And we’re back! Happy 2014! Andy and I took a little overnight trip to Napa a few weeks ago, sponsored by The Napa Valley Wine Train and The Meritage Resort. What a way to kick off the new year.
Back in Napa again at last and a return to one of our favorite places to stay: The Meritage Resort. By the way, at the end of this column, read about the inaugural Masters and Makers @ Meritage event being held at The Meritage Resort in February over Valentine’s Weekend. Attention couples, a great way to celebrate!
Here’s the lobby at The Meritage, and a shot of the room in which we stayed.
After checking into our room, we had a glass of wine to kick off a romantic evening. I was so excited to return to the Napa Valley Wine Train for dinner, and this time I was able to bring Andy as my guest. I originally wrote about The Wine Train on my other website: cakegrrl.com. You can read the entry by clicking here.
The Wine Train Depot is located at 1275 McKinstry Street in the Oxbow district, just 5 minutes from downtown Napa on foot.
This is a diagram of the wine train. The Napa Valley Wine Train consists of nine rail cars and two engines on point: Lounge Cars (3), Lounge Car with Wine Tasting Bar (1), Gourmet Express Dining Cars (2), Silverado Car Al-Fresco Style Dining(1), Vista Dome Dining Car (1), Power Car (1), Chef de Cuisine Kitchen Car with Glass Observation Corridor (1)
Andy and I were assigned to the beautiful Vista Dome.
The Vista Dome is a 1952 Pullman domed rail car that offers the most private dining experience. The Vista Dome Car is an elevated observation style dining car expertly refurbished using Honduran Mahogany paneling and brass accents. Perfect for a private function or one of our special events, this domed rail car hosts up to 56 dining guests.
Above is a picture taken inside the Vista Dome! I was feeling so spoiled and lucky to be sitting beside Andy. Especially when the server brought out the welcome glass of Chandon. All guests on the wine train get a glass of sparkling wine included with their dinner.
Corkage on the Napa Valley Wine Train is $15.00 per 750ml bottle and $30 for a Magnum sized bottle. If you bring one bottle of wine on board and buy a bottle
on board, they will waive the corkage for that bottle. FYI, most of the wines on the Wine Train menu are very reasonably priced.
Andy brought a bottle of 2010 Bell Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon to share with our dinner. You can read more about the wine as well as buy it here. We highly
Our server was Petar, and here is a photo of him explaining the courses featured in the dinner we were to be served.
Here’s a picture the dinner menu we chose from. It is slightly different from the other dining car. Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald offers a unique menu for this dining option with all selections prepared in the kitchen located on the first floor of this car. The meals are freshly prepared on the train using fresh, environmentally responsible ingredients, humanely raised, hormone free meats and fresh, line caught fish. For a closer look, you can click here.
For our appetizers, Andy went with the Salmon Crepe and I chose the Rabbit Confit. The lighting in the Vista Dome was dim, but I did not want to use a flash, so please forgive the photos I took of our meal. They are slightly dark.
The Salmon Crepe is served with Crème Fraîche, American Caviar and Honey Onion Marmalade.
Here’s a picture of the rabbit confit. Paleo? Heck no, but delightful and such a great treat. The Rabbit Confit is served on Porcini Toast with Wine Poached Mangoes and Fried Leeks.
For our second course, I chose the salad, and Andy went with soup special.
It was a shrimp and seafood bisque, and though we have been experiencing warmer than normal temperatures this winter, the temperature had dropped enough by the time we boarded the train to appreciate a delicious soup.
The salad was not for dieters. It was a Red and Green Apple Endive Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese, Hazelnuts and Mustard Vinaigrette. I was happy because I am on a real hazelnut kick right now and have been for a while.
After our second course, a sorbet trio was brought out. I forgot to snap a photo of it. The flavors were mango, pineapple, and mixed berry. They are made by the chefs at the Wine Train and were a wonderful intermezzo.
