Every now and then a WCG reader will shoot us an email asking us for advice on taking a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train that runs through the Valley. I’m sorry to reply to these emails that I have never been on the Wine Train and therefore cannot make a recommendation. I have had friends who have taken the wine train, and for the most part we have heard a mixed bag of reviews. Some think it is an awesome time, while others thought the money would have been better spent on visiting wineries or buying wine.
As far as I can see, the Napa Valley Wine Train is more like a restaurant than anything else. It is really not a wine tour. Sure, the scenery is very pretty along the route from Napa to St. Helena, but the problem is that you cannot get off and on along the way and spend some time at any wineries. When the wine train got the okay in 1989 to take passengers along the Valley, plenty of restrictions were placed on what the wine train could do and not do. Letting passengers on and off at wineries was a big “no.”
I can think of a few reasons why folks might want to take the Napa Valley Wine Train.
- They love riding trains
- What better way to enjoy the scenery of the Napa Valley by having fine wine and food without any traffic worries
- It is a good introduction to the Napa Valley
- It is a fun and relaxing time
- It’s a party
There are other options for visiting the Napa Valley other than riding the wine train. There are private limos that can be hired. Platypus is a company that picks up tourists at their hotels and drives them to a set of wineries with a picnic lunch included. You can certainly drive on your own, but make sure you have a designated driver. For good reason, the authorities heavily patrol the Valley.
The wine train is certainly not my cup of tea. When I travel to the Napa Valley, a big part of what I like to do is get out my car and explore the vineyards and compose photographs. I like searching the crossroads finding beautiful vineyard scenes and, oh yes, stopping in at any winery that looks interesting. If I’m driving while visiting, I make sure I bring in my wine spit cup so I can taste but not swallow the wine. I do like the wine train in one respect. I like watching the wine train as it goes by; the cars are old and look very pretty against the vineyards and the mountains.
In case you are planning a trip to the Napa Valley, here is a little video to help you plan a wonderful trip to the wine country: Napa Valley Travel Tips.