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February 19, 2008

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Several years ago we visited a tasting room in Santa Barbara County, where by the time we got to the front door we had been informed of at least 5 or 6 things that We Were Forbidden To Do. Sure did set a mood!

(Still makes me wonder what they would do if - gasp - a wheelchair came in?)

As a stroller-less family, I can see both points of view. You are a responsible stroller handler. Many people are not. When Melissa and I go to farmers markets, parents are shoving their strollers every which way, as if they have constant right of way and regular pedestrians are always in the wrong.

Plus, as strollers have gotten bigger and bigger (we call them "SUV strollers"), they block traffic even when the parent is conscientious.

But it seems like it should be a case-by-case basis. Monitor parents in the tasting room, and alert them when their stroller is causing problems. Of course, it's much easier to forbid them all.

Jefe: Can you ever imagine a time when you'd bar strollers from YOUR tasting room with such a blanket policy?

Derrick: We have one of those SUV strollers...but we only used it for a month before putting it in the basement. They are annoying and hard to handle. The one we use now is about as slimmed down as they come.

I don't even see that many strollers on the North Fork when we are out there with Jackson. I could see if there were a half dozen strollers in a tasting room at once...but we've only ever seen one other one...just odd that they are the only winery to do it too, though I'm sure their sister winery, Duck Walk Vineyards has a similar policy.

Could the objective perhaps be to bar small children altogether? I've been to one tasting room that posted a very prominent "21 and over ONLY" sign in their parking lot. In my experience, it's more often those well past the age minimum who wind up causing a ruckus...

Kelly,

Maybe it IS intended to bar small children, which in a way isn't any better. I've seen a couple of those "21 and over" signs, but I actually never thought for a second they wouldn't want my clearly underage son there. I think that probably just protects them against 19 year olds coming in...which means that the tasting room staff have to start asking for ID, etc.

You work at one of the most family friendly wineries around, so thanks for chiming in.

Bummer. I guesss my family and I are 'stuck' going to the other LI wineries like Wolffer, Bedell, Raphael, and Roanoke!

As annoying as it is, I can understand the winery's reasoning. I've been to plenty of places where strollers are not allowed, so it doesn't really bother me. I guess I don't really view wine tasting as "family outing" material -- it's something Drew and I do when we can convince someone to babysit. I also rarely see little kids running around tasting rooms, it wouldn't surprise me for the winery to have restrictions.

Carol: But the difference is that your kids are older...and can't be confined to a stroller :)

I'm sure that once Jackson is a bit older and can't be confined that we'll take him much less often (if at all, which will be a sad day).

It should be up to the parents (at some level) if they see it as a family affair though. I want Jackson to have a healthy view of wine (and alcohol) and it's important to remember that there is so much more to a tasting room than the alcohol as well. I know for us, it's about the wine, the vineyard views and the people we meet.

No Stroller? I guess they don't want young families as customers. Not everyone can find sitters... Come to family friendly Chautauqua.

I wonder if there could a shoplifting issue. It's easy to hide things in strollers.

I remember what it was like to push a stroller around, so I try to tolerate others in the same boat. Chances are they're not intentionally inconsiderate, just harried to that point.

You guys are forgetting a most important point:

Do you know how many bottles of Mythology I can hide in an SUV strollers' many pockets and baskets? (Answer: about 12)

I'll bet on a day when there's 275 people milling around Pindar contemplating Winter White, and the only security is Dr. Dan, I can make off with anything I wanted.

...and Bill made my point 19 minutes ago. Didn't see that.

