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The movie that Amy Poehler directed is based on a real trip a bunch of us took together two years ago for my 50th birthday. After that trip, Amy had the idea, “Oh, this could make a fun movie,” and she conspired to actually do it with all the same people: Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Tina Fey, Paula Pell and Emily Spivey, who ended up writing the movie with Liz Cackowski.
Back with these ladies, with whom I’ve worked so many years at Saturday Night Live, there’s this common language. You’ve been in the proverbial foxhole with them, staring into each other’s eyes with panic when a scene is eating it at dress rehearsal, or having the time of your life when a scene takes off. In real life, the trip to Napa and Sonoma County went according to plan, but in the movie, things go bonkers; we exaggerated some of the Northern California characters and occurrences, none of which I am permitted to share at this time!
We stayed at the downtown Andaz Napa, which I loved (from $299) — it has a “wow” factor because I like laidback, not fussy. There was a free-standing bathtub in the bedroom, which I didn’t use, but, hey, I liked knowing it was there. In town, we stumbled on to the Oxbow Public Market, which is like the Ferry Building in San Francisco. There are little food stalls, an oyster bar, a few cute shops; it’s a fun little jaunt.
The first night we got to the hotel, we went right across the street to restaurant Oenotri. We ended up eating at that place almost every night because the food was just really, really good. (Try the cacio e pepe! Tell ’em Dratch sent you! But they change the menu every night so don’t get mad if it’s not there!) I felt like I had to have wine, because I was like, “I’m in Napa! Just choke it down! You may never have wine again!” Yes, wine is available across the nation, but that seemed to have escaped me when being served by a wine-geek sommelier. (I like to be that person who’s like, “Oh, my gosh, I taste peaches. Who here tastes cantaloupe?” I don’t go so far as to say things like “pencil shavings,” but I do try to nail down the notes. See, I used the word “notes.”)
It was fun to cut out after filming and eat at a famous Northern California place in quaint little Yountville. Maya Rudolph got to go to The French Laundry for a crewmember’s birthday, and she did indeed rave about it. I went with a few of the ladies to Ad Hoc on fried-chicken night ($55). We didn’t have to make any decisions — they just brought it out with side dishes and it was excellent.
Coming from New York, where it’s loud sirens and pigeons, I was surprised by how rural and wild Napa felt. We got to shoot at vineyards for a couple of days. At the Quintessa winery, we were shooting up on the hillside retreat, as well as in the giant cellar. We also shot at Artesa Vineyards & Winery, then did a tasting. That day was memorable because we were surrounded by epic panoramas. I ordered a bunch of Artesa albariño to take home. After a few glasses, you’re in for the case.
Being ladies of a certain age with 5 a.m. pickups, we weren’t like the 24-year-old guy on his first movie. Our version of partying was watching Netflix doc series Wild Wild Country separately in our rooms at night, and doing impressions of Sheela and the Bhagwan during the day.
I loved Calistoga, where we filmed for two days. For Ana’s birthday, we went to Indian Springs resort and spa (from $269). This place is so cool because it really has hot springs, with that old 1960s vibe. We got massages, but my friend Rachel Hamilton, who was on the original trip, did the mud bath and had to get hosed down. To this New Englander, it was very Cali hippie.
On a free weekend day, I rented bikes from Napa Valley Bike Tours with Ana and Rachel. We wanted a leisurely ride, and one section, on a dirt road, was the best part, but a lot of the mapped route was on the highway shoulder with cars whizzing past. So I would recommend doing research to scope out a bike route — that’s a Dratch Tip® for you. We wanted to stop at a vineyard; what we didn’t realize was that you have to reserve a time along that route. So we pulled our bikes into a winery where you didn’t need a res, and it was like that scene in Sideways with the bus‚ the McDonald’s of vineyards. Another Dratch Tip®: Make reservations.
A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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