Carolwood Wine Trip

by Karin Hubbard-Luster, contributing writer

The Carolwood Pacific Historical Society logo. Image courtesy of CPHS.

When my husband, Kenji, received the Spring quarterly member newsletter from the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society (CPHS), it announced a special trip on the Northern Californian Napa Valley Wine Train at the end of May of this year. The CPHS folks had arranged a block of rooms at a nearby hotel at a group rate. Kenji is a member of the CPHS and likes trains, and I like wine and we had never done the Napa Valley Wine Train thing — so we decided to go.

When we got to the hotel, we found that a good size group of folks was already in gathered in the lobby. After checking in, we stowed our luggage in our room and joined about 10 of the folks who were there for the event.

At 9:30 on Saturday morning, May 31, we all met in the hotel lobby at 9:30 a.m. with Sharon and Michael Broggie, the organizers of the event. Michael is the son of Roger Broggie, one of Walt Disney's first Imagineers, and who helped Walt Disney build his eighth scale Carolwood Pacific Railroad, and who oversaw the purchase and restoration of all the engines at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The Broggies then gave all 32 of us in the group a commemorative cap with the CPHS logo on the front and the words “2003 Napa Wine Fest” embroidered on the back.

We caravanned to the home of the Chairman and principal shareholder of the Napa Valley Wine Train, Vincent DeDomenico and his wife, Mildred, both of whom are honorary members of the CPHS. Mr. DeDomenico is well-known for his work in the food business, including being the principal shareholder and President of the Golden Grain Macaroni Company and its most famous product, Rice-a-Roni (“a San Francisco treat” — Napa is just a short drive north of San Francisco), as well as the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company of San Francisco.

Michael Broggie, in the foreground in the brown jacket, chats with Vincent DeDomenico (in the white shirt), the host of the morning reception, while the CPHS event participants mingle. Photo by Karin Hubbard-Luster.

The reception at the DeDomenico estate was delightful, and Jerome, our server, opened a bottle of sparkling wine that was absolutely the largest I have ever seen.

Jerome, a staff member from the Napa Valley Wine Train, was at the DeDomenico's home serving us our food and drink while we spent time there. Here, he stands next to a bottle of Methuselah—equal to eight regular bottles—which he served to everyone. Photo by Karin Hubbard-Luster. 

They also served some tasty morsels with the wine, and we enjoyed it all while taking in the magnificent view from the backyard of their estate. We spent more than an hour there chatting, getting to know one another as well as the DeDomenicos before it was time to head off to the train.

Members of the CPHS group gather at the DeDomenico's home shortly before departing to head over to the Napa Valley Wine Train station. Photo courtesy the Lusters.

When we arrived at the depot, a wine tasting and lecture was already underway in the station house. Mr. and Mrs. DeDominico joined us for the ride and meal.

Once on board, we were seated at tables of four with each table being next to a window for optimal viewing of the vineyards we would be passing during the three-hour ride.

The CPHS tour group settles in for a leisurely ride through Napa. Photo by Karin Hubbard-Luster. 

We each had a menu to peruse and choose our various courses from. For an additional price, we could select specific wines that were suggested on the menu. You could choose from a wide variety of sparkling wines, white, red, and blushes.

Each table setting provides a warm welcome for the participants. This is the table where Karin and Kenji sat for their enjoyable meal on the Napa Valley Wine Train. Photo by Karin Hubbard-Luster.

Kenji and I each choose the following selections:

  • Baby spinach salad with radicchio, frisee and candied walnuts and laced with smoked goat cheese in a honey-cider vinaigrette, accompanied with a glass of sparkling wine
  • Beef tenderloin with a glass of a local Chardonnay

I know. You're supposed to drink red wine—not Chardonnay—with beef. There's just one problem: I don't like red wine. I apologize to all of you reading this who may be horrified at my choice. It just couldn't be helped.

The menu includes a number of wines that are made by wineries that line the route of the wine train. Menu courtesy of the Lusters.

The spinach was so very fresh, and I love goat cheese with fresh raw spinach. The sparkling wine was so light, refreshing and fruity tasting, I wanted more—but decided to refrain as I knew I had more wine coming with the next course. So I sipped slowly.

The beef tenderloin arrived and was two thick slices. It was perfectly cooked to our individual requests and served with a red wine and shallot reduction sauce, wild mushrooms, roasted red potatoes and steamed veggies.

We passed through the cities of Napa, Yountville, Oakville, and Rutherford, before ending in St. Helena. As we passed by people in cars waiting at train crossings and in their backyards, we waved to them and they waved back.

The scenery along the wine train is a beautiful accompaniment to a wonderful meal that melts in the mouth. Photo by Karin Hubbard-Luster.

Before we got to the end of the line in St. Helena, we were done eating and were told we were to adjourn two cars down for dessert and coffee. There was another group of people on the train who would be dining in a second seating. So on our return leg, while we enjoyed our dessert, they were enjoying the sumptuous meal we had just had. Their dessert was served at their table after their meal.

Before we departed from St. Helena, CPHS member Kendra asked me if I had an extra CPHS pin besides the one I was wearing that I might be willing to part with. She wanted to give it to Engineer Joe, an older gentleman who had on the whole typical outfit on that you would expect to see a train engineer. His cap had many other different type of train pins on it and Kendra wanted him to have a CPHS pin, as well to add to his collection.

