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July 11, 2006 > All Aboard For Wine

All Aboard For Wine

by Todd Griffin

A vintage train, the scenic Niles Canyon, and wine tasting with a professional sommelier, for those who have never ridden the Niles Canyon Railway, these are some good reasons to try it. For those who have ridden before, they are good reasons to come back again.

Six Saturdays this summer, the Railway is running a Wine Tasting Special. Passengers will enjoy the ride through the canyon while learning about wine from sommelier Sean Andrade. Typically, five wines are paired with cheeses, breads, fruits, or chocolates chosen to complement each other. Wines from several different wineries will be presented every week.

Andrade professes a life-long love of wine, and in addition to consulting for the wine industry, educates the wine-drinking public by teaching classes on wine appreciation, wine and food pairings, and even wine glasses. Unlike the stuffy and pretentious wine snob the term "sommelier" sometimes elicits, his philosophy is: good wine should be fun and accessible to everyone. Andrade brings this easy and approachable style to the Wine Tasting Special. It's a relaxing, fun, and educational excursion. Each passenger leaves with a commemorative wine glass, a buffet tray, and an enhanced appreciation for wine.

Hugh Tebault coordinates the Wine Tasting Special for the Niles Canyon Railway. After selling out all four of the wine tasting trains last year, he has worked with Andrade to expand the program to six Saturdays this summer. "We're staying again with only Livermore Valley wineries," said Tebault, "and have chosen what we believe is an interesting and representative group of wines." This year's selections include the following wineries: Elliston, Crooked Vine/Stony Ridge, Wente, Murrieta's Well, Red Skye, and Fenestra.

The vintage diesel locomotive runs at about half speed, making the round trip from Sunol to Niles and back in approximately two hours, while Andrade discusses each wine and answers questions. The train typically stops for a while on one of the bridges over the canyon, allowing passengers plenty of time to savor the ambience as well as the wine. Tebault paints a pleasant picture. "To sit in the middle of the canyon, to hear the breeze coming through the trees, to hear the creek . . . it's very enjoyable."

Passengers must be 21 or older. Reservations are required. Tickets are $30, and may be purchased by phone or online. The train begins boarding from the Sunol station each Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m., departing promptly at 4:30. While both open-air and closed railroad cars are provided, this should be considered an outdoor activity; dress appropriately for the weather.

Wine Tasting Special
Saturdays, July 22 to Aug. 26
4 p.m.
Sunol Station, just off Main St. in Sunol
(408) 249-2953

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