If you would have asked me a couple of years ago, “Do you ever think you’ll ride a steam train through California and drink wine?” I’d have sighed wistfully in your direction and said, “One can dream.” That, my friends, was my general feeling upon boarding the Napa Valley Wine Train.
I will back up a bit first: did you even know there was a Napa Valley Wine Train? Because I surely didn’t. My ingenue ears had never heard such a glorious phrase before, until my good friend and fellow blogger Chelsea — a tried-and-true Bay Area gal — invited me along to experience the Napa Valley Wine Train firsthand.
My curiosity piqued — I mean, trains and wine, whose curiosity wouldn’t be — we embarked on a gloriously-hot day in April from Napa station.
There are a variety of tour choices for your Napa Valley Wine Train experience, depending on the wineries you want to visit. Ours was the Collective Tour, which wonderfully included:
6 Hour Rail Tour of Napa Valley
Tastings at 3 Wineries (St. Supery Estate, Beringer Winery and Raymond Vineyards)
4-Course Napa style meal
First things first, though, we were firstly greeted with a glass of sparkling bubbles, because nothing says “Welcome to Wine Country” quite like drinking at 10 am.
We took our seats and set off for our first winery of the day, steam train choo-chooing along rolling hills and rows of vines. When the train reaches its winery destination, everyone booked into your tour will disembark the train. You’re immediately whisked away to a smaller van that takes you to your respective winery. You’re given a time to return to the van, allowing you to sip and amble at your own leisure.
Essentially how this works is: you visit wineries, and inbetween each visit, you have a course. Your day winds up as a glorious stretch of food-wine-food-wine-food-wine-food-home.
Our four-course meal consisted of wonders such as savoury frittata with chive hollandaise, honey-fennel cracked mustard glazed Pacific salmon or even — wait for it — a sweet Yorkshire pudding (LE GASP) served with apple, bourbon, pecan, and caramel. Holy mother of epicurean delights. The food was surprisingly delicious — much better than I would have thought considering the intent of this wine train was not the food.
Our first stop on the Collective Tour was my personal favourite in terms of wine taste: St Supery Estate Vineyards, a sustainably farmed, Napa Green Certified winery nestled in gentle slopes with a very Italian-countryside like feel. We were given a private tour and taste (that rose in the gardens above was some eaaaaasy drinking in that hot sun) before heading in for another tasting. Their Cab Sav was my favourite wine taste of the day.
Next up was Beringer Winery, one of Napa’s oldest and most renowned wineries, where we were taken on a tour of the estate’s historic tunnels. As you are all painfully aware, I’m a wee bit of a history nerd, and so getting to creep into these old wine cellars from yesteryear was quite the experience.
Our third and final winery of the day, Raymond Vineyards, was one of the strangest winery experiences I’ve ever had. On the outside, you encounter a rooted-in-the-Earth biodynamic farm, garden and vineyard, where we learned about things like lunar cycles of farming (yes that’s a thing apparently) and played with goats. Yes, goats. On a vineyard. It was all very new-agey science, and I probably would have been both loving it and hating it if I hadn’t been so hot.
A much-needed respite from the heat, we finished our tasting inside. And let me tell you: the inside is nothing like the outside. Purple spotlights, neon writing on the walls, opulent chandeliers, dolls of flying circus girls on the wall. It felt like we had stepped into a burlesque show while sipping merlot.
Finished our wine tasting for the day, there was just enough time to fit in some photo shooting. I just had to show off my fave And Other Stories striped maxi. Our bellies full of great food, taste-buds tingling from wonderful Napa wine, and eyes drooping slightly from all that sun, we returned to the Napa Valley Wine Train station happy as clams.
Assessment: Would I take the Napa Valley Wine Train again?
I will admit, the dining wine tours like I did do not come cheap. I’m not sure if I could have afforded it on my own. However, for a special event (am already eyeing up tickets for Stag’s birthday), or if you visiting Napa Valley for a special treat, I can’t recommend the wine train highly enough.
It has a certain — grandness about it. Being on an old steam train, and the train decor itself, feels like something straight out of Murder on the Orient Express. And you can’t help but feel like you belong in this grand, old-time world, too.
Napa Valley Wine Train dining tours begin at $150 for a half day and go upwards from there. Visit https://www.winetrain.com/ for more info.
While this post is not sponsored in any way, we were guests of the Napa Valley Wine Train Collective Tour. However, as always, all opinions, musings and ramblings are completely my own.