I Rode And Reviewed The Napa Valley Wine Train

I’m Sam and I’m going on the boggiest trains across America. Best day ever! This episode? The Napa Valley Wine Train. This is where the horn is.  After the ride, I’ll be giving this train a rating from one to five. Let’s go. This is the Vista Dome Lunch Train, which is just one of the tours you can choose from. It takes you on a three hour ride through some of Napa’s most famous wineries. One ticket costs $250, which includes a welcome glass of bubbly and a four course meal. – This is your complementary glass. It’s a little bit of Domaine Chandon sparkling, just to get you two started with. All right. – Thank you. – You’re welcome. – It’s a fancy bread stick. Mmm. This is like a creme fraiche with caviar.  You pick one dish from each course, but we got to try them all.

I’m gonna start with the ravioli, because Italian food’s my favorite, and it’s what I like to eat when I’m drinking wine. Cheese and carbs, it’s nice and soft. That’s so good, A+. This is a duck liver mousse, with strawberries, cocoa nibs, and grilled ciabatta bread. Here I go. Mm. It’s actually really sweet. That’s really good. Love me some salmon credo. It’s like sushi, but fancy. You really get that basil in the vinaigrette. That’s good. Beef tenderloin carpaccio with arugula, some preserved lemon, Parmesan crisp. Just gonna break myself off a piece, get me some beef.

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crunchy Parmesan, so good with the beef. This is a perfect, well-rounded appetizer. I got four killer options. Just gonna keep eating them. – Oh, a surprise! – Thank you.  This is so good.  Just how I like it.  This is a cream of asparagus soup of the day, with truffle oil and Parmesan. Come on. It’s cheesy, it’s smooth. If you like truffle, that is it. These are local golden beets, which are so good for you. They taste amazing, almost like candy, and they’re served with fresh melon.

It looks like a little flower. It’s a honeydew flower. – Aww. – Fresh melon in the summer is so good, especially when it’s 80 degrees outside. I could eat this all day.  First I’m gonna dive into these diver scallops. Ooh, I’m about to dive in – Fluffy, a little crunchy. Perfect with snap peas. This is a ricotta cheese gnocchi, with tomatoes, artichoke pesto, and sweet onion. This gnocchi looks pillowey soft. So let’s see. So light, not chewy at all. Ooh, there’s a kick in that. Where my wine? Beef tenderloin with sweet corn puree, bacon, mushrooms, broccolini, and a port glaze. Cooked medium rare, just how it should be. This is the perfect plate right here. It’s a little smoky from the bacon. Meat, more meat, veggie for good measure. Herb roasted chicken with caramelized sweet onions, rainbow chard, and pickled red onion jam. I’ve been waiting for this guy, love a good chicken. We have a little bit of breast that I’m gonna cut into first. Juicy, the aujus is amazing. Can we get some more wine over here? Wine’s here! Thank you.

Frose season. Mm, this is a white. Not really sure what kind, but it doesn’t matter, ’cause all wine’s good wine. They’re actually letting us ride the engine, because they have to put it on the other side of the train to go back. This is gonna be crazy. We’re in the engine of the train. This was not the day for a skirt, I’ll tell you that. My cameraman just asked me if I know how to make a wine glass sing, and I don’t, and I wanna be like Gracie Hart.  I’m doing it. Do you hear it? – I can hear it. Love my wine, but, and I need coffee.  I need to try the Skittles sorbet, because who doesn’t love Skittles? I don’t know if it tastes like Skittles, but it tastes really good.

This has actual caramel popcorn on it, which means you know it’s gonna be good, and it’s chocolate. Salty, sweet, chocolaty. That caramel popcorn on top is the perfect touch. I’m gonna finish this. You might wanna come back in like five minutes. Strawberry tart with brown butter filling, whipped cream and chocolate. You can taste that brown butter. It’s perfect. It’s healthy, ’cause there’s fruit on it. It’s actually so pretty, the colors. That tastes like vacation on one spoon.  Dessert wine. I’m gonna have such a headache. If you love wine, you have to ride the Napa Valley Wine Train. The scenery was amazing, and the food was delicious.

You can order as much wine as your heart desires, but it’ll cost you extra. I gave it a four out of five. I docked a point because only one glass of wine is included in the price, and of course, you’ll want more than that. That was an amazing three hours. So much wine, so much food, I need a nap, ’cause that definitely worked. See you next time.

Read More: ONE DAY IN NAPA: Day Trip Guide to More Than Just Wineries (Best Food)

Read More: Napa Designated Drivers is striving these days to bring in households…

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Napa Designated Drivers is striving these days to bring in households…

California’s Napa Valley is striving these days to bring in households, intending to amuse visitors of all ages with hiking, biking, camps and more. Even some vineyards are entering into the video game.

Historically, vineyard goes to rank high up on the eye-roll list for kids. But California’s Napa Valley is trying hard nowadays to attract families, aiming to captivate visitors of all ages with hiking, cycling, camps and non-snooty farm-to-table experiences. Even some vineyards are entering the game, offering lawn games and grape juice tastings.

