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Vintage Train, Vintage Wines,

Vintage Cars, and Vintage Wine Country Inns

Sounds Like California!

Story and Photos by Carl Morrison,


20br_award-1.gif•  The Napa Valley Wine Train was rated as ONE OF THE 20 BEST RAIL EXPERIENCES IN THE WORLD by The Society of International Railway Travelers (IRT) (  That distinction raises one's expectations when a trip to Napa Valley to ride the Wine Train is planned!

The IRT call themselves,  an international organization of sophisticated travelers who prefer going by rail.  (for a sample list, go to

1000Places.jpgEven more current (2007), the Napa Valley Wine Train is mentioned in the U.S. and Canada edition of 1,000 Places to See Before You die.

•  Add wines of Napa Valley to the Wine Train's Gourmet Rail Excursion  and you've combined two favorites right away. 

•  On top of that, take a Wine Tasting Tour in a vintage automobile provided by Vintage Wine Tours of Sonoma (formerly Vintage Chrome), and you have three favorite things in one vacation package.

•  Finally, include accommodations at Bed and Breakfasts that are members of the Wine Country Inn's Association, and you have an ideal vacation.


Napa Valley Wine Train


Napa Wine Train Station, 1275 McKinstry Street, Napa, CA

By Carl Morrison,


Getting There:

Of course you can drive, or, since this a rail website, I recommend that you take the Amtrak Coast Starlight to Martinez, California.  Catch a Napa Amtrak motor coach to the Napa Valley Wine Train.  Or, in Martinez, rent a car.  Rail Friend Andy says it's funny this time of year, during the "Crush" of the harvested grapes, that people from all over the world rent cars, usually converitables, and drive slowly through the vineyards, with the top down rain or shine, and stop often, on the road, to take pictures.  I'll have to say I fell into that category, but I did always stop safely off the road, or down a lane to take grape pictures.

If you take the bus, it till take you to:

Napa Wine Train
1275 McKinstry St
Napa, CA 94559
Location: Wine Train Station
Route: 7 (From Martinez to Napa)

There are two Amtrak Motor coach stops in Napa. The original Napa stop continues to be located at the Napa Wine Train Station, at 1275 McKinstry Street. (zip = 94559) The new stop is the VINE Transit Center, at the corner of Pearl and Main Streets (94559). Neither tickets, baggage, nor package express shipments are handled at these location. The nearest station offering these services is Martinez, where the Napa Amtrak motor coaches originate/terminate. Tickets may be purchased from an Amtrak travel agent, over the telephone from Amtrak at 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) or over the Internet from Amtrak's home page,

There are telephones, parking and a waiting area at the Napa Valley Wine Train Station on McKinstry St. Inside the McKinstry St. station are restrooms, Napa Valley Wine Train information, and a gift shop.

VINE is the acronym of the Valley Intercity Neighborhood Express VINE transit links the Napa Valley communities of American Canyon, Calistoga, Napa, St. Helena, Vallejo and Yountville. The VINE Transit Center is located in downtown Napa close to restaurants and shopping. The Transit Center is where other buses stop, thus providing improved transfer to cities served by local transit.

While there are lots of things to see and do in Napa, including new shops and tourist activities in the downtown, a visit to COPIA may be worth your time. COPIA, The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, is "a cultural museum and educational center dedicated to exploring the distinctively American contribution to the character of wine and food in close association with the arts and humanities, and to celebrating these as a unique expression of the vitality of American life, culture and heritage." COPIA is located at 500 First Street.

What to Do:

Of the Wine Train, the Sacramento Bee says:

 Aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train, guests enjoy elegant rail travel that harkens back to an earlier era where they are served a gourmet meal (brunch, lunch or dinner) as the train travels through picturesque vineyards and past famous wineries. The train travels 36 miles through the valley in about three hours. Some trips allow guests to get off and tour a winery and taste the local vintages. Special trips also are offered that feature wine-tasting classes, musical performances or murder mysteries.

