Some California Wineries Make Room for Families

Article excerpt

Byline: Michelle Locke Associated Press

NAPA, Calif. You might think kids would be about as welcome at a winery as cork taint. But happily for those who didn't lose their palates when they became parents, there are wineries that welcome all in the family.

Want to tour a castle, picnic under the trees or take a quick dip in a pool? Those are some of the options available, part of a trend that has seen more wineries expanding the visiting experience to include much more than tasting.

At Raymond Vineyards in St. Helena, owner Jean-Charles Boisset has more than a passing interest in making a place for children. He's a new father to twin girls with wife Gina Gallo.

Raymond, which is in St. Helena, has a grove where you can start up a game of croquet or bocce as well as a fruit orchard to explore. A Theatre of Nature is under construction that will feature sheep, goats, chickens, a sensory garden and more and is aimed at explaining the winery's natural approach to wine growing.

There are ultimately plans to have a child room where children can do art or watch a movie for 45 minutes while their parents taste wines. Meanwhile, for people who want to do some serious wine-tasting minus the small fry, there are other areas of the winery that are for adults only. The idea is to make sure that "everyone has a good time," Boisset says.

It bears mentioning that visiting a winery with children requires planning. You'll know best how long your child can stay entertained and with what. One child might be perfectly happy playing with toy boats; another might be moved to get in touch with his inner Blackbeard.

In general, check first to make sure you're visiting a winery with a child-friendly attitude and look for places that have extensive grounds with features that could amuse a child such as fountains. And be prepared to provide intense supervision. Even the most family-friendly of wineries isn't going to take kindly to toddlers running amok among the stemware. …