Just when you thought there’s nothing more elegant than a relaxing train ride in wine country, a sumptuous feast and a glass or two of neighborhood vino, the stakes get higher.
The Napa Valley Wine Train, a 36-mile roundtrip run in the heart of Napa Valley, will host a Frank Sinatra tribute on August 21st. Called “Come Fly with Me,” it’s an evening of all things Sinatra – music, menu and even Sinatra wine. Who knew? The event will be hosted by Nancy Sinatra and her daughter Amanda Erlinger, as well as Sinatra Estate managing partner and Amuse Bouche Winery owner John Schwartz, and Danielle Price, Executive Director of Winery for Wynn Resorts and owner of Coup de Foudre Winery.
Think Orient Express in northern California. In the luxury tradition of old-school railroad car dining, guests will taste the first vintage of Sinatra wine, Come Fly with Me, a limited production of 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Although not expected at the dinner, Frank Jr. and Tina Sinatra were also part of the project.
Named after the 1957 recording and Sinatra’s first Billboard hit, the wine exhibits a deep ruby/purple color with classic aromas of baked plums, chocolate, currant and vanilla. Flavors of cedar, tobacco leaf, blueberry and black cherry lay densely across the palate. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), Cabernet Franc (7%) and Petit Verdot (3%) from a five–acre estate vineyard south of Calistoga.
Designed by Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald, the meal will be experienced by 200 guests, open to the public. Picture this: white linens, fine china, silver, crystal glassware with Napa vistas from antique dome windows. You’ll feel like you’re in the idle of a time travel capsule with the train’s mahogany paneling, brass fixtures and etched glass panels. The historic Silverado Railcar wall features photos of Western film stars including John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, William Holden and Clint Eastwood.
Macdonald serves only the freshest seasonal ingredients, earth-friendly produce, humanely raised meats ands line caught responsibly farmed fish. The Sinatra menu, which aims to be a menu that the Chairman of the Board would give the “thumbs up” to, has not been finalized. (At his 80th birthday party, Sinatra told me that his favorites were Santa Barbara prawns, cannelloni, clams and meatballs. We’ll have to wait and see what shows up on the esteemed menu.)
The chef joined the Napa Valley Wine Train in 1993 and assumed the Executive Chef position in 2001, when it became the first company in the nation to convert a locomotive to compressed natural gas. It is still among the only locomotives in the world to have converted to CNG; the others operate in Peru and India. The train has two engines and a collection of 20th century rail cars that are pure Americana.
Pullman car interiors were designed by Norman Roth, a San Francisco-based designer. The train trip currently includes winery views of Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, and St. Helena. It’s been in operation for two decades.
Named “Best of Wine Tourism Restaurant” of 2010, the wine train competes for a global title in October. Napa Valley is representing the entire North American confinement.
Ol’ Blue Eyes would often end his concerts with, “May you all live to be 100 and may the last voice you hear be mine!”
Sue Facter writes about all things A-list for publications worldwide. On one assignment, she covered Frank Sinatra’s 80th Birthday Party for USA Today.