I told her that although I didn't have another one on me, I did have others so he was welcome to the one I had on. When I told her this, she invited me to give it to him directly. She and I went in search of Joe and when we found him, I made a small presentation of the CPHS pin and told him that the group would be honored if he would add it to his cap collection.

The author (right), and CPHS member Kendra (left) present Engineer Joe with a CPHS to add to his large collection of train pins on his engineer hat. Photo courtesy of Karin Hubbard-Luster.

Kenji and I both decided to order the hot chocolate and tiramisu dessert. The tiramisu came as a half globe served flat side down on the plate and covered in a hardened ganache. It was sweet and rich, and a perfect end to a perfect meal.

I was so full from the meal plus the rich dessert, and a little tipsy from my two glasses of wine, that I promptly fell asleep in one of the stuffed armchairs they had on the train.

When we got back into the Napa station and disembarked, we went back into the station house and wandered around the gift shop. We then went over to look at the group shot that was taken in front of the train prior to boarding.

The CPHS contingent right before they embark on their three-hour train ride abord the Napa Valley Wine Train. Photo courtesy of Karin Hubbard-Luster.

With the rest of the afternoon to do as we pleased, Kenji and I had planned to go winery-hopping—until, that is, we were full and sleepy from all the food and drink. So back to the hotel we went for a couple of hours of rest in our room.

At 7 p.m., we met the group once more, this time in one of the banquet rooms the hotel for an informal and fun wine tasting and judging. Ken Judy, the father of CPHS member Debbie Campbell and father-in-law of Mike Campbell led us all in a brief introduction to wine tasting.

In the newsletter announcing the trip, we were also invited to bring a bottle of our favorite Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon wine to be judged. Mr. Judy wrapped the bottles in paper bags and taped them at the top of the bottles so we could no longer tell which was which.

Ken Judy, father of CPHS member Debbie Campbell and father-in-law of Mike Campbell, pores over the grading sheets to tally up all the scores from our informal tasting back at the hotel. Note the wine bottles covered in brown paper sacks behind him. Photo by Karin Hubbard-Luster.  

Much fun was had by all and much wine was drunk by most.

With so many different types of wines being offered—all without any identifying labels—it was a challenge to remember all the bottle numbers in order to score them back at our table. For this reason, we simply consumed the glass on the spot, then poured another glass, and so on. But it was tremendous fun, and eventually, winners were declared in each category.

The proud winners of Ken Judy's wine tasting. Photo by Karin Hubbard-Luster.

On Sunday morning we started on our wine tasting with a visit to Silverado Winery, owned by Diane Disney Miller and her husband, Ron.

The Silverado Winery, owned by Diane Disney Miller and her husband, Ron. Photo by Karin Hubbard-Luster. 

After all, the thrust of the weekend was geared towards Disney so it was only fitting that Silverado was the first stop. I bought two bottles of wine here. Then it was off to the Robert Mondavi Winery, where I bought three bottles.

We decided that when we come up north next, we'll definitely want to drive — hauling five bottles of wine back on the plane wasn't easy. I need a solid vehicle to carry more for me next time.

It was a grand weekend. Getting to eat fantastic food and drink spectacular wine was fabulous. Making new friends was just the icing it all needed. They are a great group of folks and I know I only got to meet a few of the many CPHS members nationwide. I cannot wait to meet more.

Good food, good wine, good company. What more can this happy couple ask for? — Karen and Kenji during their Napa Valley Wine Train trip. Photo courtesy of the Lusters. 

I highly recommend checking out the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society's Web site and seeing if what the group has to offer. I also highly recommend a trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train. You won't be disappointed.


The Carolwood Pacific Historical Society (CPHS) is, (according to its Web site) “the only society in the world dedicated to preserving the personal railroad legacy of Walt Disney. Walt Disney happened to be one of America's greatest railfans who, through his own initiative and personal financial resources, was responsible for preserving real steam railroading for generations to enjoy at the Disneyland parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo and Paris. He helped build and enjoyed sharing one of the most intricately detailed miniature live-steam home railroads ever created: the one-eighth scale Carolwood Pacific Railroad. It was this backyard pike at his estate in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles, that provided the launching point for his vision of a family oriented themed amusement park we all know as Disneyland.

The Napa Valley Wine Train refers to itself as “one of the world's most magnificent trains,” and no wonder. The three-hour 36-mile train ride is filled with beautiful scenery and excellent food. Although the Lusters paid $110 for the event, the prices vary greatly depending on the event. Prices range from $35 for a lunch in the Silverado Grill Car, to $125 for a Vista Dome Appellation Dinner.

The Napa Valley calls itself the "wine growing region of the world" — and although one might question how wine is “grown,” there's no question that Napa is known for wine. The Napa Valley is dotted with famous names in wine, from Beringer to Robert Mondavi, most of them providing wine tasting and gift shops for the general public. Accompanying these great wineries are equally famous eateries, such as Thomas Keller's French Laundry in Yountville, and the Greystone Campus of the Culinary Institute of America in Napa.