According to Lindsey Gallagher, the president for Visit Napa Valley, the effort seems to be working. In a 2018 study, almost 20 percent of visitors to Napa Valley had kids 18 years or under in their travel celebration, compared to around 12 percent in 2016.

Here’s a few of our highlights worth sharing:

On the Move
We began the trip at Skyline Wilderness Park, trekking through wildflower and chaparral-speckled woodland where clusters of butterflies and hummingbirds made frequent cameos. Then, we zipped over to Clif Family Winery of Clif Bar fame, which was of no interest to Brette until I discussed their food truck. Over chive-dusted bruschetta and arancini balls, I had three sips (I was driving) of a perky Viognier that raised the carbs to divine heights.

If hiking brings your household together, other choices include the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, where you can stroll through towering redwoods and then cool off in the park’s pool, and the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, where the evergreen forests lead to the top of Mt. Saint Helena.

Medspa Afternoon
Calistoga is famous for geothermal hot springs and I was thrilled when the no-frills Dr. Wilkinson Hot Springs Resort green-lit Brette to join me for a treatment. We showered in summer-camp like stalls, hopped into concrete mud tubs secret component: nutrient-rich volcanic ash and completed with a 30-minute massage. Minimum age for mud treatments, which begin at $105, is 13 years old.

Wine Country by Bike
One morning, Dave Brazell of Adventures in Cycling crafted a child-centric white wine tasting itinerary that consisted of a picnic lunch. Rather of driving to tasting spaces, we cycled through scenic back-country roads, past the Old Faithful geyser and yes, there is also one here, where we paused to dip our fingers in steaming puddles.

Sterling Vineyards was fun, particularly the aerial cable car trip that transports visitors to the hill tasting room. Our favorite was wisteria-draped Bennett Lane, where I sampled juicy cabernets while Brette learned to identify arrangement. During the cellar trip, simply enough technical verbiage was dispensed “bung hole” was a favorite term in addition to cool connections in between wine making and mathematics. Outside, kids can also select blackberries and play corn hole.

Tamber Bay and Raymond Vineyards are among the other child-friendly wineries in Napa, as is Castello di Amorosa, which– modeled after a middle ages castle– has a drawbridge, a dungeon cell and secret passages. Activities you can anticipate at these sites include playing horseshoes and interacting with stock.

Ride Through the Vines
Another way to experience the incredible landscape is by horseback. We signed on with Napa Valley Trail Rides for a 30-minute mosey through the rolling vineyards of Shadybrook Estate at Rapp Ranch (where there is likewise a tasting space). Our guides were hipster cowgirls and Brette got to check out the stables after the flight.

If you ‘d rather bike, the Napa Valley Vine Trail now uses 12 car-free miles, from downtown Napa to Yountville.

Farm-to-Table Treats
It’s essential to teach kids the origins of food. And, Napa, with its celebration of local purveyors (highlighted on almost every menu) is the best setting to do so.

Breakfast all day excites every kid. Gillwoods Cafe in St. Helena provides classics like whipped cream-topped French toast, strawberry pancakes and hearty omelets.

Gott’s Roadside, likewise in St. Helena, is filled with households for a factor, as its hamburgers, tacos, sandwiches and milk shakes make for an ideal lunch or dinner. In downtown Napa, the craftsmen food hall Oxbow Public Market is a crowd pleaser for pizza, barbecue, charcuterie and baked items.

Brette declared Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, which runs an organic farm, animals cattle ranches and vineyards, as “the very best restaurant ever.” The food was remarkable, however the storytelling and passion for farming is what resonated. With each meal– caramelized beets, garlic confit-kissed burrata, burgers– our 20-something server discussed how soil, environment and seaside air (plus minimal corporate intervention) impacted taste. Even the wine tasted better with the back story: As Brette used her newfound sensory abilities, I swigged my method from bubbly and Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Noir.

And an advised last stop for all– as it’s essential to end on a sweet note– is Calistoga Creamery, which serves salted caramel ice cream in a superb cinnamon waffle cone.

Enjoyable Family Lodging
Tucked within a canyon under a canopy of ancient pine and oak trees, our cedar-shingled room at Calistoga Ranch, felt like a luxe treehouse. Besides the pool, hands-on farm experiences make this home a paradise for the pint-sized. Children can gather eggs from the chicken coop, pluck veggies from the garden, gather honey from bee hives and take in a performance from resident goats, Olive and Pepper. They will dance for food. It’s paradise for parents too who can take part in wine tastings, winemaker dinners and a variety of walkings on residential or commercial property. (Rooms begin at $695.).

The Vista Collina, a 145-room hotel about ten minutes from downtown Napa, uses a condensed Napa experience on its premises, with a pool, 9 on-site tasting spaces, a cooking center offering Mommy and Me teas and cooking classes, and an upscale market with regional products and prepared foods. With a 16,000-square-foot yard offers turning activities like barbecues, green markets, live music and video games corn hole, giant Jenga, ring toss to inhabit the kids while moms and dads sample white wine. Select sensible rooms come with cooking areas and rates start at $309 a night.

Another option is The Westin Verasa Napa in downtown Napa, where families can kayak on the neighboring Napa River and numerous dining establishments and parks are strolling distance. Suites starting around $359 a night.