Savor the Beauty and Flavors of Napa Valley: A Food and Wine Lover’s Paradise

We have family friends with whom we’ve recently begun embarking on weekend getaways – trips that are within an easy half-day’s drive from South OC. Over the long weekend in February, we trekked to South Lake Tahoe to take active advantage of the epic snowfall. Then last month, we opted for a more leisurely sojourn defined by gourmet cuisine and fine wine in Napa Valley.

I cannot begin to tell you the serotonin rush I get when I put up my out of office message. Especially with the knowledge that what awaits is an experience as lush and stress-free as the Napa Valley Wine Train. Now, I’m not saying I’m technophobic, or that I don’t appreciate the rigors of a typical workday. But letting the daily routine off the hook once in a while is my kind of fun, and experiencing the decadent journey aboard a three-hour tour through wine country on a restored vintage railcar that travels through the picturesque landscape of stunning vineyards and rolling hills? There’s no better – or unique – way to experience the beauty and charm of the region.

The Napa Valley Wine Train offers a variety of experiences, from gourmet lunches to themed tours and special events. The train’s historic railcars have been carefully restored and outfitted with plush seating and elegant decor, creating a luxurious and comfortable atmosphere. Don’t have a ton of time to spend away from the norm? Try the Gourmet Express or Afternoon Tea. Both allow for intimate conversations at a slower pace as lunch or tea are served while you gently rock to and fro over the rails from Napa to St. Helena and back. Savor world-class cuisine, award-winning wines and your surroundings, while the sun is bright and the antique Pullman railcar totes you through the splendor of California’s wine country.

Grab your girlfriends for Afternoon Tea and chat over the most delicate finger sandwiches, tasty soups and salads, and a variety of artfully crafted teas. Enhance the experience with a caviar course or learn the flavors of Napa beneath the tutelage of a Master Sommelier. Not one to imbibe? You won’t have to settle for less with signature mini desserts and views for days on tap. Make friends with your compartment mates or grab a private table for four. And maybe leave that out of office up just a little longer, as you linger in the soft light over Napa’s most elegant and timeless adventure.

Our friends are particular fans of Rombauer’s varietals so a cave tour and wine tasting at its Napa Valley vineyards topped our wish list of weekend activities and our tour and tasting experience at the family-owned winery more than delivered.

The spectacular brainchild of Koerner Rombauer, whose great aunt Irma wrote the international bestseller The Joy of Cooking. Situated on a picturesque hilltop overlooking the valley, guests are taken on a journey through the history and winemaking process, learning about the terroir of the Napa Valley and the techniques used to create their acclaimed wines, including their signature Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

As if the views of the Mayacamas Mountains and gorgeous gardens on site aren’t enough to give you a taste of the Rombauer legacy, they recognize that winemaking itself is a “holistic endeavor,” and integrate the land and their community into the distillation process. Each guest becomes a vital part of the winemaking since the first days of business back in 1980.

Explore the property with your host and learn about the caves below the tasting room, then sip a vintage as you stroll through the lovely garden. A library of flavors awaits as well as a personal tasting board, complete with small bites to graze on. The perfect complement to an afternoon beneath the warm California sun, the full Napa experience is waiting for you to partake. Go ahead, you might even find some remnant Joy along the way.

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