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A Guide to Perfect Wine Pairings

March 13, 2024 / Tasting & Learning

Chardonnay and brie. Cabernet and cheddar. Port and blue. We’ve definitely come a long way from the same ol’ same ol’ wine-and-cheese pairings. Today, wine is paired with everything from appetizers to desserts — in fact, sometimes the wine is the dessert.


And even though we’ll always believe the ultimate wine pairing is the Napa Valley Wine Train and you, here are three of our favorite combinations sure to satisfy everyone — whether you’re a wine connoisseur, fabulous foodie, or both!

Chardonnay + Lobster

The rich, velvety texture of lobster is elevated when gently poached or grilled in butter. This flavor profile mirrors the buttery richness found in a high-quality oaked Chardonnay. This pairing isn’t just harmonious; it’s immensely gratifying. Both the dish and the wine boast abundance and smoothness, and the zesty acidity of the wine provides a refreshing contrast to each delectable bite.

The Best Way to Try a Great Chardonnay

Napa Valley has a veritable buffet of Chardonnay to sample—and for almost half a century, one of the region’s most celebrated producers has been Grgich Hills Estate. At the 1976 Paris Tasting, French judges were shocked at a blind taste test. To their horror, they discovered they had selected Mike Grgich’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay as the finest white wine in the world. Sacre bleu!

You can learn more about this wine barrier-breaking event by watching the entertaining dramedy Bottle Shock. Or better yet, why not take a trip through the California countryside and taste the wine that put Napa Valley on the map?


Our half-day Grgich Hill Estate Tasting winery tour takes you from the rail line to the vines, with a sumptuous multi-course lunch and a stop at the legendary Grgich Hills Estate. While onboard, you can elevate your dining experience by adding our sommelier flight tasting to your itinerary and sample selections from other renowned Napa Valley wineries, such as Far Niente and Opus One.

View Grgich Hills Estate Tasting

Cabernet Sauvignon + Steak

This classic pairing has the power to convert anyone into a lifelong Cabernet Sauvignon enthusiast. The natural harmony between steak and this iconic Bordeaux grape stems from the interaction between the wine’s robust tannins and the protein in the meat. These tannins have a softening effect on the meat, enhancing its texture.

You can enhance this pairing by searing your steak in butter with a hint of rosemary. This preparation invigorates both the aromas and the texture of the wine, creating an unforgettable dining experience.

Speaking of Unforgettable Dining Experiences…

Set out on a full-day Wine Train adventure with The Legacy Experience, where every detail is one to savor, and each moment is one to remember. Delight in stunning sights, four courses of Valley-inspired fare, and exceptional tastings at Charles Krug and V. Sattui — all while riding in sophisticated style aboard fully restored Pullman rail cars.

There’s also the option to add our sommelier flight tasting to your itinerary. The flight includes Beaulieu Vineyard’s Georges de Latour Private Reserve, “widely recognized as the benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford since its inaugural vintage in 1936.”

View The Legacy Experience

Sparkling Wines + Anything Salty

Champagne and other high-quality sparkling wines pair exceptionally well with salty foods due to their high acidity and effervescence. In particular, the crisp acidity acts as a palate cleanser, cutting through the richness and saltiness of the food and refreshing the palate with each sip.

Additionally, the bubbles help scrub the palate, further enhancing the dining experience by preparing it for the next bite. This combination of acidity and effervescence makes sparkling wine an ideal companion for salty dishes, ensuring a harmonious and balanced flavor profile. Truly, this pairing must be experienced first-hand to be fully appreciated.

Another Sparkling Combination You Have to Try

Designed for avid foodies and wine aficionados, our Tasting on the Rails Lunch presents a true feast for the senses. Be immersed in a complete Napa Valley experience, one bite and sip at a time, with elevated gourmet dining, indulgent wines drawn from select winery partners, and expansive vineyard views.

Your journey begins with an amuse bouche and a welcome glass of bubbly from CHANDON, California’s leading sparkling wine producer since 1973. This is followed by a tasting menu of an additional six courses inspired by Napa and using fresh seasonal ingredients. Each course is complemented by a thoughtful wine pairing sourced from premier local vineyards such as Trefethen, Belle Glos, and Ghost Block.

View Tasting on the Rails Lunch

No matter what wine or journey you try, it’s sure to be truly unforgettable when you pair it with the Napa Valley Wine Train! For bookings and to learn more about experiences, please get in touch with one of our reservation agents at 1-800-427-4124.