Orient Express Dining Aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train
Seated in an elegant dining car sipping sparkling wine while admiring vineyards and awaiting a four-course gourmet lunch to be served. Life couldn’t be better.
While it looks and feels like it could be the Orient Express, we are aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. We are seated in the Vista Dome Car in a red velvet booth making important decisions about our upcoming meal: Yam Ravioli or Grilled Prawns and Scallops? Soup or Salad? Beef Tenderloin or Salmon Fillet?
The Wine Train offers lunch and dinner seating while traversing the beautiful Napa Valley, a 36-mile round-trip journey lasting three hours. They provide add-on winery visits to the program and offer Murder Mystery Dinners and Full Moon Dinners. It’s the perfect place to spend a holiday or special occasion.
Chef Kelly Macdonald has been on board the Wine Train for 18 years and oversees 280 lunches and 250 dinners per day. The Wine Train welcomes 100,000 visitors per year. There are three kitchens on the train and from the “Muscle Kitchen” they prepare 120 plates in 20 minutes. Viewing the small but efficient kitchen makes me appreciative of the quality of the meal. Chef is focused on procuring fresh and sustainably harvested ingredients which he transforms into delicious dishes featuring California ingredients that he sources. His classical culinary training is reflected in sauces and the presentation. The overall result is a fabulous meal served in an elegant and classic environment.
Guests are encouraged to explore the train, which contains several dining cars, a lounge car, and a BBQ car during warm weather. At the end of the train is a small viewing platform to watch the vineyards fly by.
For the hors d’oeuvres course, we selected Grilled Prawns on Sweet Pea Saute in an Orange Beurre Blanc that was as tasty as it was beautiful. Our first course was a Cream of Artichoke Soup.
I chose the Roasted Beef Tenderloin in a Bordelaise Potato and Baby Carrot Saute with Cambozola Toast, the house specialty. It was a beautiful array of colors and textures. The tender beef melted in my mouth.
My dining companion chose the Salmon Filet on a Bay Shrimp Rissotto with Wilted Spinach and Shaved Parmesan.
Before our dessert course, we explored the historic train cars, which were built a century ago and are part of one of only a few operating trains from that era. The other gourmet dining cars were lovely with comfortable seating, art, and draperies. The lounge cars featured plush swivel chairs to enjoy the picturesque scenery. The bar car offered wine tasting from their extensive wine list.
We strolled back to our elegant car for the final course. All of the desserts were tantalizing, but we chose the Chocolate Potpie, which sounded intriguing. This flaky pastry crust contained a decadent, moist chocolate cake that was rich and satisfying, served with coffee. By the time we had finished dessert and coffee, the train was returning to the station, signaling the end of our adventure.
Details: the Napa Valley Wine Train is located at 1275 McKinstry Street, Napa, CA 94559; phone 707-253-2111; website. Located one hour north of San Francisco.
Take the ferry from San Francisco to Vallejo, where the Wine Train shuttle transports you to the station. Reservations required at least 24 hours in advance and are only available for the lunch train.