Currently
there is a controversy swirling around the Napa Valley Wine Train that has piqued my
interest. A book club made up of mostly African-American women, including an 83
year-old grandmother, was escorted from the train after a noise complaint was
made against them. Wine Train officials say that passengers are removed once a
month on average, however the group felt singled out because of their race.
Members took to social media to relay the events, and since then, the story has
been shared by millions more under the hashtag #laughingwhileblack.

Not
long before this incident occurred, I rode the Wine Train. Before I
go any further, I should disclose that I was a guest of Napa Valley Wine Train*.  However, that fact has not colored my opinion.

The
Wine Train transports its passengers through 18-miles of the most scenic
landscape of Napa Valley in beautifully restored antique railcars with names
such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a two-story domed railcar
called Champagne. There are also big, picture windows throughout the train that
enable you to take in Napa Valley’s magnificent landscape.

I
was seated in the Le Petite Gourmet dining car, where, as part of the Ambassador
Winery Tour I enjoyed a gourmet 3-course meal. The atmosphere was elegant, yet
relaxed in the full dining car. Not library quiet, but there was certainly an
implied level of sound, similar to what you would expect to find in an upscale
restaurant.

In
between courses, I went to some of the other cars to have a look. The Wine
Train has several different cars, as I mentioned, and several different tour
options, each with its own unique vibe. 
The Silverado car, for example offers a more laid-back experience, with
the option of a more casual meal of bbq and steak, and a rustic, Hollywood
Western theme. The noise decibel in the Silverado was slightly higher, but with a
younger demographic, including a number of families with children, that was to
be expected. There is also a dessert car and several lounge cars serving wine
and cheese as opposed to a multi-course meal, which also had a more casual
atmosphere.
I’ve written all that to convey that my experience on the Wine Train was nothing but positive. While I
should note that I was on my own, thus the volume of any #laughingwhileblack on my part was a
fraction of that of the book group. However, I was very aware of my
surroundings and from observing the environment on the train, at least at the
time I rode it, and taking cues from that, I know that socializing above a
certain volume would not have been appropriate.

The
Wine Train issued an apology in which it accepted “full responsibility for our
failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of
our guests.” As a result of the incident, the Wine Train has received a flood
of negative comments and reviews on its social media and on sites such as Yelp,
many calling for a boycott of the train, which considering most of those giving
negative reviews is deplorable. 

As a black woman who has taken the journey on the Wine Train, even doing a bit of laughing while black, who empathizes with the women who were removed from the train and feels that the situation could have been handled differently, but is satisfied with the apology and remedy offered to the offended party by the Wine Train, I say ride the rails to Napa on the Wine Train. I know I would do it again without hesitation.

 

*I was provided with a
complimentary Ambassador Winery Tour on the Napa Valley Wine Train. I  was not asked to express any particular point
of view, and as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.