Then it was time for the entrees. Andy and I both chose the Roasted Beef Tenderloin on Potato‐Fennel Gratin topped with Fried Lotus Root and Red Onion Marmalade in a Red Wine Cabernet Reduction. I had reviewed the menu ahead of time and chosen my entrée and that is mainly why Andy brought the Bell Cabernet. The wine pairing was excellent. And though I gave a little bit of my beef portion to Andy to finish, it was all so good I had nothing left on my plate.
After dinner, we were welcome to explore the train as the servers were busy plating our desserts. Below is a photo of the other dining car.
And here’s a picture of the very narrow kitchen and a cook who obviously loves his job!
It was quite the adventure walking from car to car and fun to catch some fresh air between courses. It sort of felt like we were in a James Bond movie! After that, we were re-seated to enjoy our desserts, as well as a glass of port that Andy and I shared.
Below is a picture of the dessert I chose, a Chocolate “Pot Pie” and below that, Andy’s dessert: a Blondie with Mint Ice Cream. This job is so tough, isn’t it? In typical fashion, I had a few bites and then shoved my dessert over to Andy, who did not object to finishing it. I was eying the blondie on his plate and asked for the chocolate-dipped edge. He gladly shared with me. I love eating meals with my best friend.
Wine Train FAQs I found particularly interesting:
Q: Is a tip included in the price?
A: Optional tipping is solely based upon the guests’ experience on board. It is not unusual for guest to leave 3%-8% additional based upon receiving excellent service. Your tip should be on your food and beverage service (the value of your on board pre-paid meal is $55.00) per person tax included, and not the train fare.
- Q: Is Wine Included?
A: One glass of welcome wine is included with every Wine Train package for guests who are over the age of 21. Wines are included during the Vintner’s Lunches and the monthly Moonlight Escape Dinners. Cocktails, beers and wine can be purchased on board throughout your journey. More than 100 wines are on the wine list and in the Wine Tasting Car.
- Q: Do you have to drink wine on the Napa Valley Wine Train?
A: No, you do not have to drink wine on board the Napa Valley Wine Train. For our guests who do not want to drink wine, we also offer juice, soda, non-alcoholic wines, beers, cocktails and brandies.
During the 3-hour-long, 36-mile (58 km) round-trip between Napa and St. Helena, passengers can choose to enjoy a gourmet meal prepared on board. They can also sample several of the region’s wines available at the wine bar located in one of the lounge cars. The train offers optional stops for tours of Domaine Chandon Winery in Yountville, Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford, and a motor coach tour of Raymond Winery in St. Helena and ZD Winery in Napa for an additional fee. The train hosts several special events throughout the year including murder mystery dinner theater, vintner’s luncheons, appellation dinners and holiday excursions. Guests are invited to explore the rest of the train after the entree and prior to the dessert.
The Napa Valley Wine Train has been in operation since September 16, 1989 and has now carried more than 2 million passengers.
Here’s a list of special events on The Wine Train, including a special Valentine’s lunch and dinner.
You can find the Napa Valley Wine Train on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.
Since I was a return guest, I was presented with some chocolates as a parting gift. (Some guests around us were repeat customers and also got chocolates as well, not just the journalist!) Since I was a little sad my mom (who lives in Ohio) was not there to enjoy this experience with us, I decided to send them to her and they are currently en route to the midwest.
The next morning, it was time to pay for all those glorious calories and the night of indulgence aboard the Wine Train. Lucky for me, The Meritage Resort has a killer gym with a great view. And I put in over an hour on this bad boy:
Then it was time for a well needed shower, just in time for check out. Thanks for everything to the staff at The Meritage Resort and see you next time!
And now some information (provided by my public relations contact) on an upcoming event being held at The Meritage Resort!
The Meritage Resort and Spa will host the inaugural Masters and Makers @ Meritage Napa Valley food and wine experience February 14 to February 16, 2014. This celebration will showcase Napa Valley and Sonoma County wines and farm-fresh foods through creative wine tasting experiences, seminars, culinary classes, a wine maker dinner in the Estate Cave, a wine tasting gala and more. Join The Meritage Resort’s Executive Chef, Krisztian Karkus, Master Sommeliers, including Gillian Balance from Treasury Wine Estates/Beringer and Fred Dame with Southern Wine and Spirits as well as some of the best and most well-known wine makers in the region.