I must appologize for all of you who now think that Pindar Vineyards wants all of lovely families out there from experiencing the wonderful people and wines that Pindar has to offer. On the contrary the article that Lenn Thompson wrote could not be further from the truth. We try to safegaurd the welfare of the families that come all the way out here the best way possible. After having a small incident between a patron not seeing a stroller during a busy summer day we decided that children's saftey is our highest priority. Parents can much better gaurd the saftey of their children without a stroller during these months than getting hurt by a customer that does not see them. If Mr. Thompson had approached one of the staff they would have kindly explained that to you and then invited you in with your stroller that very calm winter afternoon instead of irresponsibly writing how "Shocked,Angered and Baffled " you were. Your statement about how your child would have been running into other people and you would had to chased him down further exemplifies my point. You stated that we " turned you away "- you turned yourself away!! You state " I guess Pindar doesn't want my money"- how childish. And good I don't want there wine. Well that's more for the thousands of loyal patrons we have turned wine onto over the last 27 years when half the other wineries were potato farms and we struggled to survive. By the way, " Sutter Home " Did you know Pindar won best red wine on the East coast for ther Pythagoras in 2007 at the Best of the East gala at Wineries Unlimited or best of show for our Ice wine at the New York State wine compitetion. Or double gold-Best Cabernet franc-Best red wine at the New York Wine and Food Classic not to mention another 100 awards in 2007. You don't want our wines. Well we don't want you. The Winemaker

Jason,

I'm sorry that you think my writing is irresponsible, but people do have the right to have an opinion that differs from the one you have or the one you want the general public to have.

Why should I have to approach someone in a tasting room that clearly doesn't want me there? That is an odd response to what I've written. I, along with every other person who visits the North Fork, have dozens of other tasting rooms I can visit, why should I waste time pleading my case to gain entry into your tasting room?

One incident led to the creation of a policy that I will turn away young families. I respect your right to create such a policy, but that doesn't mean I need to agree with it.

I've had several readers email me saying that they were turned off immediately when they saw the sign as well. These are your customers, not mine.

Simply put, the sign said no strollers. We had a stroller. What am I missing?

Your repeated inability to take criticism is disappointing. The Long Island region has all the potential in the world, but is far from perfect. Only through open, honest (sometimes bluntly so) dialog will the region reach its potential. Even if no one else will talk about the area's shortcomings and silly policies in the region, I will.

You're right about your cab franc though, I enjoyed that wine thoroughly and just found a shop by my house that still has it. I reviewed it on my website and just might buy more.

Thank you, though, for contacting me at least semi-directly to voice your displeasure with my writing. That is a positive step in your dealings with me. I'm not hard to find and I'm always willing to discuss anything I've written both online or in print.

I'd encourage you to email me directly if you ever have anything you'd like me to know or that you'd like to discuss: lenndevours@gmail.com

Jason,
That might be the stance (letting Lenn in) if you were presiding over the tasting room, but I vistited Pindar with my wife and 1 year old daughter this past July on a Friday and I was turned away by the staff at Pindar. When we arrived, there was one other couple tasting - - - - which means you had about 2000 sq ft of other space to accomodate me, my wife, and a stroller. We did not originally see the sign and proceeded to enter with the stroller. We were immediately told to remove the stroller from the facility, despite the lack of a crowd. I did end up tasting that day (with child in hand), but the experience was wasted. If you ever have tried swirling, sniffing, and tasting with a 1 year old in your other arm, you know what I mean.
I understand that Pindar's size may make strollers a semi-hazard on summer weekends, but it would seem that ths staff should be given some sort of formal guidance about using their own judgement about allowing strollers on non-weekends and/or off-season days.
PS: On that same Friday, I tasted at the following wineries with a stroller and without incident of any kind: Shinn, Roanoke, Bedell, Raphael, and Dilberto.

It seems too painful for Lenn to ever have much of a kind word for Pindar. He even throws in the 'sister' winery Duck Walk. I don't ever think I've read an article from Lenn that doesn't have something snide to say about Pindar or omits this great winery all together. I'm inclined to think he has some sort of personal vendetta against them. I wonder what bee flew up his bonnet. Perhaps he can elaborate and explain someday when he opens up. Maybe he's just too intimidated by larger wineries. He prefers small tiny ones.

