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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

That Time We Took our Kids to a Winery

After our camping trip to the redwoods at Little Basin - like, immediately afterward - we headed up to Napa for a spontaneous overnight trip. James had a work thing in Napa on Monday morning and the company was having him go up Sunday night. He would be finished with the work thing around noon on Monday. So, since we are clearly crazy, but fun-seeking kind of crazy, we decided that the boys and I would tag along and go check out a cool play space in Napa while James was at his work thing, and then we'd meet up again and go do something all together afterward... a winery?? Possibly?? Were we brave enough to bring our kids to a winery??

We got home from camping Sunday afternoon, showered, ate, re-packed, and headed to Napa where we even braved dinner at a restaurant with our kids. (They did ok. Calvin wouldn't eat, and the restaurant did not have a changing table, but at least there wasn't a big tantrum involved.) We stayed at the hotel and the next morning James was off with one of his co-workers to do their important Work Thing, and the boys and I headed over to Scientopia Discovery Center!

This is a super fun place for kiddos. Lots of neat play areas with all kinds of different toys and activities. 

That black stuff is small pieces of something rubbery, like shredded sneaker soles or something? Henry didn't like the feel of it.

We had a great morning at Scientopia. Then we picked James up, and went to Oxbow Market for a yummy lunch. Henry had a hard time at Oxbow because he really needed a nap, but finally he fell asleep in the Ergo.

At this point, though, our grand plans were starting to fall apart. We had decided that yes, we were crazy enough and brave enough to take our kids to a winery. Why? That is a good question. And that is the question that kept ringing in my ears: Why would anyone take their kids to a winery?? I get it. Wineries are for wine, and wine is for grown-ups. Here's the thing. James and I love going wine tasting, and we never get to go anymore because arranging childcare for something like that is complicated for us. And here we had an opportunity to go to Napa, since James had to go anyway for work, but we would have to bring our kids along. We had done something just for the kiddos that morning... maybe it wouldn't be so bad to do something for us grown-ups? The idea that maybe it wasn't so taboo to bring our kids to a winery had already been planted in my mind because I had recently come across this article from Red Tricycle about family friendly wineries in CA. 

We chose Frog's Leap winery from the list because it was located closer to where we were going to be, and it looked the most appealing for our kids. They have outdoor garden tastings, there are farm animals to see, and on their website, they clearly say, "Being a family friendly winery, Frog's Leap welcomes your children." Perfect, right? Unfortunately, since the whole trip was spur-of-the-moment, we did not manage to get a reservation at Frog's Leap (which is reservation only). Darn.

So there we are at Oxbow, having phoned Frog's Leap and been assured that they were indeed all booked up for the day, trying to figure out where to go instead. Should we go somewhere nearby? Or make the drive up to Calistoga to go to one of the other ones listed as being "family friendly?" I was nervous enough about taking Calvin and Henry to a winery, so I said if we were going to do it, it needed to be one that is expressly welcoming of families. The other patrons might still think we were jerks for bringing our kids, so at the very least I wanted to make sure the winery staff would be understanding.

My friend Laura had taken her toddler to Castello di Amorosa a week or so before all of this. I had seen photos of their family at the castle winery, and it was on the Red Tricycle list, and we wouldn't need a reservation. Castello di Amorosa has coloring pages and crayons in the tasting room and offers grape juice to kids while their parents taste the wines. To me those kid-friendly amenities sound like a clear invitation to bring the whole family (though I realize that's more of an invitation for big kids than toddlers...). The catch: it was 45 minutes away. Still, we decided it had enough going for it that we would make the extra drive to get to see the castle and taste some wines.

After all my worrying and agonizing, the trip to the winery was just fine. We'd had a stressful moment at Oxbow, trying to decide what to do, but I think we chose wisely because it all worked out.

This is a beautiful winery. I enjoyed exploring the castle with the kids. Not sure if Calvin enjoyed it or was just humoring us, but either way he didn't complain ;) The tasting rooms were not as kid-friendly as I'd hoped - totally understandable, because again, I get that wineries are for wine and wine is for grown-ups! The problem was that these rooms were crowded with tables and shelves of gift-shop type items, mostly breakable. There was a big table with coloring pages and crayons and they did give Calvin some grape juice, but we ended up just letting him watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on my phone while we tasted our wines. I had to keep Henry in the Ergo. In the photo above, I'm feeding him a long, skinny breadstick to keep him happy. 

James and I did manage to enjoy our wine tasting mostly in peace. We laughed at ourselves and our kids and how a trip to wine country isn't what it used to be! We were pleased with the wines and brought home a bottle of sangiovese. 

Of course we'd have preferred to go wine tasting without our toddlers. But we had an opportunity and we took the chance that in the end it would be fun. That's who we are. And honestly, I'm always proud of us for being crazy enough and brave enough to take chances and be spontaneous and go on adventures as a family. It pays off in enjoyable experiences much more often than not.

Ever taken your kids to a winery? Do you think it was totally rude of us to bring our toddlers?

Ever go on family outings even when you know the day might not end well?

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