Wine tasting—an experience once reserved for those without kids—has become family-friendly. In fact, more and more wineries are catering to entire broods, kids and dogs included. Here are just a few that are worth checking out.
As I sipped my $60 (plus tax) wine-and-food pairing at Scribe Winery in Sonoma Valley—the ultra-hip vineyard started by the Mariani brothers of nut and dried-fruit fame—a group of San Francisco parents at the next table did the same while sitting with their six children, a few colouring books and winery-provided snacks scattered on the table. They brought dogs, too. It looked like everyone in the family was a fan of the winery. While the parents enjoyed Chardonnay with kale salad and Pinot Noir with Moroccan lamb, the kids happily assembled puzzles, sipped grape juice and explored the nearby rows of vines.
1. Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Just off Highway 101, north of Healdsburg, is Francis Ford Coppola Winery, referred to as “Coppola” by the locals. In this vineyard and museum, anyone with a passion for films like The Godfather and Tucker will enjoy the vintage car, costumes and props from Coppola’s films. The restaurant has a kids’ menu, and there’s a massive swimming pool, surrounded by cabanas, that is suitable for all ages.
2. Preston Farm and Winery
Kids will love the farm animals and friendly farm cats at this welcoming winery. Sample bread and olive oil made right on the farm (vintner Lou Preston is a master bread maker), and grab some berries, apples, peaches and pomegranates (seasonally) to go. There’s plenty of room for kids to explore and play as parents sip award-winning Rhône varietals.
3. Acorn Winery
At this small, hands-on family winery, both kids and parents can explore the field blends first planted in 1890 by people from Virginia. The first Italian variety (Sangiovese) was planted by an Italian family in 1950. While parents taste the wines, kids can eat grapes, drink juice and play with the array of Lego blocks, games and colouring books available. The winery is well known for its Italian varietals.
4. Cline Family Cellars
This multigenerational family farm caters to kids of all ages, with plenty of room to roam and even a museum about the California missions, where kids can learn about the churches built by Spanish missionaries all over the state hundreds of years ago. There are also donkeys, turtles and fish to see at this family-centric cellar.
In Napa Valley, where a bottle of Cabernet frequently costs between $150 and $300 and tasting prices are just as dear, there are still wineries that reach out to families.
5. Castello di Amorosa
The founder of the popular V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena always wanted an Italian castle in Napa Valley, so he built one! Dubbed the “castle of love,” this 121,000-square-foot fortress juts out of the hillside, surrounded by vineyards. Be sure to check out the moat, drawbridge, dungeons and “torture” chambers. An hour-long tour finishes with a tasting of wine for the adults and plenty of grape juice for the wee ones.
6. Alpha Omega Winery
The founders of this elegant winery, known for its Cabernet Sauvignon blends, fountains and expansive grounds, wrote a book for little ones called Exploring the Napa Valley with Traveler Teddy. The book comes with crayons to enjoy in a special kids’ area, while parents sample the flavours of the region.
7. Sterling Vineyards
Sterling is accessible via an aerial tram that climbs up to the mountaintop estate. After taking in stunning views of the vineyards on the climb up, kids receive backpacks filled with drinks, snacks and games to keep them busy while their parents taste the well-known Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals.
There’s more to Niagara Falls than amusement parks and the falls. This viticultural area is well known for its highly rated wines and famous for its rare ice wines.
8. Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery
At this architecturally stunning and technologically advanced winery, families can follow the winemaking process from the field to the state-of-the-art, gravity-flow-assisted production. Young scientists and engineers will marvel at gears, tubes and tanks, while their parents sip Pinot Noir, Riesling and ice wine.
9. Frogpond Farm Organic Winery
More than just a winery, this certified-organic farm is full of green and growing things, such as bugs, worms and frogs (hence the name), that keep this biodynamic property producing wines like Gamay Noir and Cabernet Franc. Among the birds and guinea fowl that manage the insects, kids will get an ecotour of how a sustainable farm thrives and prospers with all-natural maintenance, pest control and harvesting methods. It’s a little education and a lot of fun!
10. Vizcarra Vineyards
The vineyard at Becker Farms is well known for its fall family activities, including grape stomping, a petting zoo and a farmers’ market. Visitors of all ages will enjoy harvest-time fun, while adults sample wines from fruits grown on the farm (raspberries, cherries and apples) and varietals like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Riesling.
This picturesque wine region offers not only spectacular scenery but also wineries designed with kids in mind.
11. Tinhorn Creek
A self-guided tour of this vineyard in Oliver, BC, lets kids inside the cellar to check out wine tanks, as well as visit the demonstration vineyard and grassy amphitheatre—grass rolling, anyone? Tinhorn Creek Vineyards has hiking trails for families, a pizza restaurant and sparkling juice, so kids can pretend to taste like their parents.
12. Covert Farms Family Estate Organic Farm and Winery
This farm in Oliver, BC, complete with Highland cows, llamas, chickens, ducks and sheep, gives children free range to play outdoor games and jump on a giant inflatable while their parents drink a glass (or a bottle) of wine nearby. Rhône varietals, such as Roussanne and Viognier, join proprietary Bordeaux blends. The farm also puts out a mean charcuterie board to accompany its wines, using local products like honey, cheeses and olive oils, which are also available for purchase. Check the website for organic produce “u-pick” days.
13. See Ya Later Ranch Winery
This working ranch in Okanagan Falls has a pet cemetery, complete with canine ghost stories and dog-friendly pathways through the vineyards. Kids and dogs are more than welcome at the “Barking Lot” park area and the restaurant. Founded by dog lover Major Hugh Fraser, whose centuries-old hand-split stone house is now a tasting room, See Ya Later’s wine label depicts a golden dog with wings. Red and white blends have names like Jimmy My Pal and Rover.
14. Dirty Laundry Vineyard
This lively winery in Summerland, BC, has a saloon, a wine shop and a restaurant where kids can enjoy pizza, gelato and sorbetto while they watch the Kettle Valley Train go by. Food and brews are self-serve, so no need to worry about long waits with hangry kids.
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