They exist! And you should visit them.
There’s nothing like an afternoon in the tasting room: the popping of corks, the clinking of glasses, the crying, the faint aroma of regurgitated breast milk. Yes, a visit to a local winery can prove a shade less romantic for folks with young children, a club I joined this June with the birth of my triplet sons. And, though a recent trip to a CVS four blocks away required a Navy Seal-like coordinated effort, I’m hopeful the five of us can get out to a vineyard this fall.
Of course, not all wineries welcome kids. And I would hate for a room full of free-wheeling singles to suffer the realization of how empty and unfulfilling their life truly is when they catch me sniff-checking a diaper or sterilizing a fallen passie in a glass of Viognier. So all you childless folks can go back to bed, or backpack across Europe, or whatever the hell it is you do with your free time. This piece is all about Virginia’s best wineries to visit with kids.
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Delaplane’s Barrel Oak Winery has been lauded in equal measure for both their wine and their inclusive atmosphere. Just last year they were featured in Wine Enthusiast magazine’s very short list of the world’s most family-friendly wineries. Juice boxes and candy jars adorn the tasting room, portraits of esteemed pooches line the walls, and picnics, concerts, and other kid-friendly events are part of everyday operations.
Barrel Oak extends the same hospitality to your four-legged children as well. The winery’s website includes lengthy bios of the owner’s four dogs, and features so much canine-related content Barrel Oak could very easily be mistaken for a (very boozy) doggie day care.
Early Mountain Vineyards in Madison, Virginia pulls off “kid friendly” in a wonderfully subtle way. It’s the kind of place that allows you to enjoy a day with the family while still retaining a shred of the dignity you once had as a single person.
Tucked away in an interior so sleek and pristine you’d swear no soul under 25 has ever set foot in it, are kiosks stocked with games, toys, and coloring books. A spacious outdoor terrace and adjoining lawn provides plenty of room in which to frolic (kids still frolic these days, right?). Better yet, you can stock up on ingredients for s’mores at Early Mountain’s marketplace, then belly-up to one of the many fire pits for a roaring good time.
Just please keep the wee ones closely supervised. Watching your eight-year old son pencil in his eyebrows before school engenders a guilt you never quite get over.
My first exposure to Potomac Point winery was when I had the pleasure of drinking my way through the 2013 Governor’s Case. Who’d have guessed that a winery with the chops to impress the most humorless critics could also deliver a swell experience for the kiddies? Situated just off the tasting area is the Lil’ Buds Room, where your precious offspring can lounge in bean bag chairs, play games, read books, and explore other ways to stay out of your hair. If all goes well, treat the kids to lunch on the expansive outdoor terrace, and enjoy a meal free from the concern that their every adorable screech will go pinging off the walls and pissing off your fellow diners. Out here we call that the “sound of nature”–deal with it.
There’s a double meaning to the “family” in this vineyard’s name. DeVault Vineyards in Concord, Virginia is not only family owned and operated, it’s emphatically family-focused. Visiting this vineyard is like reliving your summer camp days, but with wine instead of bug juice and hopefully waaay fewer scarring sexual encounters. Beyond the typical tasting room activities you’ll find tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts, plus an indoor swimming pool–where members of the certified lifeguard staff include the owners’ son and nephew. Now that is a level of “keeping it in the family” few other vineyards can rival. If you cramped up while visiting Brad and Angelina’s winery I doubt you’d find Millet, Light-Bringer, or one of their 26 other kids rushing to your aid.1
The wine at DeVault reflects the whimsical atmosphere, with labels like Mrs. D’s Blend, Lover’s Blush, and Sweet Autumn Mist. If you think those sound less than serious, well…DUH. Do you want sit there contemplating the nuances of some barrel-aged Meritage, or do you want to polish off that glass of Old Time Watermelon Wine, climb up on that diving board, and give us a cannonball?
What are your favorite Virginia vineyards to visit with the family? Leave your recommendations in the comments below.
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- There is a chance that I just made those names up. ↩
photo by Mike Miley