As advertised: The Wine Train tour begins with a two-hour train ride in themed train cars with all-you-can-drink wine and snacks. Upon arriving at the winery, you visit the winery facilities, have lunch, enjoy a wine foot bath, and make wine soap. After that the tour continues to a local attraction depending on weather and availability before taking the two-hour train ride back to where you started from.
Seeing the brochures and the website, I had been looking forward to going on the Wine Train for months! Maybe I built it up too much in my head, or perhaps the tour just really doesn't deliver all it is supposed to. Was it fun? Yes, definitely a good time but I was expecting more and felt unfulfilled at the end.
We boarded the train onto an awesome car that had small tables, plush velvet armchairs and seating, and a live musician with a guitar. This was the train car that is on all of the Wine Train brochures. The Koreans sitting there were having such good time that they put smiley stickers all over their faces :)
Our group was pushed through that awesome car into one simply filled with booths. Disappointing but at least it still had cool curtains and lighting. After doing some research, I've found out that the awesome car is an extra 5,000 won in price. We didn't have a choice, booking the ticket the tourism office on base, but I would have gladly paid an extra $5 to sit in the blue, velvet swivel armchair :)
There was also a cinema car where you could watch movies while drinking wine.
We got a tray of snacks for the train ride but it left a little to be desired... cheese puff balls, yellow cheese slices in plastic cut into four pieces (really?), saltine crackers, ritz crackers, a sliced banana, some Korean ginseng snacks, and some small sweet cakes. I was really expecting something a little more upscale on a "wine train" especially with the amount that the trip cost.
There were four wines to choose from on the train; one white and three red. Let's just say that Korea is not known for its quality grape wines but at least there was wine to drink! It was supposed to be all-you-can-drink but the waiters only came around to fill glasses once, okay maybe twice, without someone going and asking them to do so. Couldn't they please have left a bottle at the table?
After arriving at the Yeongdong Station, we boarded a tour bus for a short ride to Wine Korea. This is the only grape winery in South Korea and has only been making wine for 25 years.
The first thing we did at the winery was have lunch. According the brochure we were supposed to gather for lunch under a grapevine awning (the room pictured below) which would've been amazing! However, that room must have been an extra $5 as well because that's not where we got to eat.
Instead, we all gathered in this dining hall (nice but not grapevine awning nice) where we were offered a red and a white wine served out of boxes. Boxed wine at a winery luncheon? Really? The nice room pictured above had wine served from barrels.... just sayin'...
Lunch was a buffet with a variety of Korean dishes to choose from. It was okaaayyy but not especially good. It didn't help that the winery underestimated the number of people that would be there and they ran out of food. Luckily there was plenty of boxed wine left.
After lunch, we headed to the foot bath area. This was a charming room with a ceiling of grapevines heavy with grapes. There were many square tubs filled with hot "grape-colored water" and also individual buckets filled with the same along the sides of the room. We were told that the tubs were big enough for 10 people to sit around. Umm... maybe 10 Korean people, but 8 of us would've been more comfortable.
We each got a towel and a pair of rubber sandals before heading to the tubs. The sandals didn't quite fit all American-sized feet. After we finished, the sandals were placed back on the table for the next group of people to use... no form of cleaning or sterilization was done to them. Wish I had known that before I put them on my feet. At least the towels appeared to be washed.
The hot foot bath was actually very relaxing. Just try not to think about how many feet are and have been in the "grape-colored" water!
While enjoying the foot soak, we were given some refreshing chilled drink pouches of grape juice :)
A wall/sign made entirely out of empty wine bottles and a lovely little "not quite right" poem.
In the Oak Cellar Cave
I thought I found the bottle of wine I wanted in the gift store... until I found a bigger one outside :)
That was it. What about the wine soap making? "That old brochure. We not do that today." Hmmm...
Our tour group boarded the bus and stopped at a local ginseng festival (which will be another post) before heading back to the train for the ride home.
Was the Wine Train worth it? Yes, if you don't expect too much and go prepared. There was a group of ladies on our tour that had obviously done it before because they came prepared with their own array of snacks such as meats, cheeses, nuts, and bottled water. Smart! Also, I imagine that if you bring a wine bottle opener, you can buy a bottle of wine at the winery gift shop and drink it on the ride home so you can ensure that your wine glass will be filled even when the waiters on the train disappear.
"Consuming wine in moderation daily will
help people to die young as late as possible."
~Dr. Phillip Norrie