Interview with Nathan Davis, Napa Valley Wine Train General Manager
Everybody loves wine country – that’s why the roads can be so crowded. Solution: take the Napa Valley Wine Train. Enjoy an elegant ride, personalized service and gourmet California cuisine as you take in Napa’s beautiful landscapes.
Passengers are taken on a leisurely roundtrip journey from its downtown station up to St. Helena before returning to drop passengers off. Whether you choose lunch, dinner, romance, mystery or an exclusive private tour, it’s a nod to the elegant days of train travel.
The Napa Valley Wine Train is a one-of-a-kind experience to enjoy. We answer ALL your questions with the help of Nathan Davis, GM of the Napa Valley Wine Train.
Where does the Napa Valley Wine Train leave from?
The Wine Train leaves from their Downtown Napa station, located at 1275 Mckinstry Street, Napa, CA 94559.
Prices for the Napa Valley Wine Train’s experiences can vary depending on which experience passengers choose. Here are the starting rates for tours, but these will fluctuate.
Gourmet Lunch or Gourmet Dinner: $175
Vista Dome Lunch or Vista Dome Dinner: $270
Gourmet Lunch and Grgich Hills Winery Tour: $260
Murder Mystery Dinner: $405
Vista Dome Dinner – Romance on the Rails: $300
Legacy Tour: $415
Does the Napa Valley Wine Train include wine?
Many of the Wine Train’s excursions such as the Vista Dome package and the Legacy Tour include a complimentary welcome glass of house wine or bubbles for guests who are over 21. Their other experiences don’t include wine as part of the ticket, but their menus boast more than 40 wines available for purchase by the glass or bottle. Cocktails, specialty drinks, bottled waters and beers can also be purchased on board throughout the journey.
Yes, the Napa Valley Wine Train stops at wineries.
The Wine Train has both full and half-day tours that introduce passengers to the region’s incredible wineries. The popular Legacy Tour lets guests embark on an unforgettable six-hour, 36-mile round-trip journey from the historic town of Napa to two premier wineries aboard a 1950s-era lounge car – separate from the original train’s railcars – arriving back at the train station at 4:15 p.m. The railcar’s elegant interior features lush velvet seats, polished brass, sleek fixtures, and smooth marble.
Hungry? Food is served on the Napa Valley Wine Train.
“The Napa Valley Wine Train shines as one of the most distinctive restaurants in the Napa Valley, and a multi-course lunch or dinner is served on each of its tours, said Nathan Davis, General Manager of the Napa Valley Wine Train. “Guests are welcome to view the train’s expert culinary team at work in the kitchen car, preparing the meals cooked to order. The chefs are also able to cater to passengers’ dietary restrictions and food allergies upon request.
Each tour features local, seasonal menu items prepared freshly on board. The train’s culinary team source the highest-quality products and cultivate strong partnerships with local and regional purveyors of fresh, sustainable food and beverage products.”
Visitors enjoy the Napa Valley Wine Train.
The Napa Valley Wine Train offers an engaging and educational experience, and guests love learning about the Napa Valley’s acclaimed wineries, restaurants and history while rolling past magnificent vineyards and stunning scenery.
“Passengers also rave about our food, the atmosphere and our friendly, accommodating service,” said Davis.
“We receive thousands of visitors from all over the state, country and world year-round. We have many returning guests in addition to first-time visitors who are looking for a deeper, unique experience with knowledgeable team members to make the most of their trip.”
Is a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train worth it?
“Yes, from dining journeys and holiday excursions to packages with winery tours and tastings, the Napa Wine Train has something for everyone,” said Davis.
Each excursion lets passengers enjoy memorable sights of Napa Valley’s many famed vineyards and wineries, fine dining service and delicious multi-course meals while relaxing aboard the exquisitely restored antique train. The train offers an engaging and memorable experience that echoes the glory days of train travel.
Tours and experiences offered on the Napa Valley Wine Train.
Guests can reserve lunch or dinner on the train’s Vista Dome Car, which offers a more private dining atmosphere with panoramic views from the domed railcar, or the Gourmet Express that features a luxury dining and lounge setting.
For those seeking a winery visit without the hassle of driving, the Wine Train has both full and half-day tours that introduce you to the region’s world-class wineries. The Legacy Tour begins with a tasting of sparkling wine, followed by a three-hour rail tour of the famed Napa Valley, a four-course gourmet meal curated by the Wine Train’s expert culinary team, a stop at the Napa Valley sign for a photo opportunity and exclusive tastings and tours at Charles Krug and V. Sattui. The Grgich Hills Estate Tour also provides an in-depth look at one of Napa Valley’s family-owned wineries with a fascinating story, plus a multi-course lunch to savor on the journey.
“Available on select dates each month, the popular Murder Mystery Tour in partnership with The Murder Mystery Company, the largest theatrical company in the U.S., features exciting themes and encourages passengers to get creative with their clothing and clue-solving skills as they solve a murder on the two-hour journey and enjoy a multi-course gourmet dinner,” said Davis.
Couples love the Napa Valley Wine Train.
The Wine Train is a great option for couples and makes for an unforgettable, unique date night traveling through one of the most romantic places in the world. Couples can reserve their Romance on the Rails package, which features a multi-course dinner for two aboard the Vista Dome Car, a welcome taste of sparkling wine, and two glasses of private label wine. The train’s intimate setting provides the perfect atmosphere for conversation with a loved one.
