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A Tour of California Wine Country Part II-Napa Valley

Wine tastings and Dinner on the Napa Valley Wine Train

The second day of my California Wine Country experience began with a morning of seminars presented by Penney Rudicil our tour leader for NACTA, the National Association of Career Travel Agents and other travel industry experts, detailing facts and information about Napa and Sonoma Counties. We received lots of information on the area, what we would see and do, with maps and brochures to take home for our clients. I was feeling great after a great breakfast at the Embassy Suites breakfast buffet and I felt even better when the hotel manager greeted us at the start of the seminar with glasses of mimosa cocktails (champagne and orange juice)! The manager told us that this drink was a great way to start the morning because it is in very bad taste to drink red wine before lunch. I could not agree with him more!


After the seminar sessions were concluded we were divided into 2 groups and told to meet in front of the hotel and board our tour buses for our tour of Napa Valley. I headed out front early, anxious to get a good seat. I was completely taken by surprise when I boarded the bus because it was not at all what I was expecting! Instead of the regular 2 seats on each side of a center aisle, this is what I found:

Our tour bus is a Party Bus!

I just had to have my picture taken before the crowd arrived!

The Napa Valley Wine Country Tours company would be our host transportation for the week and they were definitely planning to chauffer us around in style. Both tour buses had a sound system, video system and free wi fi on board! This company would definitely be getting my business in the future!

We soon headed out for our first destination of the afternoon, the Rutherford Hill Winery, where we would have wine tastings and a picnic lunch. Founded in 1972, Rutherford Hill Winery is a pioneer in the development of California Merlot. Merlot remains the flagship wine of the company with 75 percent of Rutherford Hill's production dedicated to this varietal, one of the leading Merlots of Napa Valley. Stepping off the tour bus at the winery, I could not help but notice how beautiful the grounds were. Fantastic views of the valley and beautiful flowers were as much of an attraction as the wine.

Pretty flowers on the Winery walls
View of the Napa Valley floor from the Rutherford Hill Winery

Our host from the Rutherford Hill Winery met us as we exited the tour bus and led us down to our tables among some olive trees for our picnic lunch.
The food was wonderful. Each of us had a choice of fresh sandwiches made of tri tip beef, chicken or vegetarian style, with pasta salad, mixed fruit salad and a cookie. It was lovely to sit outside and enjoy our food while we talked to each other about what we had experienced so far.

The picnic tables for our NACTA group lunch
Other visitors to the winery enjoying their lunch under the trees

After lunch we were given a tour of the winery and we enjoyed several tastings of some excellent white and red wines including a Port which was a little sweet for me. However, I did learn something new. The Port was served with chocolate covered blueberries which tasted wonderful together! I never would have guessed the two would combine so well. After the tour we had time to visit the gift shop before boarding the bus for our next stop, the Louis Martini winery.

Our first wine tasting was outside on the lawn. A great Sauvignon Blanc!


Tasting wine in the Rutherford Hill Winery "cave" where wine are stored

The Louis M. Martini Winery was the scene of another lovely wine tasting experience. For more than 75 years, the Martini family winemakers have crafted World-class Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the exceptional vineyards of Sonoma and Napa counties. Michael Martini, Third-generation winemaker carries on the tradition at the historic winery in Napa Valley with his "range of unforgettable Cabernet Sauvignon wines".
The grounds of this winery were shaded and set up for relaxation. We left the tour bus and were directed to an outside courtyard where a bar was set up with a tasting of a cabernet sauvignon wine. I took a glass and found a seat where I could relax and enjoy my wine. It was very good. A travel agent friend took my picture so I could remember this experience.

Me enjoying my wine and the lovely setting at the Louis M. Martini Winery
Others in my group enjoying their wine too!

Our host from the winery offered us a tour of the winery so some of us followed her inside. We were educated on the making of the Martini wines and then given a short but informative instruction on wine tasting. The short tour ended down in the wine cellar with the tasting of a special red wine that I found out later cost over $100.00 dollars a bottle! Oh, that's why it tasted better than the rest I had tried that day! A visit to the gift shop finished our tour and I bought another visor because I had once again forgotten to bring one on a trip and the summer sun in this region was pretty strong. Feeling pretty terrific by this time, I headed back to our party bus for the trip to our last stop of the day, the Napa Valley Wine Train for dinner.

Our host gives the group a short course on the proper tasting of wine
One sign says it all!

As one can imagine after a delightful afternoon of "tasting" wine, we were all in a very good mood. It was fortunate that our last stop of the day was dinner aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. The Napa Valley Wine Train experience consists of a leisurely journey through the beautiful wine country of Napa Valley in " meticulously restored" vintage rail cars. The Wine Train is essentially a bar and restaurant on wheels that rolls through the beautiful Napa Valley floor while you are served delicious food and drink. I can happily report that this experience is everything it is supposed to be. The food was fabulous (I had seared salmon with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables after salad with goat cheese and walnuts) and we had a course of white and red wine supplied by our host winery, Elizabeth Spencer Wines. All this after first being served wine and appetizers in the lounge car before dinner! It was an awesome evening. The slowly passing scenery was the perfect complement to the delicious meal and the service from our waiters was excellent. I can say that this was a wonderful way to end our day in Napa Valley. We had a wonderful time!

New friends Melodye, Jody, Anne and Me on the Napa Valley Wine Train (after a few glasses of wine)

Our dinner being served on the Napa Valley Wine Train
A romantic table for two on the Wine Train

Leaving the wine train around 9:30pm after a fantastic dinner, dessert and wine, we were all more than ready to fall into our beds. It had been a delightful day and the best part was, there was more to look forward to the next day!

Coming up, we take a tour of Sonoma County where we visit a unique winery and learn how to make cheese!

To be continued......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings& Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 08:47

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I am in awe of this trip...OMG! That bus is a PIMP bus! Awesome!

And the Wine Train? *drools* Looking forward to the next part of the trip.

by Kiyra Holt

WOW ... great job and what a wonderful way to share your experiences. Hmmmmmmm ... maybe I should follow your example! Great meeting you and hope to see you again one of these days on another Nacta adventure!

by Jody

Hey Kiyra! Yes, that bus was the BOMB! We all really enjoyed it! The wine train was an unforgettable experience too. I'll have Part III up ASAP!

by Gerriv

Hey Jody! I really enjoyed hanging out with you on this great trip! I hope to see you again soon!

by Gerriv

Hey Gerri, part 2 story of our awesome trip was also told so well. Again I'm so impressed and smiled a lot as your stories and photos brought back memories on our fun night on the wine train. We all agreeded that we had great wine, very fine cuisine, great service from staff, and the scenery and weather was magnificent. We were a great foursome of having fun and learing together.
Clients should sure let you do the planning to maximize the value of their time and all the fine details to get a great value and to know when to go and have all arragements made in advance.
Appreciate your sharing. Wishing you the best.

by Melodye Martinelli

Thank you for your generous comments! I really love writing this Blog and I hope everyone who reads it enjoys it and gets as excited about travel as we do!

by Gerriv

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