There was a time when visiting Northern California’s wine country meant leaving your kids at home. It was a long time ago, but the bad reputation has been hard to kick. While wine country is certainly famous for wine, it’s important not to forget that many of those award-winning winemakers are also parents themselves. The key to success: picking and choosing the right wineries to visit with kids.
Northern California wine country enjoys mild weather year-round, so kids can spend time outside even in winter, exploring vineyards, playing backyard lawn games or simply running around in the grass — all of which have become standard amenities at many wineries. Between Napa Valley and Sonoma County, there are plenty to choose from, and your first trip to wine country won’t be your last.
Some of Francis Ford Coppola’s biggest fans couldn’t care less about wine. When the Hollywood icon created his winery, he included not one but two pools, complete with lifeguards. Surrounded by colorful lounge chairs, bocce ball courts and a book-filled tepee, it’s wine country’s version of family bliss. Francis Ford Coppola Winery‘s poolside service includes pizza, salads and sandwiches along with wine, cocktails and fruit smoothies.
The onsite movie gallery features memorabilia from Coppola’s filmmaking career. Although kids will have no idea why Don Corleone’s desk from The Godfather is impressive, the original bright red Tucker, spinning on a showroom turntable, has ageless appeal and can lead to an interesting history lesson.
As you bump your way down Millerick Road, the homemade signs tacked to trees reassure you that you’re headed in the right direction. Families rarely make it into the Larson Family Winery barn-turned-tasting room without first spending some time visiting with the resident goats. Wine lovers are encouraged to bring their family (dogs included), spread out a picnic, and play bocce or whatever game is attracting a crowd on the grass. Families can make advance picnic table and wine tasting reservations.
Vineyards are just one of many things growing at Quivira in Healdsburg. Besides the organic and Biodynamic® winery, this estate is also home to a 1-acre garden with more than 100 raised vegetable beds, dozens of chickens and beehives. Families can explore on their own or make a reservation for one of the daily tours. Either way, don’t dress up: The fun while exploring can kick up dust. Take advantage of the picnic tables and bring goodies to enjoy with your wine.
Every year more than 4,000 grade-school students visit the California Missions Museum at Cline Cellars Winery. The display of all 21 California missions was originally built in 1939 for the California Pacific Exhibition. In addition, there are also two stained-glass panels on display from Mission Dolores, predating the 1906 earthquake. The winery offers a courtyard garden and picnic areas, or families can reserve a picnic table on the Cline Cellars Estate in order to pair their meal with a bottle of Cline wine.