PHOTO BY JESSICA CHOU
It’s the dream Saturday Night Live fans didn’t even know they had: being a fly on the wall when the superheroines of sketch comedy assemble for an off-duty get-together. That scenario is the premise of Amy Poehler’s directorial debut, Wine Country (premiering May 10 on Netflix). This girlfriend-getaway romp through Napa Valley boasts a packed roster of SNL royals—Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteyer, and Emmy-winning writers Emily Spivey and Paula Pell—and is loosely based on a real trip they took to celebrate Dratch’s 50th birthday. Filming the art-imitates-life comedy, says Dratch (who stars as the birthday girl, Rebecca), “was like an extended sleepover party.”
A central plot point in the film is the ladies’ ambitious itinerary, designed by Poehler’s type-A-plus character, Abby. “Amy really likes doing itineraries, but she’s not as hard up about it,” Dratch says, with a laugh. “She always points out that she’s a Virgo—they like scheduling.” The packed program saw characters (and cast members) embarking on all the classic Napa Valley experiences: perusing shops in Calistoga, tooling between vineyards in a bus driven by a quirky local (inspired by a real-life tour guide/paella chef), and, of course, wining and dining. On-screen, Rebecca’s celebratory dinner takes place at a fictional foodie hot spot, complete with lavender-infused popcorn and a celebrity literati sighting; in real life, Dratch notes, the cast was partial to Oenotri, an unassuming Italian eatery in downtown Napa.
The film’s eye-popping winery scenes were shot primarily at two vineyards: St. Helena’s Quintessa (the home of impressive cave-like cellars) and Napa’s Artesa (pictured here), which was also the setting of a much-anticipated happy hour once the cameras stopped rolling. “We were drinking fake wine the whole time,” Dratch recalls. “The one big tasting we did was after our day of shooting at Artesa. It was really beautiful, with great views.”
After spending all that time in wine country, Dratch, a longtime New York City resident, observes that the local flavors transcend oak, fruit, and tannins. “Take advantage of the Northern California spiritual vibe,” she advises. “Go to a mud bath, buy a crystal—do something you wouldn’t normally do.”