Napa Valley Wine Train, which wines and dines passengers on trips between the city of Napa and St. Helena, wants to make several winery stops legal in the eyes of Napa County.
An application filed with the county Planning Division asks for stops at Robert Mondavi, Louis M. Martini and V. Sattui wineries. In addition, the Wine Train wants recognized evening stops at Grgich Hills Estate.
In November 2016, the county issued a notice of violation saying the Wine Train is stopping at Grgich Hills Estate after 4 p.m., later than Wine Train’s use permit allows. The county also warned the Wine Train about stopping at unauthorized points, such as Sattui and Mondavi wineries.
“The Wine Train thereafter raised certain jurisdictional and other challenges to the alleged violations,” the Wine Train’s use permit modification application stated.
Napa County and the Wine Train agreed to try to resolve the alleged code violations, the application stated. The essence of a planned agreement requires the Wine Train to seek use permits for the stops. Although the agreement wasn’t finalized, the Wine Train is seeking use permits “to fulfill the spirit of the agreement,” the application said.
The application came in February 2019, in time to make the deadline for the county’s code compliance cleanup program. Participants can continue what they are doing until use permit issues are resolved, as long as life and safety problems aren’t involved.
Napa County’s Planning Division recently released a notice saying it is reviewing and processing the application. Principal Planner Jason Hade said the matter will go to the Planning Commission, perhaps by year’s end.
Kevin Teague, the representative for Napa Valley Wine Train listed on the application, couldn’t be reached for a comment.
Wine Train cars are exempt from Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, the application said. But the county is requiring an accessible path from stops on the tracks to winery properties. The application includes the designs for these types of improvements.
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There may be more winery stop requests to come. The application said the Wine Train plans to stop at Cosentino, Paradigm, Far Niente and Raymond wineries. Far Niente officials on Friday clarified that there are currently no confirmed plans for a stop there.
“The stops will not impact rail crossing or block traffic,” the application said.
Also in the application is a request to renovate the century-and-a-half old Rutherford depot. The Wine Train would use it for a stop with train staging and waiting areas, parking areas, ticket sales facilities, retail food sales and loading platforms.
However, Hade said, the county is not looking at the Rutherford depot restoration request at this point. For now, the focus is on the Grgich, Sattui, Martini and Mondavi stops.
Napa Valley Wine Train operates on a rail line founded in 1864 by Samuel Brannan. Brannan wanted an easier way for tourists to reach the Napa County resort town he had founded—Calistoga.
The line passed to Southern Pacific in 1885 and to Napa Valley Wine Train in 1987, with Wine Train service beginning in 1989. Vincent DeDomenico, famous for Rice-a-Roni, was a major force behind the Wine Train.
In 1996, the Wine Train made its first Upvalley stop at Grgich Hills Cellar—today called Grgich Hills Estate—in Rutherford. The county permit allows for stops between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Noble House Hotels & Resorts and Brooks Street purchased the Wine Train in 2015.
Editor's Note: This has been modified to correct the spelling of Samuel Brannan's name and add a Far Niente comment.