Interview with Don Rickard, Founder of Platypus Wine Tours
Wine tasting is wonderful, especially when you’re able to book a tour with a personal touch.
Platypus Wine Tours offers guests tours that are fun and exciting. They’re also unique. Don Rickard, Founder of Platypus Wine Tours says you can take a tour many times, and no two days will unfold the same way. Nothing about it is boiler-plate. We interview Rickard to learn more about what you can expect during a tour with his team.
You have hundreds of excellent reviews online. Why do visitors enjoy Platypus Wine Tours?
Don Rickard Founder Platypus Wine Tours: We are visiting different wineries all the time. Our guides are encouraged to develop their own service styles. We teach and share a bunch of interesting stories and many anecdotes, but they decide which route to take on any particular day. This makes it feel like a day of discovery for our guests.
What is your most popular wine tour?
Don Rickard: At Platypus Wine Tours, join-in tours are certainly our most popular. This is a day-long journey to three smaller and mostly family-owned backroads wineries in a small shuttle bus with 8-12 guests.
The seating is configured salon-style, sort of like a conversation pit, so it’s easy to engage with the other folks onboard. Our tour guides put together their own tour itineraries every day, so they have the ability to figure out the best selection of wineries available on any given day. They also to try add in past wineries that delight groups.
Our join-in tours will always include a lunch, served at an idyllic winery picnic location, some storytelling and commentary, visits to three smaller, less commercial wineries and plenty of social interaction with our guide and with the other guests on board.
Our join-in tours are a combination of couples and friends – even singles, sometimes. The wine country is known as a romantic destination, so lots of couples show up here. However, the area really appeals to women in particular, so we see a lot of what I’ve come to refer to as ‘girl groups’ (mother/daughters, sisters, old school friends, etc.)
There is also some form of winery facility tour, components of which are often presented at more than one of the day’s wineries. This may involve a visit to a wine cave, barrel room. Sometimes, we’ll take a ride to the top of the property to take in some magnificent views, or spend some time with the winery owners or with the wine makers.
Why is wine country so special?
Don Rickard: This is a great question. I have been to many wine countries, and they all seem to possess a magical quality. I think visitors are entranced by the idea of exploring beautiful regions. They really appreciate the gorgeous landscape and the welcoming team at wineries.
I will say that no wine country I have ever seen has topped the splendor of the Napa Valley and the Sonoma wine country; it’s just incredible here! My jaw still drops all the time here. You never get used to the majesty of it.
How long do your wine tours last?
Don Rickard: The typical wine tour lasts about 6.5 hours. In that time, you can visit 3-4 wineries. Wineries tend to be open from 10am to 4 or 5pm, so it’s really a daytime activity. A winery visit can be as short as 45 minutes and as long as 2 hours. Wineries can be located close by, or further afield. Some guests prefer a shorter or a longer tour, and with the right planning, we can arrange that.
What are the Do’s and Don’ts of your wine tour?
Don Rickard: For Do’s: Prepare to chill out, relax and just experience the day. Engage with your fellow wine-travelers. Turn off your notifications and your ringer. Be friendly and gracious to the people you encounter.
For Don’ts: I suggest you avoid discussing such topics as politics, religion or your kids. Don’t attempt to get drunk (most people with get pleasantly tipsy on the wine served at the tastings, and that’s great).
Why are professional wine tours popular?
Don Rickard: I think the appeal of wine tours in the US have marched up in synch with the popularity of the actual drinking of wine here. Americans have traditionally drunk only of fraction as much wine as their counterparts in many overseas countries, but we seem to be closing the gap.
Also, I think lots of folks are ever in search of the next unique and delicious bottle of wine they can serve at a dinner party, along with the story of how they discovered that jewel, and what the winery was like.
I think the main reason people book wine tours is so they can ensure that they have a truly memorable wine country experience. They don’t want to risk having a mediocre day after taking so much effort and expense to be here. There is a notion of an ideal day in the wine country, but people don’t necessarily know what exactly that would look like or how they make sure they can achieve it. Using experienced and proven guides who make that very thing happen for folks regularly can be really appealing strategy.
Talk about wine tour etiquette.
Don Rickard: ‘Etiquette’ is sort of a high-falutin’ term for our tour. We stand by this; be friendly and courteous, don’t over-indulge, and don’t be intimidated by all of the pomp and polish that accompanies the wine industry. Our guide will tell you anything you need to know to enjoy your day.
What are your tour prices?
Don Rickard: Tour prices can be all over the board, and everything needed to provide tours seems to be going up these days, so you can probably expect tour prices to rise, too. Currently, we charge $119 per person for our join-in tour ($139pp on Saturdays) Lunch is included, but tasting fees are extra (for join-in tours, we negotiate with wineries to keep these tasting fees at about $25pp at each winery, usually refundable with purchase). Private tours are priced at hourly rates, and the rates are determined but such factors as how many guests, time of year, day of week (is it a Saturday?) and how far we have to go to pick the guests up.
Where do think the wine tour industry will be in five years?
Don Rickard: Hopefully, you’ll see a lot more of them conducted in sustainable-fueled vehicles. Those vehicles tend to be prohibitively expensive now, but are expected to become more attainable in the coming years. Otherwise, it is our intention to keep touring this area just as we are now. Wine is timeless!