The Traveling Steve's

Platypus tour thru Napa Valley

Our day started with a WONDERFUL breakfast at the Andaz Hotel Napa.  Since I’m a Hyatt Diamond member, the breakfast was included for myself and DOS.  I’m not a huge breakfast person like DOS is, but wanted to have a full stomach before heading out for a day of wine tasting.  I can honestly say this was one of the best non-buffet breakfast’s I’ve ever had!  Our waitress, Victoria,IMG_0360 was top-notch, explaining that most of the items were from local sources, such as the delicious jams, butter, berries, creams etc -everything was fresh and delicious!  I had the Banana-bacon pancakes and huge yogurt parfait, while DOS had the country breakfast sandwich with roasted potatoes.

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After breakfast we were picked up at 10:15am for our full-day Platypus Wine tour. This was our third tour with Platypus, and we’ve had a wonderful and different experience each time.  By different I mean different wineries, fellow passengers, tour guide etc, and all have been top-notch.  Platypus calls you prior to the tour to enquire about your wine preferences, wineries you have been to so you don’t repeat the same ones, food allergies etc, and they adapt the trip as much as possible to meet your (and fellow passengers) requests.  Our tour today had 9 passengers (including DOS and I), in a mini-type bus that could hold several more people, which made for a comfortable and congenial group.  Our tour driver and guide was named Army Moreno, and as he had lived in the Valley for many years he was well known at the wineries we went too, and ones he later recommended which we did on our own.

We started the day in Calistoga, up the Silverado Trail.  Since it was Labor Day weekend, this two lane road was like an expressway compared to the stop-and-go traffic along highway 29 thru Napa.  We would go to a total of four boutique-type wineries today, with lunch provided after the second winery.

Our first stop was Dutch Henry Winery.




We started our wine tasting outside, gathered around a wine barrel used as a tasting table.  Here we learned about the family-run winery, while toasting each other with a nice Rose.  We next took a tour of the wine caves – truly an amazing labyrinth of tunnels used to store the barrels of wine, as well as formal dining room for tastings and events.DSC03261




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We had additional tastings in this beautiful underground dining room, followed by barrel tastings in the corridors. 
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It was fun tasting fresh wine from the barrel, and learning about wine ‘futures’.  After the cave tasting-tour we to the main tasting room and sampled some more wine.

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It’s so nice going to these smaller and family-owned wineries. You get to meet the staff, wine-makers, family, and sometimes even the family pooch!






We bought four bottles to take home with us as well as a bottle of olive oil.  Platypus holds your wine purchases thru out the day for you, which makes it super convenient as well as not crowding you on the mini-bus.   Once back at the hotel we can then put our wines in the luggage-type wine carriers we brought with us from previous visits, which can be checked as regular luggage on our flights home.

IMG_4817After we were seated on the bus, Army served  our group a nice cheese platter, complete with several types of cheeses, crackers and nuts.  Bottled water throughout the day was complimentary, plentiful, and encouraged so we ‘feel much better tomorrow’ as Arnie said.

Apparently our group must have really befriended the family pooch, as he came aboard too – not wanting us to leave!  So adorable!


IMG_4816Sorry I don’t remember his name, but Arnie called him by name as he politely asked him to leave the bus so we could go on to our next stop.  He then sadly marched off the bus like he’s done this before, back to the winery grounds.  We felt like we lost a good family friend!


Rolling along, our next stop was Tedeschi Family Winery, also in Calistoga. DSC03273  The Tedeschi family members offer tours of the vineyards, as well as provide tastings, and we were greeted by Mario, one of the sons.





IMG_4829Mario gave us an outstanding tour, and showed us a close up look at the large vat containers used to ferment the wine, IMG_4849 DSC03281 DSC03285 IMG_4851and demonstrated how they determine the gravity level of the wine.


Now that’s a lot of grape juice!  While we were watching Mario demonstrate the wine techniques, Army was close by preparing lunch for us, IMG_4854which we would have outdoors on their vineyard grounds.  We bought a bottle of Merlot for lunch, which we shared with the other members of our group.




The Father and owner of Tedeschi winery is quite an interesting man, who has really had a adventurous life.  Prior to going to the winery, our guide Army gave us a bit of history on Emil Tedaschi and family, which was quite fascinating.  Emil is a private pilot and flew all over the South Pacific in the days before the GPS.  There are photos of his journeys in the tasting room of Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand and other places, as well as airplane memorabilia such as a plane propeller mounted on the walls.


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We had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Tedaschi while we were having lunch, and he posed for a photo with us. We chatted with him a bit about flying, and inquired about the location of his winery in Maui (we had seen a poster about it inside the tasting room) as we will visit that when we go to Maui in October.  He’s really such a nice and unassuming man and the family is so friendly and welcoming.



After our visit to Tedeschi, we drove thru the town of Calistoga before going to our third winery stop.  On the way, Arnie pointed out several sites, including Calistoga’s number one rated Bed and Breakfast establishment, Luxe.  (We would later book this for next Labor Day, when we got home as we enjoyed the Calistoga area, and Luxe got EXCELLENT reviews).IMG_4879


As we left Calistoga and drove back towards Napa, I snapped a quick photo of the Napa Valley sign as we drove along.



Our third stop was at Cairdean Vineyards.  Cairdean was a more modern and traditional looking winery with an upscale tasting room.  IMG_4889 IMG_4890 IMG_4888


The winery had some props we used for photos, and here is Captain Steve with his goggles:



And one of the two of us:



We also took a couple photos outside by the ‘Ice Fountain’:

IMG_4900Our fourth and final stop was at Rutherford Ranch.  Our group was seated at a large table, and we had a decadent wine and chocolate pairing.




Our wine tasting host at Rutherford, Dean Slatery, must have been the class clown in school or an aspiring comedienne, as he was so funny!  IMG_4902 IMG_4905


Dean did a great (and fun!)  job explaining the white and dark chocolates and wine tastings which were specifically paired to Rutherford’s wines by the local chocolate maker – absolutely exquisite!  We bought several bottles here to round out our collection to take home, and took a group photo outside of Rutherford Ranch to cap off our tour, before heading back to our respective hotels.

DSC03307And ‘Twas a wonderful touring day for all thru Napa Valley!  Thanks Army of Platypus and all of the wonderful wineries we went too for such a fantastic day!


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