I will concede that he does have a valid point about the banning of strollers in the tasting room. I think leaving the strollers in the lobby on a very crowded weekend at Pindar is not something that anyone should find offensive. On a less busy day however, perhaps the sign should be taken down. Or better yet perhaps a less harsh sign can be put in it's place. How about...when the tasting room is full please leave your strollers in the lobby. Perhaps other suggestions? When there is plenty of room for the convenience of patrons with children, strollers should be allowed. Perhaps it depends on the employees present but my friends were allowed to take their twins in a double stroller just this past post-holiday December as it was not busy. We were very careful to be respectful and watch all five children present very well. The lady behind the bar was extremely helpful and treated the children to cookies. I believe her name was Terry. She made our experience very enjoyable. The wines are fantastic. The reason that Pindar is such a popular destination is the great variety of quality wines. There is something for everyone. I personally love dry reds, some of us like dessert wines, some like light fruity blushes and whites, and one couple loves chardonnay. We know that Pindar can meet all of our tastes. Included on our tour of wineries was Duck Walk. The beautiful tank of fish kept the older children busy while we were there. The ladies behind the bar were once again very hospitable to our children and no mention of not allowing strollers. They offered lollipops to the kids. Once again the adults enjoyed the great variety of wines. There was at least a few wines for all of our tastes. The kids had a great time too which made it even better.
I have been a patron of the Long Island wineries for about 20 years now and I enjoy visiting them and watching them grow and mature with age. My main point is although the stroller issue is one that is valid to a degree, Pindar and Duck Walk are certainly family friendly.

Lenn -

I am long time lover of the North Fork wineries, and I find your column to be absolutely ludicrous. It is one thing to explore ideas on how to make the industry better, it's a whole different story when you go after one particular vineyard that is simply doing right by their customers. I understand that on the North Fork we'd like to contribute to a family oriented culture, however I do not understand how the banning of strollers in any way shape or form diminishes those goals. In fact, Pindar winery is doing right by families in that they are looking after those families and the safety of their children.

Lenn, your arguments are unfounded and I find that it's almost embarrassing how you seem to always have something negative to say about the award winning winery. If it weren't for Dr. Dan and his branding excellence, I doubt that there would be any substantial industry on the North Fork. I personally met him and his family at one point a few years back, and the experience I shared with them was quite amazing.

Lenn, the last time I was at Diliberto I saw a sign that said, "no children allowed". Perhaps you missed that one on your wine tour. If you're going to go after one particular issue, in this case the family issue, I would suggest that you create an unbiased assessment of the entire industry, not just Pindar.

I agree, let's build the industry and make it more enticing for everyone to enjoy. But your consistent focus on digging at one particular winery seems a little odd to me, even a little suspicious.

Lenn, I'll make a toast to you tonight and hope that you can create a more positive atmosphere across all labels on the North Fork. I do agree that (and I am a North Fork resident) that we all need to stick together to point out lessons learned and ideas that will make the industry stronger. But let's be real Lenn, your consistent attack on one of the oldest and most popular wineries seems contrary to that goal, and I hope that at some point you get your facts straight.

In addition, you even contradicted yourself by saying that you do like the Cab Franc. You mentioned above that you wouldn't give your money to Pindar vineyards, however you then go on to acknowledge that you do buy the award winning wine. I did see your blog on the review of the Cab Franc. You left me a bit confused and wondering why you even have a blog.

Thanks.

Lenn,

I wanted to write and say that I am a long time lover of Pindar wines. I have bought and visited the winery several times. On one visit I did see strollers at the winery, but they were parked in the lobby and people carried their children into the tasting room. We should remember that this is a winery with glass bottles and wine glasses. As a parent I can see Pindar's point.

You also stated that Pindar is like Sutter Home. Have you ever seen Sutter Home?
In addition, you state that Pindar makes sweet wines. In fact they do, and my wife loves the Winter White. They also make great cab franc that you rated high. You also rated their Mythology as great, but yet you continue to state that they make cheap wines that you would not buy.

As a wine writer, Lenn, you must be subjective, but you continue to focus negatively on Pindar and their sister winery Duckwalk. I agree with the writer Doria - are you on some kind of witch hunt when it comes to Pindar Vineyards? If this is the case then you are not doing justice to your readers by singling out Pindar.

You must remember Lenn, that at some point Pindar Vineyards was small. Their great wines and great pricing has made them successful. We shouldn't look down at them for giving the consumers what they want.

Everyone, I've decided to shut down comments on this particular post. It has obviously struck a nerve and many of these recent posts seem to have suspiciously similar IP addresses.

To suggest that I have a "vendetta" against Pindar is ludicrous. If that were the case, I wouldn't have tried to go there with my family.

And to the commenter who thinks I only write negative things about Pindar, please search through my archives. It's simply not the case.

Thank you for reading LENNDEVOURS.

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