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February 23, 2012

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The secret to wine tasting with kids: go on Monday afternoon. That way you are most likely to have the place to yourself. Other strategies include splitting the group and trading off tasting and running around outside the tasting room on the lawn with the kids. Unfortunately, no matter how well behaved they are, no matter how well you are prepared, there are lots of people who simply object to the mere presence of children in what they see as an adults-only activity.

Tracy, first, thanks for the post. I think this is a story better written by a non-parent.

Here's the question -- would you take your kids to the bar? No, you wouldn't, but guess what? A winery tasting room is NOT A BAR, even if many visitors think it is and treat it that way.

Our son, who is now 5, has been visiting wineries with us since he was six weeks old. Of course, we don't take him to every winery tasting room. We avoid the ones that are more likely to have drunken fools (who wants their kid to see that?) and stick to the ones where we know that the owners don't mind -- or even enjoy -- that we bring him.

I will say that now that he's 5, he requires a bit more entertainment when we go. That's easy to do when it's nice out and he can be outside with various sports equipment. Otherwise, my wife and I take turns tasting and hanging with him.

I believe strongly that wineries can and should be family friendly -- and that visits can be a great family outing. We've had Jackson at Raphael before without any of the reaction you found, but I'm not surprised that it happened.

I think the staff at Raphael were happy to see us. I know they thought the kids were cute. It's a good point to make that a winery is not a bar. Other than in Ireland where a bar is more of a community place, I would never bring a baby to a dive. But at a winery, especially in the North Fork, there's vines to see. Sometimes animals to see. Wine making as a process is a " cool science experiment" to talk about with older grade schoolers. It surely is better than the 6th hour of television on a Saturday.

And thanks Ian, we'll see how weekday tastings work. We did do the "hand off group splitting thing" with the older ones... luckily our group was 6 adults so no one was tasting alone :)

Great article and discussion.

I think everyone needs to appreciate that we all think our kids are cuter and better behaved than strangers do! Curmudgeons have a right to have a nice experience just as much as toddlers.

I have young children and I have been to LI wineries enough to know which ones are more appropriate for children than others. Some vineyards provide more opportunities for 'buffer's' where your kids can be themselves than others. It's just like restaurants. A simple call to the vineyard in advance might makes sense.

I wish all parents in general would separate themselves from the people who may not want to deal with the flying Cheerios. That is a good strategy for vineyards, but also restaurants, airports, the movie theatre, and the rest of the world.

My son has been around the tasting, consuming and production of wine since before his birth. We take the position that if he grows up around this wonderful elixir and understands the joy it can add to the table then he will be that much more likely to respect it as he gets older. Perhaps if more children were exposed to the responsible appreciation of wine via a tasting room we could eventually reduce the abuse faced as teenagers. Unfortunately, wine is still considered by many to be the "demon rum" best consumed behind closed doors in an adult only forum. Shame really. If we ever have a tasting room, I will encourage people to bring their children and will try and find ways to creatively engage them so that maybe, just maybe, we can have a more educated public and get rid of the stigma of consuming or tasting responsible amounts of wine. Lastly...their is no shame in spitting.

I started reading this thinking it would be yet another childless person ripping on parents, but was very pleasantly suprised! I'm the tasting room manager at a winery in California, and kids are just not a problem. People don't stop enjoying wine just because they've become parents. Besides, many wineries are family operations, and how can a family business justify shunning families? Many wineries also host weddings, which are family events. Around here, our winery dog is thrilled when a kid is in tow-someone with undivided attention to throw the cork for him. Plus, groups with a kid in to are MUCH more likely to have a DD, and MUCH more likely to watch their alcohol intake & not get obnoxious. Business-wise, we've caught more flies with honey.

Unfortunately people think because you have kids, your life stops enjoying what you like to do or you must get a babysitter to go out and have fun. I encountered a similar situation when we were wine tasting in VA with our then 6 & 8 yr olds. If looks could kill, all 4 of us would be dead, taking the tour with these people was painful. It wasn't until my then 8yr old asked a question "how do you know when you should pick the grapes" that was the turning point. They realized it wasn't that bad having to take a tour with these kids (we were the only ones in the winery)

I think the root is deeper as parents need to be responsible for their kids when taking them wine tasting. It's their responsibility to control and watch their kids, not the rest of the customers or the staff. I've seen kids run and misbehave and the parents are nowhere to be acknowledged.

Should wineries be family friendly - YES, by all means. I've been to wineries with my kids where they even served them grape juice to make them feel included. However, it's the parents that need to behave and be responsible!

We recently had a baby. Now that he's 7 months old, we were able to get away for a short trip and taste at a few places. I was very reluctant to do this. He's a good baby and generally not disruptive, but strollers or baby carriers/car seats can be cumbersome and get in the way at smaller tasting rooms.

If he were to start whining or crying, I would definitely take him outside, as I have done in restaurants (interesting related article here: eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/02/22/kids-in-restaurants/?hpt=hp_c2)

There is a lot to be said for adults being responsible when *tasting* (not *drinking*, *chugging* or *guzzling*).

Wineries should be a place for families. And children should not be banned, but irresponsible parents should be. And not only banned from tasting rooms, but all public places where their poor parenting ruins the experience for everyone within earshot.

I always kept my kids in line. In the rare instance where that was impossible I took them home. I'd like to see more parents do that. Unfortunately a lot of parents have no consideration whatsoever for anyone else. And if you say something they become indignant. I better stop now...