Friends have fun on the Napa Valley Wine Train too!
The Napa Valley Wine Train is a wonderful option for groups of friends with its variety of tour options, endless photo opportunities, and the ideal setting for great conversation.
The train is also an exquisite venue for intimate Napa Valley weddings and receptions, bridal showers and rehearsal dinners, as well as family reunions, corporate events, incentive travel and other private gatherings. Luncheon bookings, buyouts, and private event space are all available.
The refreshing Open-Air Car, which can be reserved for private events, is perfect for groups who wish to be partially outdoors while gathering with loved ones.
What passengers can expect on the day of their journey.
Passengers start at the Wine Train station in Downtown Napa, where they can easily park in a spacious lot and check in at the reception desk inside to receive their tickets. They’re welcome to explore the station before the train boards, including their Wine Shop that features rare, boutique wines, or chat with wine educators and relax with a cup of coffee or glass of wine.
Before boarding, Napa Valley Wine Train team members will give an introductory welcome speech about Napa Valley and the train. Once the train arrives, passengers will be called to board based on their seating section.
Aboard the train, guests and their party will be guided by one of their team members to their tables. For the Gourmet Express lunch and dinner packages, passengers will either enjoy their multi-course gourmet meals first and then be led to the nearby lounge car to relax and enjoy the scenic views, or vice versa, depending on whether they booked the early or late seating option.
For tours that include winery visits, guests will be transported to each winery after or in between courses to enjoy exclusive tastings and an in-depth tour of the grounds.
Book tickets on the Napa Valley Wine Train Early
The Wine Train is a very popular activity for locals and visitors alike, so they recommend booking tours as early as possible since tickets tend to sell out quickly. For a fun photo opportunity, head to the balcony on the train’s caboose and enjoy the views!
“If you have any questions about the region, the train, the food or wine, ask one of our team members. They’re all very knowledgeable about Napa Valley and the Wine Train and more than happy to help,” said Davis.
What to Wear on the Napa Wine Train
“Although there’s no dress code for the Wine Train, we encourage passengers to wear attire for a typical day in wine country, leaning more toward dressier than casual,” said Davis. Depending on which experience you book, you may be visiting a winery for a tour and tasting, so comfortable shoes are also recommended. Dinner trains tend to be slightly more formal than lunch. Also, remember to bring an extra layer to make sure you’re warm enough aboard the train.
Is experiencing the wine train a memorable adventure?
“Absolutely. The Napa Valley Wine Train is one of the few active historic passenger railroads in the U.S. and offers the chance to experience a modern take on luxury rail travel from the beginning of the 20th century,” said Davis.
“The train transports passengers to a pivotal moment in Napa Valley’s history with its antique Pullman rail cars, which have been faithfully restored with Honduran mahogany paneling, brass accents, etched glass partitions and plush armchairs.”
Favorite Napa Wine Train Experience?
“The moments of delight along the journey are my favorite,” said Davis. “Things like catching the fog playfully teasing the tops of the mountains while sipping on a glass of wine, catching yourself relaxing enough to truly enjoy intimate time with the ones you love in a way that is hard to find in our busy days or having your expectations exceeded on a dish you are enjoying – because you did not think train food could be that good. These are a few favorites.”
Kids can ride the train too! (select journeys)
Kids are welcome on several of the Wine Train’s journeys, including lunch and dinner for the Gourmet Express and Vista Dome packages. We also host many exciting holiday events for Thanksgiving, Easter, Fourth of July and more that are unique ways to celebrate with the whole family. Some of the packages have special rates for children. Also, the train’s culinary team can adapt many of our menu items to suit your child’s tastes.
Is there a train from San Francisco to Napa Valley?
No, the Napa Valley Wine Train runs from its Downtown Napa station to St. Helena and back. For San Francisco residents interested in visiting, the Wine Train offers a car-free transportation option that brings guests from San Francisco to Napa Valley via the San Francisco Bay Ferry.
Is there a best time of year to ride the wine train?
The Wine Train is a memorable outing year-round with their variety of journeys, but Davis recommends guests visit during the spring. Napa Valley tends to be less busy during these months compared to the summer, and the longer daylight provides the perfect opportunity to see the sun set over world-famous vineyards on their dinner journeys. The weather is also more moderate compared to other seasons.
Napa Valley Wine Train History
According to Davis, the railroad the train runs on was built and operated by Samuel Brannan in 1864 as a tourist railroad to take visiting San Franciscans as they arrived by ferry in south Napa to his resort town Calistoga. In 1885 the Southern Pacific Railroad Company purchased the line and it continued in operation for the next 102 years. In 1987, the line was sold to the Napa Valley Wine Train. On September 16, 1989, the Wine Train took its inaugural passenger trip and has been steadily running through the valley ever since.
In 2015, Noble House Hotels & Resorts, Ltd. – a collection of luxury hotels and resorts – entered a partnership with Brooks Street, a California-based real estate development and investment company, for the purchase of the historic and iconic Napa Valley Wine Train. The purchase deepens Noble House’s roots in Northern California, expanding its portfolio to include attractions in the destinations its hotels call home.