After visiting the downtown tasting room, we went back to our Loft Suite at the Andaz Napa. While we didn’t have much time before heading to the wine train, I (Uno) couldn’t resist taking a relaxing soak in the oversized tub. After changing for dinner,we went down to the hotel lobby for our welcome glass of vino before heading out to the train.
After our welcome glass of vino, we walked a few short blocks down First Street, across the bridge, to the Napa Valley Wine Train. Definitely one of the advantages of staying downtown Napa is the ability to walk to many wonderful restaurants, tasting rooms, shopping, and attractions, such as the Wine Train. We had taken the train a couple years before and had such an enjoyable time we decided to do this again. As last time, we booked the Dome Car for the dinner passage, with a meeting time at 5:30pm at the Napa rail station. After the quick checkin, we relaxed for a while in the lounge area, taking a few photos in the boarding area.
The boarding process is very orderly, and we boarded with group C around 5:50pm, after a welcome talk and brief history lesson of the area and the train itself.
The Napa Valley Wine Train has a total of 10 cars, each uniquely designed, and of historical significance. While dining on the train is a wonderful experience, dining in the Dome Car takes it to a luxury level which is really worth the extra cost. I compare it to First Class vs Coach; the difference is enormous as you have your own reserved booth for the whole three hour dinner, as well as the second floor level which offers fantastic views.
The Dome Car offers an intimate and more personalized (vs mass-market) dining experience which makes for a very memorable night.
Upon boarding, we were immediately introduced to our server, Amanda, who offered us a complimentary glass of Sparkling Wine. Amanda and Staff would attend to us throughout the evening with extraordinary service (with a smile!) and point out sights along the way.
We brought aboard a nice bottle of Las Bonitas ‘The Daredevil’ Cabernet we had bought today at Vinter’s Collective. The Napa Valley Wine Train (as well as many area restaurants) allow you to bring a bottle of wine aboard, although they charge a nominal corkage fee of $15 (to $25 at some area restaurants). As we like white wine for our appetizers, we decided to buy a bottle of Far Niente Chardonnay aboard as well, and the Napa Train (and many area restaurants) waves one corkage fee if you buy a bottle. This is quite a nice and fair compromise, as well as a vino extraordinary tasting treat!
As we departed the station a little after 6pm, it was still daylight for a while, so we had some great views of the city and vineyards as we railed on towards St. Helena.
We ordered our dinner and wine from Amanda, closing from several entree and appetizer courses. DOS and I both had the shrimp appetizer for starters, and the delicious bottle of Far Niente Chardonnay we bought aboard. We had had this wine on Celebrity Cruises previously, and it is a top-notch Chardonnay.
The leisurely shrimp course was followed by a delicious Lobster Bisque, which also paired wonderfully with the Chardonnay. I was hesitant to get soup aboard the train thinking it would be very bumpy, but the train ride was quite smooth, and I didn’t spill any on my shirt!
We met a nice couple adjacent to our table from St. Louis who were celebrating their anniversary, and we had a nice evening chatting to them.
By the time our main course arrived, we had Amanda open the bottle of red wine we had brought aboard: Las Bonitas Cabarent – ’The Daredevil’, which we had bought this afternoon at Vinter’s Collective Wine tasting room in Napa Valley. Paired with our beef tenderloin, we had a delectably wonderful dinner!
The Wine Train prepares the food fresh aboard in the galley below, and at least in the Dome Car offers a fine-dining experience. After our main course, we had a bit of a break between dessert, so we walked through the other rail cars, each of which was decorated differently. We walked to the very back of the train, and stood out of the rear balcony railing for a bit chatting with fellow passengers, including our adjacent table-mates from St. Louis. The Train goes as far as St. Helena, where it turns around after the half-way mark, and then heads back to Napa. It takes 20 minutes or so to relocate the train engines, so there is a bit of ‘down time’ where you can watch out the back.
As the train resumed it’s journey back to the Napa station we boarded from, we returned to our Dome Car, and had dessert with coffee, and finished our vino. The return trip, now in the dark, was just as enjoyable, and we were given a pair of champagne glasses as a memento of our trip.
After debarking the train, we of course stopped by the gift shop for a wine train T-shirt and cap. The gift shop is open before you board as well so you don’t have to feel rushed after the trip. We also bought a couple photos the photographer took upon boarding and on the train over dinner.
We highly recommend the Wine Train for dinner, but definitely do it in the Dome Car for the service, privacy, elegance, and romance of the Valley.
And ’twas a wonderful night for all!
(The full gallery of pics we took is below.)