The three-day rail experience shows off Colorado’s stunning beauty and introduces passengers to some of the state’s best wines.
On the surface the Wine Train looked to be a fairly logical concept. Grand Junction has wineries, and Amtrak’s California Zephyr stops in Denver and Grand Junction on its journey from Chicago to San Francisco. But logic sometimes needs some hard work before it becomes reality. Barb Bowman and Debbie Kovalik, formerly with the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau, were up to the task.
Bowman states, “We needed to convince our board of directors that a Wine Train was a good marketing idea. One train ride and they were convinced.” A need for a strong marketing partner to handle the reservations was also a necessity, so AAA Colorado came onboard. The final challenge, Bowman continues, “was convincing Amtrak that adding a private car in Chicago for the round-trip made good business sense.” Forty wine trains later, there’s as much excitement today as there was on that first train.
The experience begins with a continental breakfast before the Wine Train departs Denver’s Union Station. The legs of the journey are a Rocky Mountain climb and stops in Winter Park, Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction. Passengers will travel through numerous tunnels and view the Colorado River through the Rocky Mountains. Many of the sites are otherwise inaccessible. To say the scenery is spectacular may be an understatement. From mountain vistas and occasional wildlife to peach and grape vineyards, there is wonderful variety to the landscape. The train ride is just the beginning.
Joining the ride in Denver is Dave Tewksbury. A retired restaurateur and well-recognized sommelier, Dave’s Wine 101 seminar is informative for both newcomers and connoisseurs. Talks by representatives from the Colorado wine industry share the viti-cultural history of the region.
Lunch is served near Glenwood Springs, where the Zephyr will stop and representatives from local wineries come onboard and join the fun. Two or three wines from the region are paired with cheese and chocolates. Passengers get off the train in Grand Junction and check into a local hotel for a two-night stay. Dinner tonight is at any of Grand Junction’s award-winning restaurants.
Following breakfast the next morning, six of the more than 20 Grand Valley wineries are visited. Tours and tastings are a wonderful introduction to this American Viticultural Area. Tonight, participants are hosted at a local winery for a Wine Maker’s Dinner. The vineyard owner or winemaker will share why which wines were paired with every menu item.
The third day provides an opportunity to explore Grand Junction, including local downtown shopping, the nearby Colorado National Monument or the Museum of Western Colorado.
There may even be time to sneak in more vineyard visits. Small groups will have van transportation to local vineyards and attractions in addition to motorcoach transportation back to Denver.