How Much it Costs:

Fares range from $49.50 per person for a trip with food purchased separately to $97 per person for a journey that includes wines and a 5-course meal.


The depot is located in downtown Napa, just off Soscol and First Streets


(800) 427-4124

Dress code

Daytime trips are casual, but faded or worn jeans are strongly discouraged. Dinner trips should be treated as an elegant night out with jackets encouraged for the men.

(For My full story and pictures, click here.)

Where to Stay:

We stayed at two "Wine Country Inns."

•  160/DSC02745.jpgMelitta Station Inn is a roadside Lodging House and railroad halt “watering hole” across from the SP railroad spur from Vallejo out to Santa Rosa where the line eventually merged with the interests of the NWP railroad  from Tiburon through to Eureka.

The Inn pre-dates the arrival of the railroad in 1887. The line fell into disuse during the Great Depression and was stripped out for scrap by 1935. It’s main commercial purpose was the transport of basalt paving blocks to the construction market in San Francisco. The Inn was re-modeled from a store into its present B&B form in 1985 and has functioned in that mode since then.

•  160/DSC02622.jpgTHE HIDDEN OAK INN --  A touch of old Sonoma. Experience the warmth of this country home in historic Sonoma Ca - in the Valley of the Moon.

The Hidden Oak Inn, circa 1914, is an exquisite example of a California Craftsman Bungalow. Located one block from Sonoma’s Historic Plaza, in the prestigious eastside residential neighborhood, take a walk back in time. The casual elegance of this historic bed and breakfast reflects a time of serenity and beauty.  In an effort to preserve the past, the innkeepers have added many antiques and collectibles throughout the Inn. Spacious rooms provide a restful interlude for two after a day of wine tasting or exploring the town. The intimate feeling of this Inn is Ideal for a romantic getaway, a weekend away with friends, or plan a girls weekend.


Awaken to the aromas of fresh coffee and baked goods each morning. A full breakfast is served on weekends at 9am. An expanded continental breakfast buffet on weekdays between 8-10am. Special dietary requests can be accommodated when made prior to arrival.


A wine tasting is offered each evening from 4-6pm and can be enjoyed on the Inns lovely wisteria covered front porch or on the poolside veranda. Complimentary wine tasting cards and maps offer the guest an unforgettable wine country experience.


The Wine Country Inns are a selection of sixteen individually owned inns in the premier wine-growing region of Sonoma County. Although each inn has a distinct individual style, this is a unique association with stellar shared attributes. All the inns are owned by professional innkeepers who practice a new art of innkeeping. The inns share similar amenities and price points and the highest code of guest responsibility. Their exceptional service extends to a shared website and telephone number that allows guests to find availability at all of the inns easily. Each of the inns must be inspected and reviewed by other innkeepers from attic to basement, from linens to guest policies and from culinary offerings to housekeeping before being accepted into membership in the association. These standards ensure that all of the inns are exemplary accommodations. The innkeeper/owners all bring business experience to innkeeping and are passionate about the area. They excel at providing their guest with the personalized service that even the finest hotels would find hard to match. These inns have an aura of professionalism much different from the old days of the bed and breakfasts where accommodations were run by couples who liked to entertain and decorated every surface of every room with personal knickknacks. Today’s innkeepers are best described as a combination of general manager, executive chef and head concierge. The rooms are beautifully and simply decorated for comfort.
Located in the central, eastern, northern and northwestern areas of the Sonoma County wine country, the member inns are located in the historic towns of Cloverdale, Forestville, Geyserville, Glen Ellen, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa and Sonoma.

The inns are approximately one and a half hours from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland International Airport and two and a quarter hours from the Sacramento area.

