Take a Magical & Delicious Trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train If you're looking for a date experience you'll never forget, hop aboard the Napa Wine Train. BY TOURING & TASTING
Photos courtesy of Napa Valley Wine Train
The Napa Valley Wine Train rumbling through the vineyards as guests aboard prepare for an unforgettable meal.
“ The company acquired the rail line and then, one by one, purchased antique rail cars from around the country and renovated them into beautiful, elegant cars.”
From the vibrant Oxbow district of downtown Napa to the charming town of St. Helena, the Napa Valley Wine Train graciously provides passengers the ultimate in culinary dining experiences. As it rolls through the very heart of this legendary wine region, fresh gourmet cuisine is prepared in its onboard kitchens and served to delighted guests in four antique dining cars. It’s an utterly delectable and unforgettable experience.
A Taste of History
Traveling on a rail line first built in 1864, the Wine Train was founded after Southern Pacific sold its rights in 1984. Concerned Napa citizens who didn’t want to see the rail line abandoned joined forces to preserve the railroad until Vincent DeDomenico, inventor of Rice-A-Roni and former owner of Ghirardelli Chocolate, learned of their plight. He offered to buy the whole operation and became the Napa Valley Wine Train’s President and CEO. The company acquired the rail line and then, one by one, purchased antique rail cars from around the country and renovated them into beautiful, elegant cars. In September 1989, the Wine Train took its inaugural trip and has been treating passengers to a one-of-a-kind culinary journey ever since.
Fresh, Gourmet Cuisine
Under the skilled direction of Chef Kelly Macdonald, the Napa Valley Wine Train prepares exquisite fare for memorable lunches and dinners flawlessly served on a moving train. The Wine Train has three onboard kitchens and a prep kitchen in its train yard. The main kitchen has a panel of windows where you can watch your meal being prepared. "Fresh and sustainable" is Executive Chef Kelly’s mantra. As often as possible, ingredients are resourced locally. Fresh produce is picked from local fields; poultry, meats, and fish are raised in eco-conscious, low stress environments; and the oven-fresh bread is baked daily on board. Everything is prepared daily and cooked to order aboard the train.
The Wine Train’s three dining experiences are like three separate restaurants, each with its own kitchen and specific menu. The Vista Dome Car is an elegant, glass-topped observation car; the Silverado Car (for lunch from March through November) is an open-air Hollywood western railcar; and the Gourmet Express Car (for lunch and dinner) is a comfortable refurbished 1915–1917 Pullman Car. No matter which venue you choose, you’ll have three full hours to enjoy your incredible chef-prepared meal, as well as the rest of this beautiful train. You’ll discover that every car—finished with Honduran mahogany paneling, etched glass, and brass—has its own amazing story.
The Wine Train offers several winery tour packages—including the Napa Valley’s only evening winery tour—to fully complete your Napa Valley experience. Each tour has a different itinerary. Many begin on the train, while others start with a vineyard tour. Regardless of the winery tour package you choose, you’ll join other Wine Train guests for a fresh, gourmet, multiple course meal on board, and a guided tour and tasting at one—or two—local wineries.
For schedules, details, and more information, visit winetrain.com.
Interview with Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald T&T: Are there tricks to preparing and serving fresh gourmet cuisine on a moving train? Chef Kelly: The truth is: I hardly notice it’s moving! I am continually focused and inspired by my expectation of our guests’ experience. People are amazed by how delicious it is, and that all of our food is made fresh daily.
T&T: Are there any tricks to starting fresh each day? Chef Kelly: For me, the trick is to enhance the flavor of each ingredient. I taste everything in its most simple form and then my culinary team and I apply techniques to get the very best flavor from it. By techniques, I mean everything from toasting curry, to blooming black peppercorns, to rubbing salmon with our own crushed herbs and spices. We do this before I include it in one of my dishes. It’s the little things we do on a daily basis that makes our food simple, yet absolutely delightful.
T&T: How do you go about pairing wine with your dishes? Chef Kelly: When I taste wine, I do it on an empty stomach. I taste each wine as I do food. I first identify its prominent aromas and flavors. Then I either bridge the food with a compatible flavor or pair it with a dish that possesses a distinctly opposite flavor. The ultimate goal is to make everything taste delicious, each and every day.