Choo Choo All Aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train….for Afternoon Tea! The new Wine Train experience has us sticking our pinkies out and speaking in a British accent. Featuring a three-hour journey through the Napa Valley, the Afternoon Tea experience is perfect for those looking to enjoy the valley from a new perspective. On a lovely Friday in June, my coworkers and I boarded the Wine Train for the Afternoon Tea experience that includes a four-course small bites menu, four teas to choose from and additional drinks to purchase.
Boarding the Wine Train is like stepping back in time. The train was originally built by California’s first millionaire Sam Brennan to bring guests from San Francisco to his spa resort in Calistoga. Over time the line was sold to Southern Pacific Railroad, who used it for freight as well as passenger transport until it was abandoned in 1984. After that a group of concerned citizens rallied together to preserve the tracks in Napa County for future use. And that was the start of the Napa Valley Wine Train we know and love today. The train cars are all refurbished from eras past and the Afternoon Tea car feels like you are traveling through Europe in the 1920s. The car is lined with cute little booths and blue velvet swivel chairs. We are seated in a nice booth that is already set with three cold glasses of bubbles and the cutest little tea cups.
To start off our journey we travel through the Rail Art District (RAD) in downtown Napa. Founded in 2016, RAD is an open air art museum that features murals from artists from all over the world. From the train the murals speed by. My favorite is “Barclay” by Barrie Barnett, an adorable dog poking his head over a fake door on the side of a building. Once we are out of Napa we are surrounded by the vineyards of Oak Knoll and Yountville.
Our first course of the afternoon is an amazing black bean soup. The soup was rich and creamy and topped with some tortilla strips for an extra crunch. After the soup was a golden beet and goat cheese salad with a citrus salad. I LOVE beets so this was one of my favorite bites of the day. After our soup and salad it was time for tea! We were offered four tea options (two caffeinated, two uncaffeinated). I opted for the black tea while my coworkers had the green tea and rooibos. All the teas were offered with honey, lemon, or sugar and were brewed perfectly.
The ride up the rails took us through Rutherford and Oakville, past the Napa Valley Welcome Sign and a stop at Grgich Hills Winery where some of the wine train visitors disembarked for a wine tasting (you can find that experience here). After the quick stop our tea sandwich tower was served! Our tea sandwich selection included radish and creme fraiche, cucumber and dill, smoked salmon and fine herb cream cheese, roast beef with horseradish and white cheddar and a lobster vol-au-vent. My favorites were the smoked salmon and cucumber and dill. One of my coworkers is gluten free and the Wine Train staff was so accommodating. They brought her out her own plate of gluten free sandwiches!
Once we reach St. Helena the train slows to turn around. The Afternoon Tea car was the last on the train and now we are about to be the first. It is fun to watch the engine discount and then reattach to the other end of the train. Once reconnected we are headed back down the valley…just in time for dessert. For dessert we got to enjoy some local cheese, macaroons, chocolate bon bons, lemon tarts, scones with clotted cream. The scones and clotted cream were just like the ones I used to enjoy in London for high tea.
Too soon we are rolling back into Napa and to the Wine Train station. The Afternoon Tea experience is the perfect introduction to the Wine Train and Napa Valley. It is a great three hour journey through the valley while you get to enjoy delicious tea and cuisine. I can’t wait to ride the rails on the Napa Valley Wine Train again!
Afternoon Tea Experience
Friday – Sunday
11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.