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Napa Valley Wine Train

Something about trains intrigues us. Their existence makes us yearn to board a crowded car and lose ourselves in the noise of strangers.

They romance and call to us from far places like the exotic railways of the Orient Express, and speak to us through characters like Anna Karenina, Vronsky's star-crossed lover who threw herself in front of a train to end Tolstoy's great novel.

Such grist is the ingredient used to build the masterpiece of entertainment known as the Napa Valley Wine Train.

You would think having a star-studded lunch served hot to you on a china and silverware place setting as you spin through one of the world's most beautiful valleys would be enough to offer.

But it isn't for the Napa Valley Wine Train.

In addition to their lunch tour, the Napa Valley Wine Train provides a dinner tour, winery and lunch tours, San Francisco to Napa wine-tasting tours and, for those with adventure in their souls, a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater.

This is not to mention the ultra-romantic Candlelight Junction extravagance where you will spend the night at the Candlelight Inn (if you love her, you'll certainly bring her here), ride the train and take a winery tour.

Oh Yes, the Wine Train

This top dining establishment is housed in a collection of antique rail cars operating on 25 miles of track in the heart of Napa Valley.

The train has two engines, two kitchens on board, and a collection of early 20th century rail cars that are pure Americana. It offers guests great regional food and fabulous, hard-to-find wines. 

We booked our lunch tour and arrived at the station on a brilliant, spring day.

When you board the vintage train with all its gold tassels and French paintings, you do feel like you have been magic-carpeted back in time.

The train ride is three hours up and back along the spine of Napa Valley so you see three of the towns in one trip.

The heart of the train beats in the kitchen and the dining cars. Orchestrated by Executive Chef, Kelly Macdonald, a well-oiled staff somehow makes each patron feel like they are the guest of honor as they are served a three or four course meal. They provide elegant dining at 20 miles per hour.

On the way up, half of the patrons have appetizers and (what else?) wine. You have full roaming rights with the exception of the dining cars and the first-class observation car. The other half of the passengers enjoy their gourmet meals.

Then, when the train reverses in St. Helena (it's like a ferry), everyone switches places and the other half does what the other half didn't already do.

The lunch was beyond gourmet. On the day we traveled, we pounced on creamed asparagus soup and an entree. This was all after the appetizers we enjoyed earlier. After the main course, Chef Macdonald's staff presented us with a choice of chocolate wedding cake or creme brulee. We all tried a bit of both and found neither lacking.

The chocolate wedding cake was excellent and, if toffee could produce cream, it would certainly be able to create a creme brulee like we had on the Wine Train.

Next time, we will do it at night. It just felt wrong to be so sinful in the middle of the day.

Napa Valley Wine Train
1275 McKinstry Street
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 253-2111

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