Our last day in Napa was the one we’d all been waiting for. Finally, an entire kid-free day all to ourselves, off gallivanting through wine country with Platypus Wine Tours!
The day would not have been possible without the help of our family that came to visit from nearby Roseville. They graciously offered to make the trip over to Napa and watch the kids for us while we celebrated Jill’s 30th birthday in style.
We hopped aboard the bus with Platypus Wine Tours and were greeted by our driver Luis. After a few introductions, we were off from our rental on Howell Mountain and down the hill, headed towards our first stop at Duckhorn Vineyards.
The planning process with Platypus was super simple. I did an introductory call with Luis to tell him a little about our group (what kinds of wines we liked, what atmosphere we were looking for, etc). Nice outdoor settings and a mix of well-known names along with boutique wineries were our only requests, and we were open to his expertise on where to visit (though if wanted, we could have hand-picked every winery). We did mention hoping to visit Duckhorn, since it was close to our place and I’d heard good things about it, and Luis was able to make it happen for us. Beyond that, we were at Luis’ discretion. We decided to stick with just 3 wineries for the day, though we could have done 4 if we wanted. But with 3, we could take our time and really savor each stop.
Our first stop was at Duckhorn Vineyards, and they were ready and waiting for us when we pulled up to the estate house. We followed the host back to our table in the garden. Our waiter, Chris, came to introduce himself, setting up glasses and pouring the first few tastings.
We started with a Sauvignon Blanc (perhaps my most favorite of the whole trip!), and then moved on to the reds. Duckhorn is most well-known for their Merlots, so we did a side-by-side tasting of two Merlots, each made with grapes sourced from two different Napa vineyards. It was amazing how different the two wines tasted, though they were the same grape and grown in (generally) the same area. I’d never done a side-by-side tasting before, but found it really gave me an appreciation for subtleties that come with wine making (oh gosh, how wine snobby does that sound??). Our waiter, Chris, was also super laid-back and answered all of our many wine questions, including when it is or is not acceptable to send wine back at a restaurant (hint: it pretty much never is).
After a few pictures we were back on the bus and on our way to the next stop. On the drive, Luis pulled out a cheese plate, which the 8 of us demolished in about 5 minutes time. Hey, we were hungry!
Our next stop was at Honig Vineyard & Winery, a family-owned winery in Rutherford that specializes in only two varietals: Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The joke from Mrs. Honig is that the day you see a different varietal being grown at Honig, you’ll know her husband has died.
It’s amazing to see, though, how many different types of wine they have created with just those two grapes! We ended up bringing home a bottle of their Cabernet Sauvignon Pink (a rare Cab rosé) which I can hardly wait to crack open. Aside from their Sauv Blanc/Cabernet tradition, Honig is also a sustainably-farmed vineyard: they use no pesticides or herbicides in their growing, use drip irrigation and power the winery with solar power, among other environmentally-friendly practices.
We did 5 or 6 tastings at Honig before Luis set up our picnic along the grapevines. Sandwiches, quinoa salad, fruit, cheese and a “mini oatmeal creme pie”, as we called it, made for a lovely little lunch. Of course, we had to pick up a few bottles of Honig wine to sip on as well. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day…the weather Gods were certainly shining down upon us!
Our last stop took us back up Howell Mountain to Bremer Family Winery. We’d passed by it several times on our way up and down the mountain to our rental, so it was nice to finally stop and check out a vineyard in our local area!
At Bremer, we once again had our own table among the trees and along the mountain stream. We learned about how the mountain grapes vary from those down on the valley floor, and we left with a special appreciation for all of the different varietals and growing techniques used throughout the valley.
After our tastings (which included a 2002 Cab…quite possibly the most mature wine I’ve ever tasted!) we took a brief tour of the wine cave along the side of the mountain. Definitely a more boutique winery, Bremer only produces around 3500 cases per year (compare that to Duckhorn’s 100,000+)!
The day went so fast and soon it was time to say goodbye to Luis. But not before making a few stops along the mountain so we could get some family photos with those epic views. You could tell this was not Luis’ first time being the photographer, and he was more than willing to snap away for us at every occasion!
We absolutely enjoyed our day with Platypus Wine Tours. Not having to worry about booking reservations, packing a lunch, or driving from place to place is reason enough to set aside at least 1 day for a true wine tour experience. We found that Platypus’ rates were on par (if not slightly more affordable) than the other companies we looked at, and traveling with such a large group meant we could customize our itinerary exactly how we wanted it. I would wholeheartedly recommend them for your next wine adventure!
Platypus Wine Tours | various locations
Duckhorn Vineyards | 1000 Lodi Lane (St. Helena)
Honig Vineyard & Winery | 850 Rutherford Road (Rutherford)
Bremer Family Winery | 975 Deer Park Road (St. Helena)