11 Tips for Travel with Kids to Wine Country

This is a guest post from my friend Jen Reyneri, founder of the Faith & Family Travel Community, WordTraveling.com. Jen says “I’m so grateful to guest post here on We3Travel for the 31-Days of “Vote for Travel” on Word Traveling. All month, you’ll have the chance to hear from some of the best authorities on family travel and to win an incredible getaway for your family to the gorgeous Beaches of Ft. Myers/Sanibel

We’ve visited and lived in wine regions all over the world, many of them with one or both of our boys in tow. I’m grateful to share with you my top tips for visiting wine country with kids, wherever in the world, or the States, you may roam.

You see, I’ve spent nearly half of my years in the wine business. Except, I’m not in the wine business. My husband Luis is. He is deeply rooted in his passion for the art of winemaking. And with almost twenty years together, over ten of those as his study partner for some excruciating wine exams, you could say I have a developed palate. He’s always said, “behind every successful man is a strong woman.” I guess that makes my wine knowledge strong, kind of an expert by osmosis.

Through his oenological pursuits, Luis is the most well-rounded man I’ve ever encountered. His knowledge of world culture, history, geography, geology, business practice and even weather patterns and conditions is worthy of a Ph.D. in global studies. He’s funny, articulate, compassionate, entertaining, driven, a polyglot, and he’s taken me, and our family, around the world because of wine. Perhaps it’s even how I became a travel writer. (Can you tell I love my man? Today marks our fifteenth wedding anniversary, and this article is for him.)

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Even though Luis is the wine expert, I’m the one friends often call for a recommendation of the perfect bottle to pair with dinner or to serve for a special occasion. And always I’m the one they call when looking for tips to travel to wine country.

tips for visiting wine country with children

Top 11 Tips for Visiting Wine Country With Children

  1. Just go. Don’t wait to experience the beauty, peace and taste of wine country just because you have children. They’ll appreciate it too if you approach your journey with the right preparation and attitude once you’re there.
  2. Visit small, family owned wineries. Remember, vintners are farmers at heart. Many are in the winemaking business for generations and have children raised in the family business and will love to have your children visit. Some of our fondest memories are being hosted with our boys in the hills of Mendocino at Esterlina Vineyards by our friend, Steve Sterling or at the gorgeous organic vineyards in Sonoma of St. Francis by friend and CEO, Chris Silva. Priceless memories of tasting grapes straight from the vines are still engrained from times in Niagara Valley, Canada at Inniskillin, Tenuta de Arceno or Banfi in Tuscany, Maison Louis Jadot in Burgundy, and Gunderloch winery in Rheinhessen, Germany. The list goes on, but get the idea?
  3. Wineries provide educational tours. Both large and small wineries will most often happily host you for a visit or educational tour. Be sure to call ahead for details and let them know you’ll have children along. We were blessed to spend a few visits with the late iconic wine and history maker, Robert Mondavi. He and his staff were amazingly hospitable to us, before, during, and after children. I remember having lunch in his tasting room while I was pregnant and enjoying a few sips of one of his finest Napa cabs. “Good, dear. Enjoy that. My mother had a glass of wine every day she was pregnant with me. Just a glass. Good. That’s what’s wrong with Americans- they don’t understand moderation. Everything has its place in moderation,” he shared with a chuckle, smiled, and patted me on the back with a Buen Appetito.
  4. Opt for simple tastings at larger wineries, early morning. And please, remember. These are tasting sessions, not drinking sessions. You lose the appreciation of the art in a glass if you drink until your senses are numbed, even the slightest. Utilize the spittoons. They’re on the counters for a reason.
  5. Pack a picnic and stop to enjoy. If you’re in Napa, you MUST visit Oakville Grocer for an unbelievable treat in this iconic destination full of local specialties, fresh sandwiches, and an awesome espresso bar. Not in Napa? Find a local market wherever you go to truly experience the flavors of wine country.Wine Country with Children
  6. Set your expectations with your kids before you arrive for a tour or tasting. Reward them with an ice cream or a milkshake afterwards. In Napa? A must visit is the original Taylor’s Refresher, in St. Helena (now called Gott’s.) Untitled design (3)
  7. Enjoy an evening out. You can always book one or more days, and definitely at least one evening out, with a sitting service. We’ve done this before through concierge recommendations for longer day tours, romantic evenings at charming bistros, and even for a couples’ spa day.
  8. Don’t try to cram in too many tours or tastings. One per day is truly plenty with kids. Be realistic when dining out. This may not be the time for the five-hour experience at French Laundry, but rather an equally delicious meal at Bistro Jeanty or Mustards.
  9. Be prepared with snacks and activities. Have a bag full of snacks and non-tech small activities like maze puzzle and spot the differences books, card games, and action figures if they’re still that age. Let older children listen in on the education if they’re interested. You never know, you may be raising the next Robert Mondavi.Untitled design (4)
  10. Consider traveling with friends. If possible, visit with other friends who have children so your kids have other children to play with during your time enjoying wine country with your friends. Life is just simply better together, and a glass of wine is meant to be shared with friends.
  11. Research other activities. Spend some time researching the other wine country family-friendly area activities, and spend much of your time between wine tours just enjoying the beauty of the countryside. In Sonoma, you can enjoy the streams for fishing, wandering the Square and playing in the park, or even visiting Train Town amusement park. Headed to Napa? Take a ride on the aerial tram at Sterling Vineyards & Winery. Is the more rustic Oregon wine country calling your name? There’s even an aerospace museum with an indoor waterpark called Evergreen. (Make sure you visit the quaint chapel. It was a highlight of my trip to Evergreen.) In France, roam the villages, explore the candy shops, and ride the town carousels. Italy? Splash and “balance beam” along the fountains. Getting the idea?

Make sure your expectations are realistic as parents, and allow ample time for your kids to be kids. They’ll remember the experience, and if done right, have a great appreciation for the craft of the vine and be able to reference an example of responsible and respectful alcohol consumption as they grow into adulthood.

Cheers!

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Vaya con Dios~

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