As a parent that loves going wine tasting, I have taken my kids along! If I am going to take them, I do try to go during the week when tasting rooms tend to be less crowded. It isn't fun for the children if they are surrounded by adults giving them questioning looks.

Wineries are amazing places for kids...they can learn so much about how grapes grow {and herbs, vegetables, etc. depending on what the winery grows}. Children love them for all the same reasons we adults do...they are beautiful, educational, and a relaxing way to spend an afternoon...especially when the winery has a playground!

Great article and discussion, it reminded me of my first trip to the Finger Lakes when I was around 4 years old and went to the Dinosaur Laser Light show in Watkins Glen. One of my memories was drinking red and white grape juice while my parents drank wine at one of the wineries, I think it was Bully Hill but it may have been a different one. It is nice having this memory when I go back as an adult. I look forward to sharing these experiences with my children(provided they are well behaved).

As someone who doesn't have kids and a massive wine lover, of course I don't think tasting wine should end after procreating, but obviously most things are easier said than done! Please - I dog sat this weekend and realized how much more I need to plan ahead; let alone having a child! Went out to dinner with a friend of mine and her baby recently and when planning a restaurant in the east village, she mentioned she read a particular place had a good rating for children (they provided crayons!). these are things us non-child bearing people don't consider. awesome that vineyards are considering it to make it more parent friendly. i approve!

@Bill - Loving Long Island: Don't stop. Some people. I tell ya!
You know you're getting old when you recall the old days in the old country when 8 year-old kids used knives and forks properly (not sporks) and said "may I", "thank you" and "please"....

A winery in the Santa Ynez Valley which grossly overplays their 60 seconds in "Sideways" has a great sign in the parking lot that says something like:

"Unattended children will be given a puppy and an espresso."

Tru dat.

That same sign is hanging over the bar area of Love Lane Kitchen.

Anyway, I just came back from a quick night on Long Island (from CT) with my wife and kids, age 7 and 5. We went down on Friday and stayed 1 night.

My wife mentioned this post to me before we went, but I didn't want to read it until our trip was over.

This is the 2nd time we have taken the kids down for an overnight stay. We've also done a couple day trips over the last couple years. All in all, they have been very successful. But we are very cautious of the days and times we visit.

We have never taken them on a Saturday afternoon/night nor on a peak/holiday weekend. We like to target weekdays and off season when possible. (Hell... even without the kids I like to target weekdays myself - - - you get a better hands on experience from the wine staff).

Weather permitting, we try to pick places with outdoor seating. This past weekend it rained, so we picked places that we knew had tables away from the main tasting bar.

We also never take them without some sort of entertainment. In the past it was often a coloring book; at their age now they love their DS games or angry birds on our phones. This trip we also stopped at Toys R Us on the way in and bought each one a small lego to build. As much as I don't want our kids to bother any of the staff or other guests, I also don't want them to sit in complete silence with nothing to do. If my wife and I are going to be entertained for 15 minutes of tasting, the kids need to be entertained too.

This trip we actually got in 3 tastings on Friday.
We started at Raphael and were the only people there. Great experience.
After a quick stop at the Cheese Shop on Love Lane, we brought our picnic to Clovis Point. After a quick tasting, we ordered a glass of wine and sat under their covered patio with our kids for lunch. Another great experience. (Best East Coast Syrah I've ever tasted too).
Our last stop was Shinn. We sat a small table inside to share a tasting while our kids played with Panda. Our kids a huge pet lovers. We had to drag them out of Shinn (instead of them trying to pry us out!).

On our way out on Saturday, we made a final stop at Lieb. They were featuring a wine and chocolate flight. So this was a pairing we could share with the kids - - - wine for us, and chocolate for all.

In between all that, we did let them play and swim at the hotel and we visited the aquarium (they have a cool butterfly exhibit going on right now). Usually we would take them to a beach or park to play for a while too, but the wind and rain kept us indoors on both days.

I'll continue to bring my kids down for a day or two per year... as long as they continue to enjoy the trip, too.

Erika-

What a great topic to discuss. I'd like to remind people that not only do many wineries produce wine, we're working farms. We grow grapes, work with nature, and create a product for people's enjoyment. I recently went on a field trip with my daughter's pre-K class to Hunt Country--a working farm and winery. To me grapegrowing is part of the culture of the Finger Lakes, and farming is a part of my childrens' education.

Our idea is that with or without kids wine can be enjoyed healthily and in moderation, just as we enjoy that berry pie or fresh melon from our neighboring fruit stand. The culture of wine drinking in places we often emulate in the New World like Italy, France, and Germany was built not on adult snobbery but on family occasions and enjoyment of food. Food was grown or purchased locally, home cooked, and wine was also.

For me with my two young children, it's a decision of my peace of mind-will it be more enjoyable to bring them along or make other arrangements? Or, do I want to expose them to the behavior of certain individuals? The places we do go make sure that they are well-behaved and not disrupting other's experiences, just like in a restaurant. And, maybe if it's not very fun for them, we'll have them do something else next time.

Lastly, I embraced wine because my family gathered and enjoyed food and wine. I'd like this to be the context of my children's perception and comfortability with wine as they grow up. Sometimes that means going to wineries and other times staying home--Families are welcome at our winery as well as people who have decided to leave the kids home.

-Jeanne Wiltberger, Keuka Spring Vineyards, Finger Lakes

Apologize I meant to address my comment to Tracy!

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