California Wine Train gets $54 million in stimulus $$$

January 31, 2010

Critics are pointing to the $54 million in federal stimulus money for the California Wine Train as “silly and short sighted,” and a waste of money. [California Watch]

Sixteen times a week, the Wine Train transports tourists from Napa to St. Helena aboard restored dining cars. A champagne dinner costs $129. About 125,000 people ride the train each year.

At issue is a complicated story about flood control in Napa. Voters agreed to tax themselves for 20 years to cover the cost of a water diversion project.

However, the cost went up dramatically when the owner of the Wine Train, Vincent DeDemenico, the founder of Rice-A-Roni got involved. DeDemenico wanted the project to include modernization of a Napa bridge used by the Wine Train and extra protection for the railroad station.

He threatened to campaign against the tax measure if his plan was not approved.

Further complicating the story is the awarding of $54 million in federal stimulus money in a non-competitive bid to a construction company–based in Alaska–to make the Wine Train improvements. Anchorage-based Suulutaag, Inc, founded by Alaskan natives, apparently enjoys special access to federal contracts, and that’s how they received the federal stimulus money.

According to a report issued by Suulutaag last year, the number of jobs they’ve created on the project so far: 12.

Republican senators John McCain and Tom Coburn list the Wine Train on their list of the top 100 examples of waste of federal stimulus funds.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Karoli, The Wine Diary, Rocdad, winetonite, Mark Fish and others. Mark Fish said: WTF? "California Wine Train gets $54 million in stimulus money" #FAIL #wine […]

I agree with the last poster. There was an article on TV that debunked this claim. The wine train is not getting ANY money from our taxes. The only tax money being used is to repair a bridge that needs to be repaired and not just for the wine train.

Sloppy research by CCN

Dave please check out more than one source. For example:

Yes there are websites such as the Huffington Post that also make the same claims as your article. But when one reads the response from the wine train manager (response from wine train manager made public to McCain) it’s clear that they aren’t building this for the wine train as your headline says. Although it’s a good chunk of change this project is NOT for the wine train ”California Wine Train gets $54 million in stimulus $$$” is wrong that money is not for the wine train. According to the Sac. Bee the tracks are also used to haul frieght. The purpose of this project is for well needed flood control. If this flood control project is required to run through the tracks then they are required to relocate the tracks. BTW, your website ‘Cal Coast News’ is sited at the end of the Huffington Post article on this matter, you’re becoming famous when the HP sites you.

Disclaimer: I work for the Wine Train.

Calcostalnews did not due enough research on this story. Here are links to better researched versions of this story:


Napa Register:

California Watch:

Wine Train’s Response:

We hope that you will take to opportunity to find out the truth for yourself.

You work for the Wine Train?

Does that make you a federal employee ???

(I am kidding. Thank you for the links. I will check them out)

Your kidding, right? Is this real? Couldn’t be.

Here is my take set to the theme of Sonny and Cher’s, “The beat goes on.”

Government keeps wasting our money all the time,

They don’t give a sh*t because it’s not their dime,

Taxpayer just keeps gettin screwed all the time,

We won’t worry till it’s reelection time,

and the beat goes on…………………..