Summary: I’m sharing my thoughts and experiences on the Napa Valley Wine Train. Keep reading to see if I recommend it, or if it wasn’t worth the money!
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If you haven’t heard of the Napa Valley Wine Train, it’s essentially a train that takes you around Napa Valley, California. The winery tours also include stops at 1-3 different wineries. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Keep reading to hear about what our experience was on the tour and if I would recommend the Napa Valley Wine Train going forward!
More details on the Napa Valley Wine Train
The Napa Valley Wine Train is an actual train that takes you on a tour of up to three different wineries in Napa Valley. There are different options, but the tour we did included meals and private group tastings in each of the wineries we visited. When I say “private group tastings,” I mean everyone on the train sticks together and has the tasting as a group. This was a really fun way to socialize and make friends with the people you’re drinking wine with all day!
The rails that the wine train uses were built back in 1864 and were originally owned by Samuel Brannan and used to transport guests to his spa resort. Later on, he needed to sell it and the railroad became property of California Pacific Railroad. Fast forward to 1984 – the railroad was no longer as important as it once was, so the state of California wanted to sell the property to at least make a profit on that.
However, Napa Valley residents didn’t want to see the railroad abandoned. In 1987, Vincent DeDomenico, the inventor of Rice-A-Roni, invested in Napa Valley Wine Train Inc., and they were able to buy the whole operation from California Pacific Railroad. The first passenger trip was taken in 1989 and has been running ever since.
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How much does it cost?
There are several different options when it comes to train tours. They offer half-day tours, full-day tours, train rides with lunch or dinner, and special events like a murder mystery train ride. The price usually depends on which day of the week you decide to go (it’ll be cheaper on a weekday).
I’d also like to note that the prices have increased significantly since we did our tour, likely due to inflation around travel and tourism.
Here are the cost breakdowns of each tour:
Full-Day Tour (The Legacy Experience): $550-800 per person
The Legacy Experience takes you to 3 different wineries over the course of a full day. It’s about 6 hours total – 3 hours on board and 3 hours at the wineries. It comes with tastings at each winery and a 4-course meal on-board the train.
If you want my opinion, I’d suggest the Legacy Tour to get the most out of your day. This is the tour that we did when we visited and it was such a fun, luxurious day! Scroll down for more details on our specific experience.
Here is more info on the Legacy Tour!
Half-Day Tour: $340-400 per person
For half-day tours the Napa Valley Wine Train offers the Grgich Hills Winery Tour. This option is a total of 3 hours that consists of a 1.5 hour train ride and a 1.5 hour tour and tasting of one winery. It also comes with a multiple-course, gourmet lunch.
If you want to get more hands-on with your wine, you can opt for the Grape Stop tour at Grgich Hills Winery where you’ll get lunch, a 2-hour train ride, a wine tasting, and of course, you’ll get to kick off your shoes and stomp some grapes!
Dining Experience (Vista Dome Lunch/Dinner): $350-400 per person
The Napa Valley Wine Train offers a couple different dining options, the first being the Vista Dome. The Vista Dome train is unique in that the sides are almost entirely glass to give you the most incredible views of Napa Valley. The dining experiences are different from the winery tours in that you’re not actually stopping at any wineries.
The lunch tours include a 3 hour train ride and the dinner tours are 2 hours total. They each come with a multiple-course, gourmet meal.
You can find more info on the Vista Dome here!
Dining Experience (Gourmet Express Lunch/Dinner): $225-295 per person
The Gourmet Express option takes place in the wine train’s vintage train car. Again you’re not stopping at any wineries. The lunch tour is 3 hours total, while the dinner option is 2 hours. The meals are both multiple courses and made of local, gourmet food.
Murder Mystery Dinner: $455 per person
The Napa Valley Wine Train also offers a couple different special events throughout the year! The Murder Mystery dinner happens a few times a month (typically on a Friday or Saturday). Each month has a different theme and while you’re eating dinner, you’ll also be solving a mystery! Each dinner is multiple courses and the entire ride is about two hours.
You can find more info on the Murder Mystery Dinner here!
How Our Experience Was
Austin and I did the Legacy Tour which was a total of six hours and took us to three different wineries. We arrived at the train station around 10am and boarded the train shortly thereafter. We were greeted with some sparkling wine and a tasty treat. The train was beautiful. It had a vintage feel to it with large windows so we could see all of the rolling hills and vineyards as we passed.
The wineries we were supposed to go to were Mondavi, Charles Krug, and V. Sattui. However, something was going on with Charles Krug and we couldn’t stop there, so they took us to Beringer instead. All three wineries were incredible. They gave us a short tour, then a tasting, and then gave us time to either walk around the property or decide which wines we were going to buy to take home with us.
Around lunch time, we had the choice of a couple different options on board. Austin and I each got a different meal, but both were fantastic. We were amazed that food that good could be made on board a train! We were also served dessert on our way back to the train station after the third winery tour.
The people we met on the train were also very nice. We noticed quickly that we were the youngest couple there which honestly makes sense given the price tag. I’m not sure how many 23-year olds would pay over $600 for a wine tour, but it’s something we valued and really wanted to try! Keep that in mind, though. The wine train isn’t a party bus with loud music and dancing – it was a very calm, relaxing atmosphere.
Is the wine train worth it?
I think it depends on which tour/dining experience you choose. As I mentioned this above, if you’re looking for a full day tour, I’d recommend the Legacy Tour. We got to try out different wineries that we’d never heard of, we had a delicious meal, and we got to ride on the historic railroad. Best of all – we could drink as much wine as we wanted, because we didn’t have to worry about transportation between wineries!
As for the dining experiences, I feel like that’s a personal decision. Both the lunch and dinner options make for one expensive meal, but it’s the experience that can make it worth it for some people.
I hope this article was helpful for you and I’d love to know if you’ve been on the Napa Valley Wine Train, or if you’re planning to go. It was such a memorable experience for us and I know it will be for you, too!
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