Alternate Forms of Wine Country 'Transportation'

Three words banned from and The Grapevine newsletter are: “According to Wikipedia…”

As an editor for my entire professional career, I look at Wikipedia as a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a good source for certain types of information when the ol’ brain goes blank and you need said information, like, yesterday.

On the other hand, the information contained on the site is not 100 percent reliable. And when you’re an editor, nothing less than 100 percent is acceptable.

That said, I’m going to break my own rule and present to you, unabridged and unedited, an excerpt from Wikipedia. The following is that website’s summation of a movie that soon, unbelievably, will mark its 25th anniversary…


“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is a 1987 American comedy film released by Paramount Pictures. It was written, produced and directed by John Hughes. The film stars Steve Martin as Neal Page, a high-strung advertising executive, who meets Del Griffith, played by John Candy, an eternally sunny, overly talkative, well-meaning, but accident-prone shower curtain ring salesman who seems to live in a world governed by a different set of rules. They share a two-day odyssey of misadventures trying to get Neal home to Chicago from New York in time for Thanksgiving dinner.


As the title infers, any number of transportation modes were either used or contemplated to achieve the ultimate goal.

But what’s a reference to an old comedy doing in a wine column? That’s a reasonable question.

It’s just that whenever I hear the title of that flick, I think of the Napa Valley.

Granted, I think of the Napa Valley a lot. It’s the best destination in the world for a daydream, with all those grapevines and wineries and tasting rooms.

So when I hear those words – “planes, trains and automobiles” – my brain immediately shifts to Napa and three forms of “transportation” found there: balloons, trains and horses.

Strange how the mind works, huh? There’s a significant difference, of course, between the movie title and my brain waves. Whereas the planes, trains and automobiles referenced in the film were intended to get Del Griffith from point A to point B, the balloons, trains and horses of California’s North Coast wine country start and end at the same place.


Particularly on those summer days when Highway 29 more closely resembles a parking lot than a thoroughfare, taking time out to experience a different mode of “transportation” can be an exhilarating and rejuvenating experience.

Here, then, are three ways you can experience wine country outside the confines of your car…

BALLOONS – A company named Balloons Above the Napa Valley offers early-morning rides above the vineyards of the valley in a hot-air balloon, followed by a Champagne brunch. The company also offers B&B and hotel packages.

Info: 800-464-6824 or

TRAINS – The Napa Valley Wine Train embarks on a three-hour journey through the valley, and offers a variety of food- and wine-focused experiences. Some have called it “Napa’s most distinctive restaurant.” Overnight packages also are available.

Info: 888-504-0973 or

HORSES – Roche Vineyards and Winery offers a 90-minute guided horseback tour through the heart of the Roche family’s 500-acre vineyard estate and cattle ranch. The ride is followed by a complimentary tasting of Roche wines in bottle and barrel.

Info: 800-825-9475 or

Tomorrow: Yet another alternative for getting around wine country – specifically, California’s Livermore Valley region.

Posted in Editor's Journal
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