Wednesday was a free day for the Chino Waynes, the business executives running the conference having wisely scheduled the conference to run for two half day sessions on Monday and Tuesday, to allow for plenty of time for networking on the golf course. The Chino Waynes checked out of the Silverado that morning and delivered themselves to the Napa Valley Wine Train depot in plenty of time for a pre-departure wine tasting at 10:45 A.M. The pre-departure wine tasting, which is included in the price of the excursion, is a very clever ploy by the Wine Train. The, for lack of a better term, sommelier leading the wine tasting was obviously very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the fruits of the vine. A Chateau Woltner Chardonnay (1997 vintage) was offered as was a private label Merlot. The Chino Waynes thoroughly enjoyed the Chateau Woltner and would rate it much higher on their scale of drinkability than the Markham Chardonnays sampled the day before, it seemed smoother and much sweeter tasting to the Chino Waynes unsophisticated palates. Having been sufficiently lubricated by the pre-departure tasting, the Chino Waynes boarded the lounge car on the Wine Train, where, once ensconced at their table, Chino Wayne ordered two glasses of Domaine Chandon Brut (no vintage) bubbly, which the Chino Waynes proceeded to sip as the train began gliding away from the depot. Small plates of appetizers were offered in the lounge car which consisted of a small rosette of a creamy garlic flavored cheese, a small mound of vegetable matter julienne which had the consistency of jicama with maybe a drop of oil and vinegar and some herbs, a small round of toasted bread with a rosette of salmon mousse and a small round of toasted bread with a sliver of roasted pork loin with a dab of Dijon mustard. All were tasty, miniscule, but tasty. Chino Waynes roasted pork was slightly pink in the center, fortunately for Chino Wayne, Mrs. Chino Waynes roasted pork was uniformly white, so Chino Wayne did not have to be subjected to Mrs. Chino Wayne refusing to so much as look at the pork, let alone eat a piece of meat that does not look like it has survived a nuclear holocaust. Also fortunately for Chino Wayne, Mrs. Chino Wayne handed over her portion of the salmon mousse toast, as Mrs. Chino Wayne does not car for, as she terms it, the pink fish (i.e. lox, or any approximation thereof), while Chino Wayne is a longtime confirmed aficionado of all permutations of genus salmon.
After finishing their sparkling wine and appetizer morsels, the Chino Waynes repaired to the Wine Tasting car. This was strictly a reconnaissance mission, all business, the mission was to identify a wine that would be suitable for drinking at lunch. A Bayview Gewurtztraminer (vintage 2000) was the first sampling, and by far, was the most appreciated of those sampled on the train by the Chino Waynes with their pedestrian tastes in wine. Also sampled were a Rose, a Francis Coppola Diamond Label Merlot (vintage 1999) and an Edizone Pennino Zinfandel ( vintage 1999). Four tastings for two were $10.00. By this time Mrs. Chino Wayne reported that a buzz was developing. The Chino Waynes returned to their table in the lounge car to regroup before lunch.
Just prior to arriving at the Wine Trains destination in St. Helena, the Chino Waynes were escorted to the second seating in the dining car. Mrs. Chino Wayne ordered the chicken prosciutto breast stuffed with sautéed spinach, wild mushrooms and provolone cheese, with sun dried tomato and wild mushroom sauce. Chino Wayne ordered the roasted Angus tenderloin over sautéed oyster mushrooms with red-wine reduction with fried leeks and gorgonzola cheese. Both of the Chino Waynes opted for the salad of mixed field greens, baby lettuce, endive, candied walnuts, smoked goat cheese and honey cider vinaigrette. Based upon his reconnoitering in the tasting car, Chino Wayne ordered a bottle of the Bayview Gewurtztraminer.
The salads were pleasing both to the eye and to the palate. Mrs. Chino Wayne thoroughly enjoyed the addition of the candied walnuts. Chino Wayne thought he also tasted fried bacon bits and also enjoyed his salad, interspersed with sips of the wine. Chino Wayne, in his unsophisticated dining innocence expected the chicken breast dish to be comprised of a whole chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto, spinach, mushrooms and cheese. In actuality the dish was comprised of apparently a mixture of ground chicken breast mixed with all of the other ingredients, then stuffed in the skin and cooked. The resulting ballotine (Chino Waynes ignorant attempt at description) then sliced on the bias in to approximately three slices per serving. Upon being offered a sample of the chicken by Mrs. Chino Wayne, it was Chino Waynes perception that his apparently immature palate could taste neither, prosciutto, mushrooms, spinach nor provolone, and that the overall taste was one of blandness. The accompanying sauce tasted to Chino Wayne not of tomato, but rather of roasted red pepper, and was gleefully referred to by Mrs. Chino Wayne as thousand island, based upon its brilliant coloration. The chicken was a decidedly delicate dish, and of inconsequential taste bud registration to Chino Wayne, who admittedly would prefer a good steak any time.
The roasted Angus tenderloin was two slices of beef tenderloin, suitably medium-rare with the stated wine reduction. The beef was flavorful, but in terms of Chino Waynes appetite egregiously lacking in quantity. The beef was accompanied by a small boiled white potato, a small boiled purple potato (which was a first for Chino Wayne, and when displayed for Mrs. Chino Wayne elicited a distasteful look), some baby string beans and baby carrots. (With all of the baby vegetables that the Chino Waynes have encountered on this road trip it gives the Chino Waynes pause, to consider the trauma experienced by all those little veggies who have been torn from the bosoms of their mothers. All of this destruction of the nuclear family just to satisfy some drunken winos.) A silver bread bowl with a section of sourdough flute was served with the first two courses. Sadly to say this bread did not meet Chino Waynes standards by any stretch of the imagination. This bread obviously came from a large commercial bakery operation and was most likely loaded with preservatives, as evidence by the soft, mushy crust, and lack of taste. For dessert Mrs. Chino Wayne had a slice of cheese cake garnished with fresh berries. Chino Wayne being a cheese cake fan, however, passed up an opportunity for a sample, as the appearance of the cheese cake was again the product of a large scale commercial bakery operation, and in Chino Waynes opinion he could do better by simply picking up a John Donnaire frozen cheese cake at his local supermarket. Chino Wayne ordered the chocolate cake, which was a slice of dense, course grained chocolate cake with a chocolate syrup, toasted sliced almonds and a dollop of whipped cream. To the sugar deprived Chino Wayne this dessert was the highlight of the meal. The cake full bodied and very flavorful, enhanced by the chocolate sauce and the very nice toasted flavor of the almond slices. The whipped cream was dense, cold, and not too sweet. The amalgam of all of the chocolate cake components having, together with the remnants of the wine, a very soothing and pleasant feeling effect on Chino Wayne.
All in all, the Chino Waynes thought the wine train experience was a very pleasant way to pass the afternoon. The train itself was beautiful, and the entire operation very smoothly run. Chino Wayne did remark that it was a shame, that the overall food quality of this operation, whos largest and controlling share holder is the Rice-A-Roni king did not live up to the consistently high standards of the countless boxes of Rice-A-Roni consumed over the past 30 years by the Chino Waynes. Total tab for the wine train excursion for the Chino Waynes was $200.00 which included roundtrip train fare for two adults, two prixe fix lunches, two glasses of sparkling wine, one bottle of wine and two four glass wine tasting pours. Mrs. Chino Wayne also purchased a photo of the Chino Waynes in front of the train as they were about to disembark for 20.00.
Napa Valley Wine Train
1275 McKinstry Street
Napa, CA 94559