Forged and laid in a violent spree of robbery, gunfire, and vigilantism, the railroads of the West may not boast a relaxing past, but their present is filled with flowing wine. That’s the shtick behind the Napa Valley Wine Train, a 150-year-old converted rail line that stretches from Napa to St. Helena.
The premise is simple: an elegant train ride filled with flowing wine, fine dining, and a view of the picturesque Napa Valley wine country. Wine tasting packages and deals run for a few hundred dollars with the promise of visiting historic castles, sipping wine from several different vineyards, gourmet food, and even a “Murder on the Wine Express” murder-mystery package, in which passengers are encouraged to dress the part, Westworld-style. The train is made up of historical first-class rail coaches built in 1915 that run all year long.
And then there’s the wine, of course. On offer are paired menus featuring the wares of local wineries Charles Krug, Palmaz Vineyards, Vine Cliff, and several others. Depending on availability, you can even purchase packages for private “Meet the Maker” dinners with the vintners themselves — a meal which will be paired with only their finest seasonal offerings.
As luxurious as this all sounds, the Napa Valley Wine Train spun out of a history of luxury in the otherwise rough-and-tumble Old West. The rail line was originally built by the legendary vigilante/businessman/journalist/Mormon leader Samuel Brannan, in order to make sure paying customers had an easy route to take up to his day spa in Calistoga, California. While Brannan may have been California’s first millionaire, he eventually had to sell the railroad to the California Pacific Railroad in order to pay for a messy divorce and it changed hands a couple times more in the decades that followed. More than a century later, in September 1989, the rail line reopened as the Napa Valley Wine Train, and the wine has flowed ever since.