Member Inns:          

Calderwood Inn, Healdsburg
Camellia Inn, Healdsburg
Case Ranch Inn, Forestville
Country Meadow Inn, Windsor
George Alexander House, Healdsburg
Glenelly Inn & Cottages, Glen Ellen
• Hidden Oak Inn, Sonoma
Hope Merrill & Bosworth Houses, Geyserville
• Melitta Station Inn, Santa Rosa
English Tea Garden Inn, Cloverdale
Raford Inn, Healdsburg
The Gables Inn, Santa Rosa
The Irish Rose Inn, Healdsburg
The Shelford House, Cloverdale
 Trojan Horse Inn, Sonoma
 Vintage Towers, Cloverdale

The smallest inns have 3 rooms and the largest has 12 rooms   Total rooms: 96
Prices:   $109 to $295 per room night 

(For the full story and pictures of the Melitta Station and Hidden Oak Inns, click here.)

Where to Eat:

Strizzi's - Fresh Fish, Pasta, Wood-fired Grill

We enjoyed fresh and tasty spaghetti and meatballs with local wine in their Livermore restaurant.  They have 3 - 6 p.m. Dinner Specials which are about $2 less than dinner prices.  Their menu includes sandwiches, salads, and Family Traditional Favorites from $11.99 to $15.99.  Dinner items include pasta, raviolis, risotto, chicken, salmon, seafood, steaks, and chops.

A picture on the menu shows Jennie L. Strizzi and her parents, Luciano and Assunta at Luciano's Italian Deli in Greensburg, PA, about 1930.  His philosophy was, "When you cook, let the freshness speak for itself."

What's Cool in the Area: 

"Haute Rods"


Blackhawk Museum, 3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle • Danville, CA 94506 • 925.736.2277

160/DSC02497.jpgBlackhawk displays about 90 cars, many of which are on loan from Museum friends in many different parts of the world. Blackhawk has the most dramatic presentation of coachbuilt cars in the world, without exception.

Cars frequently come to Blackhawk after they have been exhibited at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance each August; those aficionados who did not get to visit the premier one-day concours at Pebble Beach can enjoy these cars at Blackhawk all year long. This concept keeps Blackhawk's exhibition diverse and ever-changing; in recent years Museum visitors have seen such spectacular Pebble Beach entrants.  (For the full story and pictures, click here.)

Wine Tasting Tour of Sonoma

160/DSC02724.jpgWe took a unique, privately escorted tour of Sonoma Wineries with Eric Stevens of Sonoma.  Eric took us, in a 1937 Cadillac no less, to small wineries where, in each case we met the owner as we tasted their wines.  

His website perfectly describes the experience we had: "Stylish, unique and fun wine country excursions"

The wineries we visited during our wine tour were:

VJB Vineyards & Cellars and Loxton Cellars

(For the full story and pictures, click here.)


This trip all started because my wife of 42 years is a talented quilter.  She learned of a quilt show in the East Bay area in California in the town of Livermore.  When I told railfriend, Andy Smith of Pleasanton, about our trip plans he mentioned that near the "Quilts in the Garden" show we were going to was the Napa Wine Train.  He also added, knowing I like classic cars and photography, that the Blackhawk Auto Museum was also nearby in Danville, California.  Thanks, Andy, these were excellent venues and we visited all your suggestions.

Quilts in the Garden, Alden Lane Gardens, Livermore, California.

To Learn More:

  1. Blackhawk Museum (
  2. Napa Valley Wine Train (
  3. Napa Valley Wine Train - Gourmet Express Dinner Excursion - VISTA DOME APPELLATION DINNERS:
  4. The Sacramento Bee article:
  5. Vintage Wine Tours of Sonoma:
  6. Strizzi's - Fresh Fish, Pasta, Wood-fired Grill (/
  7. Wine Country Inns (
  8. Alden Lane Garden Village, Quilts in the Garden:
  9. Amtrak Reservations with a travel agent with extensive rail experience:  Carol Walker (562) 594-6771 or (714) 952-2719

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