We’re beginning a new “Driver Spotlight” Q&A series on our Platypus Wine Tours blog where we introduce you to some of our top-notch wine tour guides, provide some insights as to why they love working for Platypus and what makes their tours so special.
Today we would like you to meet Steve Hunter, who has been working as a tour guide for Platypus for two and a half years now.
Q. Where are you originally from? How long have you lived in the Bay Area?
A. I was born in Indiana, moved to Tampa, Florida when i was in 4th grade and lived in Tampa and Orlando for many years. I graduated from the University of South Florida with a Humanities degree, and ended up working in real estate (property management and new home sales.) I moved to Petaluma (Sonoma County) in 1985 and lived there for 10 years, then moved to Napa until the present. So, I have lived in the Wine Country for a total of 27 years.
Q. What do you love best about the Wine Country?
A. I love the incredible climate and views of the region in all four seasons. I love the rural, quiet nature of the area so heavily involved in the vineyard agriculture. I love the amazing wine and food available in this area! I love that Napa County has protected the special vineyard agriculture from building, with 94% of Napa County permanently preserved for agriculture.
Q. Why do you enjoy working for Platypus Wine Tours?
A. I enjoy working for Platypus for several reasons: The culture of people in this company is incredible, with great cooperation and friendliness of all employees toward each other. I love the autonomy I have as a tour guide in being free to choose my own wineries to visit. I love the whole concept of Platypus, focusing on the four small wineries, and having customer satisfaction as such a high priority.
Q. Your tours typically get rave reviews from our customers. What do you strive for to make your wine tours truly unique and special? Do you have a certain philosophy?
A. I like to think my tours are special for several reasons: I really put a premium on education for the guests. I go all out to give a detailed vineyard education talk in the morning of every tour. I educate guests on some of the basics of the world of wine every morning during the first or second winery tasting (temperatures of wine, aging wine properly, swirling a wine glass properly, smelling wine, why a wine glass is shaped the way it is, etc). Also, I give a well researched talk to the group every day on “History of Wine in the Napa Valley,” where I track the origins after the Gold Rush, through early wine making in the 1800’s, growth of the industry, Prohibition, major contributions of Robert Mondavi, Judgement of Paris 1976, and the “Bottle Shock” movie. I also relate the critically important historical story of the 1968 Napa County Agricultural Protection Ordinance. As I drive through the various cities of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga, I educate the guests on the important facts to know about each city. I try very hard to locate actual owners and wine makers each day to spend a few minutes talking with our tour groups, as I believe this adds a lot of value to the tour.
As for a philosophy, I like to believe that my educational efforts are what can really separate Platypus from our competition (limos for example.) The limo experience drops the customer off at a winery, then picks the customer back up in an hour or so later….no education involved. So, Platypus can not only deliver the great wine, but also the interaction with other guests from around the globe, tons of education, and, of course, fun. Finally, I go to discover and research small wineries on my days off, and hope to keep introducing my tour guests to exceptional winery discoveries that will be truly memorable for them.
Q. What are some of your favorite wineries to bring people to, and why?
A. There are many incredible wineries to choose from, but if I had to pick two they would be:
Tedeschi Winery – incredibly tiny (500 cases per year) family owned, delightful owner/winemaker and his two sons, great wine, no glitz or glamour… just the real deal. A throwback to a winery of a simpler time when things were all made by hand. Lots of education offered by the winery owners.
Laird Family Estate – wines produced by the famous Paul Hobbs that would normally be very expensive, but because Laird does not need the money, are very affordable. Great opportunity for guests to taste (via sharing with their friend/spouse) 10 different wines. Extremely friendly and knowledgable staff, with a great policy of waiving the tasting fee with the purchase of any bottle of wine. Close to the city of Napa and the hotels when used as a last winery stop at the end of the day.
Q. Do you have any particularly memorable wine tour experiences that stand out that you would like to share?
A. A lot of similar stories boil down to a common theme: Guests depart from my tours really happy and remark that they learned a ton, discovered some incredible wines, had a memorable day, and were very grateful for the day they shared with me and Platypus Wine Tours.
Here’s what a few of our customers have to say about Steve on Yelp, TripAdvisor and elsewhere. Additional customer reviews/comments about our Platypus Wine Tours can also be found on our website.
We cannot say enough good things about the tour and Steve. Ken and I had a great time. Steve was an encyclopedia of information. He took us to the most awesome wineries, we loved every one of them and bought wine at them all. Steve provided lists of good restaurants and additional wineries for those of us staying through the weekend that needed some help. I would recommend your tour to anyone and will definitely go and post some good comments about it! We had a great day with Steve, he is a treasure.
We had a great day with Steve and Platypus Wine Tours. Steve took us to some of the lesser known wineries where we received personal tours and tastings by owners and wine makers. It was a great way to learn about the history of Napa and the process of wine making. Highly recommended.
We had a fabulous day out with Steve to show us around the Napa area. The wineries were lovely and the picnic lunch was yummy. Steve’s knowledge of the area and wine in general were extensive. Overall it was a fun day out and enjoyable with the other tourists on the bus.