It's harvest time in the Napa Valley, one of the most romantic seasons for visiting this world-class wine region. So what's the downside? The traffic that comes from too many people sharing the love of some 450 wineries. Yet, there are ways to avoid the parade of cars along this 30-mile corridor -- with a popular option being the Napa Valley Wine Train.

It seems only fitting that one should be pampered while sipping the fruits of the vine. The Napa Valley Wine Train makes an art of wine country hospitality with richly appointed dining cars, perfectly paired meals and a sense of pure joy as the train rolls gently through dark green valleys and rows of amber vines. With each passing town, the champagne and Bordeaux-colored cars draw attention. Children on bikes stop to wave as the train passes exquisite wineries, homes and cafes -- on the same tracks that took guests to Calistoga in the mid-1800s.

And what could be more romantic than traveling by train in the soft glow of a full moon? One evening a month, the wine train hosts a "Moonlight Escape," an evening that pairs a five-course meal, wine and the breathtaking beauty of the Napa Valley in moonlight.

Another way to enjoy the Napa Valley without driving is to stay at a local hotel that offers shuttle service. One option is the four-diamond Meritage Resort and Spa, set against a hillside vineyard with an estate cave and an underground spa with steam grottoes and soaking pools. The Meritage has a free van that takes guests to and from downtown Napa, where there are more than 70 restaurants and 20 tasting rooms -- all within walking distance of the river promenade.

The Meritage van often takes on a party-like vibe, as guests from around the world climb aboard to enjoy a day or an evening downtown. They come to this region because it's a must-see destination. Napa is to wine what the Colosseum is to Rome. And harvest is the perfect season to enjoy this time-honored drink.

What are your favorite local adventures? Drop me a line, and I'll share them with readers. You can reach me at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or online at www.ginnyprior.com.

FYI
The Wine Train offers premium motor coach connections from the North Concord/Martinez BART station to the Wine Train Station at 9 to 9:15 a.m. and at 5 to 5:15 p.m. See http://winetrain.com/bart.
Information on the Meritage Resort can be found at TheMeritageResort.com.