California wineries start to welcome all in the family

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California wineries start to welcome all in the family

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,” says Boisset.

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.

One place to visit is the Sterling Winery in Calistoga, Calif., where you take a short gondola ride up the side of a mountain to reach the winery. Sterling is also close to another wine country attraction that’s popular with families, Calistoga’s Old Faithful Geyser, a small but reliable water spout.

Here are a few more places in the Napa Valley and neighboring Sonoma County that can be good options when you’re traveling en famille.

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA WINERY: A true resort, this winery near Healdsburg in Sonoma County has a lifeguard-staffed pool and a restaurant, Rustic. Families can rent towels and the use of a small cabine with a shower. Poolside drink service available. There’s live music in the Pavilion on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Coppola is a pioneer in welcoming children. His Rubicon Estate winery (recently renamed Inglenook) in the Napa Valley has wooden sailboats children may sail in the fountain outside Mammarella’s cafe.

CASTELLO DI AMOROSA: This 107-room castle built in the style of 13th-century Tuscany. Castello di Amorosa, built by Napa Valley vintner Dario Sattui, has turrets, towers, dungeons and more. Children of all ages are welcome at the castle, which is a real working winery, although you must be 5-years-old or older to take the 60-minute tour or the horse-drawn carriage tours available on Saturdays. Also available, a family room where children can color, accompanied by one adult, leaving other adults in the party free to taste wines. The kids get Muscat of Alexandria grape juice, a nonalcoholic product made at the winery.

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