Napa may be the backdrop for Amy Poehler’s new Netflix movie, “Wine Country,” but the real story took place in Sonoma County in 2016. Sort of.
According to Santa Rosa restaurateur Gerard Nebesky (aka The Paella Guy), the forthcoming girls getaway flick, starring Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, Maya Rudolph, and Emily Spivey, was actually inspired by Dratch’s gal-pal weekend in the Alexander Valley three years ago, which Nebesky coordinated.
Celebrating her milestone 50th, Nebesky says Dratch and her A-list comedy friends – Poehler, Rudolph, Gasteyer, Pell, and Spivey – rented a house in the Valley, visited Sebastopol’s Lynmar Estate and Healdsburg’s Longboard Vineyards and dined at Healdsburg SHED with Nebesky. (During their 2016 Wine Country vacation, Dratch and her “SNL” friends also stayed at a Napa Valley airbnb and visited Indian Springs Resort and Spa in Calistoga, Oxbow Public Market and Oenotri in Napa, and The French Laundry and Ad Hoc in Yountville.)
“They were doing a bunch of girly stuff,” says Nebesky, “but that’s when the germ of the movie was born.”
Director Amy Poehler ran with the idea for a movie soon after the trip, spinning the roots of the birthday celebration into a dark comedy to be released on Netflix on May 10. Locations in the movie include Quintessa and Artesa Vineyards in Napa.
Actor Jason Schwartzman plays a character in the movie loosely based on Nebesky, who has been friends with Rachel Dratch for more than a decade. A pre-release trailer includes a clip of Schwartzman stirring a huge paella pan with a wooden spatula, confirming that there is, at the very least, a paella-making character.
Nebesky isn’t sure if there are many other similarities between himself and Schwartzman’s character, Devon, but claims the actor confided at the film’s wrap party that ‘Gerard Nebesky’ autofilled his search page every time he hit the letter ‘G’ on the keyboard.
“He’s a really disciplined actor. I think he was really taking it seriously,” says Nebesky, who hasn’t seen “Wine Country” and doesn’t know exactly the role Schwartzman plays in the movie. “I don’t think it’s all that much based on me, though. I just make paella. Rachel says there’s no comparison,” he laughs.
Nebesky met Dratch at a party ten years ago, where he was cooking his signature paella. They struck up a friendship and kept in touch. He went to Manhattan to see Saturday Night Live when she was a cast member. She asked him to cater her star-studded 40th birthday.
“Everyone turns out for Rachel. She’s so well-liked,” he says.
Ten years later, the celebrity asked Nebesky to coordinate her 50th in Wine Country. “The whole thing took place in Sonoma County. We went to Lynmar winery and there was lots of singing and craziness. They really took care of them and Chef David Rakes poured it on thick with goodies,” he says. “They had such a good time.”
Nebesky says Dratch and her real-life comedian friends aren’t all that removed from the characters they play.
“Rachel always seems like she’s a little uncomfortable in her surroundings. She’s quirky, self-admittedly. She’s so funny. They’re all real pros, and it’s amazing when you’re around them,” Nebesky says.
The cast is returning to Wine Country later this month for the movie premiere, according to Nebesky, and he hopes to get them back to Sonoma County to check out his downtown Santa Rosa restaurant, Gerard’s Paella.
“They’re all staying in Napa, which I’m peeved about, but it was all Sonoma County that set the original scene,” he adds, laughing.