Napa Wine Train, Napa California (review and photos)

This is a review of the Napa Wine Train that runs a 3 hour service at lunch and dinner in the wine country in California

One of the reasons for adding Napa onto our California trip was not to delve into the wineries of the area, but to explore some of the “geek” within me when it comes to travel and transportation.

For Napa is home of the Napa Wine Train Company.This train company was set up by a millionaire train buff inspired by his experiences on the Orient Express in Europe. He bought 21 mile of track from the Pacific Railroad who were more than happy to offload a track along which now only an occasional freight train may run.

He then acquired old Pullman coaches mostly from the 1940s, restored them and (to much opposition from locals along the route) got his service going. It seems locals really did not like the idea of the service and in the end he had to limit his trips to a lunchtime one, a dinner one most evenings and the odd special event. It was, however, a big hit with tourists.Unlike the stunning (and costly) Rovos Train that runs from Pretoria to Cape Town over 2 nights, this just does meals.The train runs from Napa to St Helena. Once there the engine is moved to the back of the train and pulls it back. It takes 3 hours.

For around $100 per person you get the ride and a 5 course meal, with drinks extra. To make the most of the carriages and space there are 2 sittings the 1st eats until main then moves to a lounge car for pudding and coffee while the 2nd sitting goes to the dining carriage.Food is good but rushed and you have pretty much finished main by time you leave the station!

The station has no platform and is a large warehouse style building with wine shop and some gift shops. You board and get allocated a table. The carriages are very well restored and in good shape. As mentioned the food is plentiful and pretty good, but not really gourmet but fine. We had a mixed plate of olives, cheese etc to start, then a salad then sorbet and a choice of beef, fish or chicken. Pudding was either chocolate brownie or crème brulee. They are not pushy in selling wine though there is a lot of choice at all prices and a tasting bar offering 4 wines to taste for $10.
As the focus is on making money the train needs volume and so it is not as special and up-market in food, service and small touches. You get efficient but not personal style service and rushed through the courses as they churn out the kitchen in what feels very production line.

The scenery is fine, though not that spectacular as quite a bit of it is getting out of Napa and the running along the motorway.It was a different and fun experience. It was great to experience the old carriages but not as special as Rovos. But worth doing.

To see all my photos: click here

A video of the train to follow.


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