Nestled in between lush rolling hillsides, with some of the best vineyards and restaurants in California, sits the quaint town of Napa, home to the Napa Valley Wine Train. My sister-in-law Julie and I were guests of the Napa Wine Train and enjoyed a fantastic gourmet lunch excursion through the heart of Napa Valley.
Disclaimer: The Napa Valley Wine Train provided a complimentary Gourmet Express Luncheon for two to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.
What is the Napa Valley Wine Tasting Train?
A scenic, one-hour drive north from San Francisco, Napa is an easy day trip from the city. It’s also an amazing place to stay in any number of luxury hotels or romantic inns. The Wine Train is the perfect way to eat and drink your way through Napa Valley.
When you board the train in Napa, you’ll immediately notice the meticulously restored pullman car, circa 1915-17, which offers exquisite views of the valley. During our 3-hour, 36-mile round trip, we enjoyed wine, appetizers, soup or salad, a main course, dessert and coffee.
We started our Napa train lunch in one of the lounge cars, where we enjoyed a complimentary glass of wine and a plate of appetizers. We snacked on a variety of cheeses, smoked salmon, calamari, and a delicious seaweed salad as we journeyed up the valley.
In addition to the extensive wine list, there’s a wine tasting car (naturally!) and full bar, as well as a variety of reasonably priced wine flights, allowing one to sample some of the best of the Valley’s vintages.
The Napa Wine Train route goes from Napa to St. Helena and back. In St. Helena, we made a seamless transition from the lounge car to the dining car for our salad, main course, dessert and coffee.
Lunch on the Wine Train in Napa
All the food on the Napa Valley Wine Train tours is freshly prepared in a specially fitted kitchen car. All ingredients are of the highest quality, including humanely raised, hormone-free meats and fresh, line-caught fish.
The whole experience is reminiscent of a by-gone era of travel, with impeccably trained and attentive waitstaff and first-class food.
Julie and I decided we’d each order something different, so we could sample a bit of everything. We also shared the “Napa Valley” flight of wine which included a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon, to go with our entrees.
The first course was a choice of the baby lettuce salad with candied walnuts, and smoked goat cheese or the soup du jour. The soup that day was a delicious tomato bisque with house made croutons.
Julie and I switched the soup and salad halfway, so we were each able to enjoy a bit of both.
Entree choices include beef, pork, chicken, fish as well as a vegetarian dish. I chose the Roasted Beef Tenderloin on cambozola toast with sautéed vegetables, which was absolutely fantastic!
Julie opted for the Pan Seared Bacon Wrapped Pork Medallion on black truffle hash browns with roasted vegetables in a chardonnay-mustard reduction.
Each dish came out hot and cooked exactly to our specifications. The beef was cooked to perfection with a delicious cabernet reduction, and the cambozola toast was divine!
The black truffle hash browns accompanying the pork medallion could have been a meal on their own. Although we were completely full from our meal and wine flight, we saved room for dessert.
The Chocolate Tiramisu Truffle was a true chocolate lover’s dessert, with a shell of chocolate filled with creamy custard and a layer of cake.
The Creme Brûlée, with its crunchy, sweet, caramelized sugar crust, was topped with fresh raspberries – perfectly simple and elegant all at once. Chef Kelly MacDonald has graciously given his recipe for Creme Brûlée – which I have adapted below for the home cook due to the large quantities.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Napa Wine Train
The wine train in Napa Valley makes stops at famous wineries and includes a gourmet restaurant experience on board.
How long is the napa wine train ride?
The Napa Valley Wine Train offers several different experiences running from three to six hours. They offer the Gourmet Express Lunch and Dinner, Afternoon Tea, Murder Mystery Dinners, special holiday events, and more!
How much does the Napa Wine train cost?
Napa wine train prices range from $275 to $595 for the full day excursion, at the time of this writing. Be sure to check the Napa Valley Wine Train website for current pricing.
What is the Napa Valley Wine Train dress code?
The Napa Valley train ride does not enforce a dress code, but most guests like to dress up a little. It’s an upscale dining experience, so you’ll typically see business casual or cocktail attire. Dinner is generally “dressier” than lunchtime excursions.
Our experience on the Napa Valley Wine Train was top-notch. If you’re going to be in the Napa area, be sure to get your Napa wine train tickets early so you don’t miss out!
- 1 quart heavy cream divided
- 1 1/2 vanilla beans split and scraped
- 1 cup sugar divided
- 6 large egg yolks
- Fresh berries for garnish
- Put cream, and split, and scraped vanilla bean into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, until slightly cool. Remove the vanilla bean. (The vanilla bean can be used again)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended.
- Add the warm cream a little at a time, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins.
- Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but creamy and not runny in the center, approximately 45-50 minutes.
- Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Remove the ramekins from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to browning. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a small kitchen torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top.
- Garnish with fresh berries.