Get to know Platypus Wine Tours Founder Don Rickard.
People often ask why I chose to name my business “Platypus Tours.”
Actually what they usually ask is; “Whatever possessed you to name your business Platypus Tours?” since our tour has no connection to marsupials or Australia or anything remotely aquatic.
Here’s my answer. (Do you want the short version or the long version?)
First, I like that word. It’s short and sweet, and it’s also informal and sort of playful, which are themes I have always sought to associate with our tour.
Second, our name helps set us apart in a market saturated with many local wine tours. Most of those tours incorporate Napa Valley, Sonoma or Wine Country into their names. I didn’t want us to be confused with any other tour company.
Third, I hoped the Platypus name would help us to build word of mouth referrals for our tours. Which is to say, if we managed to show an exceptional experience to every guest who took our tour, each of those guests would tell their innkeeper, their concierge, the waiter at the restaurant or the folks at the table next to them. Then, their friends and colleagues back home. And if we were really lucky, those folks would choose to visit this area again one day soon and they would manage to find us again, partially because of our (somewhat) goofy name.
My inspiration to start this tour came from a tour I took in 1999 in Brugges, Belgium.
It was my first trip to Europe and it was magical (of course!) I was traveling alone since my dear, but flakey, friends once again backed out on me prior to the trip. (You all know who you are!) This time I elected to go anyway and I was surprised at how much fun it was to travel alone. I could do whatever struck me at the moment and people would start chatting with me all the time. Since I was alone I was approachable, and travelers tend to be very social people.
Which is how I heard about Quasimoto Tours, the little bus tour in Brugges.
The truth is I was not inclined to take a bus tour. This was my great backpacking adventure. But several of the other travelers I met there recommended that tour emphatically. I learned first-hand the persuasive power of a personal testimonial.
So I took the tour. I loved it and I thought it would be a great business for me if ever I could come up with a really special place to conduct my tours. Our tour guide owned his bus and he had back-door access to all of the places he showed us that day. More than just a guide, he was a true local insider.
Fast-forward three years. I am living in the incomparably beautiful Napa Valley and I am the general manager of a wonderful little restaurant called Market St. Helena. (It’s still open and still really good!) While working there, I spoke with many of our guests, who consisted mainly of couples and small groups visiting the area to taste wine, as well as owners and employees of many of the local wineries, including a number of wine makers.
I started thinking about that little tour in Brugges and how well that concept might play out here. I also thought about how nice it would be to get home from work before midnight and not smell like the inside of a refrigerator.
In September 2003 I purchased a used bus on eBay (yes, you can really find just about anything there…), procured all of my licensing and permits, and just started driving folks around back-roads wineries. It was tough at first getting my tour off the ground, but I did my very best to knock the socks off of every person who was willing to tour with me. Eventually that elusive word of mouth referral network began to kick in, and our little tour started to grow.
Today we conduct multiple tours each day in the Napa Valley, the Sonoma Valley and the Russian River/Healdsburg areas. We are a family of tour guides and support staff who still embrace the same philosophy – find a way to live up to, and hopefully exceed, the expectations of every single tour guest, every single day.
Yes, that really was the short version!
Thank you very much for your interest in Platypus Tours, Limited. We would love to see you on one of our tours sometime soon.
(PS. Hi Mom!)