The Napa Valley Wine Train is a fantastic way to take in the beautiful California countryside while enjoying excellent food and a glass of wine or a non-alcoholic cocktail. Designed as a way to take guests back in history, it accomplishes just that.
Earlier this year, I spent a girls’ weekend in Napa Valley with four of my best mom friends, a weekend we used to take a break from our mom responsibilities and to feed our souls. We flew high above the valley in a hot air balloon, pampered our bodies in mud baths, and enjoyed a leisurely train ride and castle winery tour courtesy of the Napa Valley Wine Train. I initially thought the Wine Train was just about drinking wine on a train, but quickly learned there is so much more to it than that.
5 Reasons to Ride the Napa Valley Wine Train
Napa Valley Wine Train Food
Out of everything, the food was the one thing that surprised me most about the Wine Train. We were given the opportunity to see a behind the scenes look at the two working kitchens on the train, and I was pleased to see that everything was being made from scratch right on the train. I had incorrectly assumed they would prepare all of the food off site and load it onto the train, much like they do with airplane food. Instead, they prepare things right on board just like a normal restaurant kitchen.
Your meal is included with the price of your ticket and includes a choice of soup or salad, an entree, a dessert, and a glass of wine or a specialty non-alcoholic drink. I don’t drink wine and was given the chance to try three of the drinks off the non-alcoholic cocktail menu. All three were unique and delicious, and I could imagine the Chocolate Shimmy or Virgin Colada to be a favorite among kids.
Among our party of five, we ordered almost every option on the menu. Each dish was well-cooked, flavorful, and delicious. The soup of the day and chocolate tart for dessert were highlights of our meal; however, the menu is constantly changing and may differ between the regular car and vista doma, so order what sounds best to you and you’ll be just fine.
If someone in your party has food allergies, let the Wine Train team know ahead of time so that they can be prepared. We had a woman in our party who eats grain-free, and they were able to accommodate her restrictions just as easily as if we’d eaten at any of these other eight restaurants in Napa Valley.
TravelingMom Tip: If you get motion sickness, sit facing the direction that the train will be moving. I don’t often get sick, but even I felt a little queasy by the end of the trip from riding backwards.
Napa Valley Wine Train Winery Tours
The Wine Train partners with a number of local winery tours where you can ride the train to the winery, do a winery tour, then take a shuttle back to the train depot. We chose to do a castle winery tour, which included a tour and wine tasting at Castello di Amorosa. For those of us on the tour who did not drink wine, it was still a fascinating experience to take a tour through this winery that was built to replicate a 13th century castle, complete with its high walls, turrets, and torture chamber inside.
The tour also included a wine tasting where each individual was given a list of wines and allowed to taste a set number of wines. For the non-wine drinkers, we were given the option of trying out the house sparking grape juice, which was made from the vineyard’s grapes. The grape juice was phenomenal and made me wish I lived close enough to only buy grape juice from Castello di Amorosa.
Napa Valley Wine Train is a Piece of History
Riding the Wine Train is a historical experience in itself. It was built with the purpose of allowing everyone to experience the railroading tradition that has been more or less lost to the public in recent years; a tradition that everyone should enjoy at least once.
As our guide Laura explained, the wine train has 100-year-old rail cars, all named after different types of wine. And while many of the cars have been updated for regular use and visitors, the Cabernet Sauvignon Lounge Car still has many of its original features including red glass windows that date back to when it was built in 1915. You can pass through the car or sit in it and enjoy being surrounded by history as the California countryside rolls by.
Napa Valley Wine Train Special Events
The Napa Valley Wine Train operates daily with an option for a lunch or sunset dinner experience, either in the regular gourmet cars or in a more expensive vista dome car that is glass all around and allows you to see in every direction at once. In addition to the scheduled train rides, the company also regularly runs special events and train rides for things such as an Independence Day train that rolls through as the fireworks are going off, murder mystery dinners, and even a North Pole experience during the holiday season.
Many of these special tours are developed with children in mind and would be the perfect time to introduce your children to the magic of the Napa Valley Wine Train.
Napa Valley Wine Train Love Lock Bridge
If you’ve never seen a love lock bridge before, the idea is that two people leave a padlock on the bridge that symbolizes their love then toss the key into the water. They are so popular throughout the world that one of the most famous, the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris, just in 2015 had all of the locks removed because of the damage the weight of the locks was doing to the bridge. I still love the romantic tradition and have a lock of my own with my husband on a bridge on the Via dell’Amore in the Cinque Terre, Italy.
While the Wine Train’s love lock bridge may not be as big as others around the world, it is special for another reason. When you visit, see if you can find a love lock from Amy and Sheldon in the Bang Bang Theory! Our guide told us that not only is the lock there, but the Wine Train team also provided quite a bit of direction for the set, staging, and other notes for the vintage train used in the Locomotive Manipulation episode.
Why You Should Ride the Napa Valley Wine Train
With its exceptional menu, fascinating tour options, and ability to take you back in history, the Wine Train is an experience that I recommend everyone do at least once. It is pricey, however, so I would probably only do the regular train ride once then try out one of the special events if you decide it’s worth experiencing again.