buggy. Because of bandits, he built the railway in the 1860’s. He sold the railroad and through the years the railroad had different owners. In 1984 Southern Pacific sold the property and abandoned the railroad line. A group of Napa Valley residents wanted to preserve the line and sought investors. Vincent DeDomenico, of Rice-A-Roni fame as well as former owner of Ghirardelli Chocolate and Golden Grain Pasta, came forward with the funds to buy the line. Vincent DeDomenico became the Wine Train’s President and CEO and the WIne Train began purchasing antique cars. The first ride as the Napa Valley Wine Train was in September of 1989.
Claudia Tata, wine educator, gave an energetic brief presentation. She included some of the history of the railroad line through Napa Valley and the wine train. During the introduction two wines were tasted. Claudia briefly mentioned the steps of a structured ta sting. The first wine was a Brassfield Estates Serenity. The straw color wine was a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer. There were tropical fruits on the aroma and taste while the crisp finish added some citrus hints. Flat Bed Red by Tudal Family Winery was a Zinfandel with a bit of Cabernet Franc. The ruby colored wine offered red berry fruit on the aroma and taste and had very light tannins on the fruity finish. After the wines were tasted we were called to proceed to the train in groups.
We proceeded to a Pullman car and had an assigned table. Tables were set for two to four people. After settling in at the table we were asked to choose one of two items for the first course, one of six items for the entrée course and one of two items for the third course. Our first course was a salad including baby lettuce, candied walnuts and smoked goat cheese with a honey cider vinaigrette. All the flavors melded together nicely and by the time we finished the first course the train was rolling through the town of Napa. Prior to the second course, the train was reaching wine country with vineyards on either the left or right of the cars. The entrée course was grilled swordfish on a bed of spinach and potatoes.
For our dessert course we were asked to go to a dessert car. Walking on a moving train takes a little time to adjust your balance. A couple cars later we were able to adjust to the swaying of the train. In the dessert car we sat in lounge chairs facing the window and vineyards. During the first half of the trip, the train passed through the towns of Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and St Helena. At St. Helena, the train stopped while the engine reversed positions from the front to the back of the train for the return trip.
During the return trip we made our way past the kitchen to the wine bar. The kitchen was small and busy as the team prepared meals. With the swaying of the train, the kitchen staff was kept busy preparing meals for the passengers. A couple cars later, we reached the car with a wine bar where we sampled a few wines.
The 2010 ZD Pinot Noir was a ruby color with cherries on the aroma and taste. There was also a hint of cocoa on the taste. Mild tannins on the finish were accompanied by cherries and a hint of minerals. The 2009 Big Vine Cabernet Sauvignon was a ruby color with black fruit on the aroma. The taste had black cherries and spice while the finish had bold tannins and was very fruity. A 2008 Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon was also ruby with jammy fruit on the aroma. The taste offered black cherries and black berries while the finish had very bold tannins.
The train passed Turnbull Wine Cellars along the trip from Napa to St. Helena and back. It was delightful to sample a wine while passing the vineyards where the grapes were grown. Whether you are a wine enthusiast or not, a trip aboard the wine train is a memorable experience through a world renowned wine region.
Napa Valley Wine Train
1275 McKinstry Street
Napa, California 94559
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