The weekend of events is aimed at teaching each attendee, no matter their wine tasting background, from novice to aficionado, more about the wines the Napa Valley is famous for. Guests are able to choose from a variety of educational and fun activities throughout three days of tastings and events with master wine makers and master sommeliers making this the wine event that is not to be missed.
Masters and Makers @ Meritage begins Friday, February 14 with The Master and The Makers Tasting, an Amuse Bouche set to highlight five quintessential blended wines from the Napa Valley. Guests will taste the wines and listen as a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier taste and review each of the wines, giving their opinions and helping guests understand the art of wine tasting. The Friday night Reserve Wine Dinner in the Estate Cave will be led by Master Sommeliers as they take attendees on a food and wine journey and featuring Pine Ridge Vineyards.
On Saturday, guests are able to choose from one of three activities during the day and attend the evening wine tasting gala. The daytime activities include a Custom Wine Tour set to visit three classic Napa Valley wineries with tours and tastings at each, plus a picnic lunch. The Perfect Blending, an educational and hands-on course about what makes the perfect Bordeaux Blend including lunch and your own “Meritage Blend” with a custom wine label. Foodies may want to choose Cook to This! Trinitas Cellars Cooking Class and Wine Pairing, giving attendees the opportunity to create their own multi-course lunch with the help of culinary experts perfectly paired with wines selected by Trinitas Cellars.
The Gala and Grand Tasting on Saturday evening will transform The Grand Ballroom at The Meritage Resort into a majestic tasting room with live music and over 65 wineries from Napa Valley and Sonoma County to showcase many of the finest wines produced in the region. Alongside the wines will be endless culinary creations from the chefs at The Meritage Resort including a selection of seafood, caviars, cheeses, meats and decadent desserts.
Masters and Makers @ Meritage will close on Sunday with the farewell Bubbles & Brunch and a casual afternoon of tasting 30-40 wines at the Appellation Tasting paired with cheeses and charcuterie.
“We’re looking forward to bringing all of the premier wineries to one convenient spot to offer a premiere wine and food experience,” said Michael Palmer, general manager of The Meritage Resort and Spa. “Our goal with the Masters and Makers @ Meritage is to give attendees an exclusive weekend wine and food experience that only Napa Valley can provide.
Masters and Makers @ Meritage 3-Day All Access Passes are $509 per person, and include entry into all events on Friday, two events on Saturday (one daytime event and the evening gala) and all events on Sunday. Guests may also choose to purchase events and activities individually. Discounted room packages are also available, the $950 package includes a 3-Day All Access Passes for two and a two night stay, valid February 14-16, 2014 only. A portion of all ticket sales from The Gala and Grand Tasting will be donated to the Napa Valley’s COPE Family Center. Complete Information is available at TheMeritageResort.com/Napa-Valley-Restaurants/Masters-Makers/.
About The Meritage Resort and Spa
The Meritage Resort and Spa is an extraordinary four-diamond Napa Valley luxury resort set against a hillside vineyard. A destination unto itself, it features 322 Tuscan-inspired guestrooms and luxury suites, seasonal farm-to-table cuisine at the Siena Restaurant and wine tasting in the Estate Cave featuring Trinitas Cellars. Regain a healthful balance with curative treatments at Spa Terra—a lavish underground spa with steam grottoes, soaking pools, treatment alcoves and tranquil walls of water. The resort boasts the most comprehensive event and meeting space in the wine country, including the two largest ballrooms in the Napa Valley, the Estate Cave and three covered terraces. Crush Ultra Lounge offers guests a chance to relax with a full bar, sports entertainment and six bowling lanes. Far more than a place for relaxation, our unique property is an Old World escape from the ordinary. The Meritage Resort and Spa experience is the perfect blend of gracious hospitality, unrivaled amenities and peerless personal care. The Meritage Resort and Spa, We are Napa. TheMeritageResort.com.