Sunlight refracts through the glass, casting ruby red shadows over the burnished wood bar. The limo idles in the long driveway, ready to whisk you off to the next vineyard. The musty smell of grapes soaks into your pores, coaxing you to relax.
Then there comes a loud BAM! CRASH! Your 2 year old starts screaming. Ah, yes. I’ve had that nightmare too about going wine tasting with toddlers. But does it need to be that way?
A tacit parental agreement seems to be to forego the pleasures of the Double-Income-No-Kid lifestyle once your little bundle of joy arrives. But why do we impose such strictures on ourselves? Should we not expose our kids to things we enjoy so they can know us as people, not just as parents?
I am not suggesting a sophisticated gallery opening or black-tie-only dinner. How about an experience that combines the great outdoors for them with a refreshing adult twist for you? Most vineyards start as farms, complete with large open spaces and animals to entertain little ones. Most places will also let you take your glass and wander a little while sampling their wares. Many even have family-friendly bonfires, barbecues, etc.
It took me 2 years and 9 months to try wine tasting with my daughter. Do not wait that long. Grab your generous pour and let’s head to the vineyards. I think you will find, as I did, wine tasting with toddlers and kids is much more pleasant and acceptable than you expect.
Tip #1: Wear sturdy shoes
As I mentioned, vineyards are also often farms or ranches. Excellent for seeing animals but some kids (*my daughter*) forget that not all animals are tame. We have encountered several chickens who peck at tiny fingers, goats who nibble on beloved Elmo-friends, and horses who have tried to open a Paw Patrol backpack, just to reach the apple inside.
Besides the tooth issue, consider the secondary effects of animals. Say you happen to choose an organic farm; prepare yourself psychologically for the sheer amount of scatalogical humor. “Mama, it’s poop!” Yup. Leave the stilettos at home.
Tip #2: Bring sunscreen
Sitting outside on a patio while sipping a cool rose sounds ideal. Lathering up your crying toddler in slippery aloe vera while keep falling in said good is not ideal. You will be outside if you bring your toddlers wine tasting with you.
Tip #3: Bring friends.
Your friends, their friends, stuffed or plastic. The more distractions, the more opportunity for you to sample all 5 wines and try their special chocolate boot filled with dark, sweet port. Besides, don’t you want to share the love a little?
Tip #4: Choose a winery that offers food.
Generally if they offer a restaurant or food trucks, the vineyard will be more family-friendly. Many vineyards now offer games or a playground, too.
Tip #5: Don’t pick a free tasting or reservations-only
Free tastings generally attract a certain crowd. This certain crowd tends to get rowdy, or inappropriate for young eyes. Reservations-only establishments also tend to attract a certain crowd. They do not always cotton well to 2 year olds who loudly demand to watch videos on your phone.
Tip #6: Ask the locals
Chances are, the people at your hotel or vacation rental are local, and have family in the area. What better people to ask about where would be a family friendly vineyard?
Tip #7: Relax
I waited more than 2 years worrying how my daughter would respond, whether she would distract people, whether I would actually get to try any wine or would I spend the entire time corralling her. None of these things happened. The tasting rooms welcomed her. Several other kids played with her, and we all had a fabulous time. Enjoy yourself.
My favorite California Wineries for Kids
Folktale Winery in Carmel. Honestly, I would pay for an overnight babysitter just to go back to Carmel and visit this vineyard. There would be no need, though, because from the food to the entertainment and open lawn, this place is completely kid friendly. So sit back, enjoy your sparkling wine, and order a wood-fired flatbread while your toddler plays foosball. Everything you eat and drink will be memorable, and your children will have a great time. Best place for wine tasting with toddlers and kids.
Fazeli winery in Temecula. Although the wine admittedly is not my favorite, you cannot beat the ambiance of a Tuscan-style villa set amid the rolling hills of Temecula. Just a short day trip from either Palm Springs, San Diego, or Los Angeles, the food at Fazeli compensates for the quaffable glasses of wine. Little V enjoyed a donut aperitif before the ham and cheese sandwich arrived alongside the delicious Baba Joon Persian tacos.
Longshadow Ranch in Temecula. Though the wines are drinkable, the kid-friendly atmosphere wins as the most kid-friendly winery in Temecula. Children seem welcomed even from the start. You park next to the tasting room which sits directly across from a jungle gym and multiple animal enclosures. You can bring your tasting along with you as you meet the horses, goats, and cows. They also serve port in a chocolate boot, but don’t tell them I told you 😉
Cass Winery in Paso Robles. Full disclosure: I have not actually been to this winery YET with my daughter. I have, though, met the vintner who assured me that this winery is very kid- and pet-friendly. I bring it up because they have delicious wine. You really cannot go wrong here. From the Marsanne to the Mourvedre, every grape is just delicious. If you find the TED wine, do not let it go. I will get here as soon as I can find a free weekend to visit Paso Robles.
Now, I have not unfortunately managed to go further North to visit the famous wineries around Napa and San Francisco. Fortunately, my friend from Henry and Andrew’s Guide has put together The Ultimate List of Kid-Friendly Wineries in the Bay Area. She’s given me some very good ideas.
Final Thoughts on How to Go Wine Tasting with Toddlers
Where do you like to go with your kids? Have you tried wine tasting with them? I have been thinking a lot about taking my daughter to Portugal–anyone know if the Douro is kid-friendly?