Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wine [Country] for Kids

Back in 2010, the wife (for legal purposes, "the wife" referring to either current wife or any future wives thereafter, as to preserve the legitimacy of said post) and I headed out to San Francisco for a wedding, 4-month-old in tow.  After the wedding, we sojourned to Healdsburg in northern Sonoma county for a few days to soak in the wine culture.  As it was early September in the Dry Creek Valley, temperatures soared into the 100's, leaving us with no choice to abandon our original plan of leaving the kid in the car to sleep while we attended tasting rooms.


...geez, I'm kidding.  We weren't ever planning on leaving the kid in the car.  I post a picture of a kid slugging from a wine glass, tastelessly joke about leaving my infant in a hot car, and suddenly I'm flagged as a "terrible parent".  Sensitivity!

In actuality, we knew touring wine country with an infant was a gamble.  Truth be told, many Napa tasting rooms let me know ahead of time that we would not be welcomed with bundle-of-joy attached.  Fortunately, she was a trooper, spending most of her time sleeping in her Graco Snugride® 22, while we sampled the wares of Northern California.  And, since you already think I'm a dreadful parent, be assured that I was always maintaining sobriety during the daily tours, as to safely squire my fair ladies around the Dry Creek and beyond.  Such a gentleman.

Admittedly, infants are pretty easy.  You keep the diapers changed, supply them with a bottle, and they pretty much sleep all the time.  Furthermore, they can't move, especially at 4 months.  If you put an infant in one place, she stays in place.  They're like tiny versions of video gamers.  Our gamble paid off, and the experience was both wonderful for us and not upsetting to the little one.

However, as we head back to wine country next week (Oregon's Willamette Valley in this case), the 4 month old has blossomed into a rambunctious 2+ year old.  Full of energy, rarely napping, and always looking for something to get into.  Don't get me wrong:  she's one of the best-behaved 2 year olds I've ever seen, and does very well in our favorite hotels and restaurant-type places.  But... she's two.  Take my mental capacity and immaturity and put it into a small body with boundless pep.  Trouble brewing...

So, as I am in the wine industry, I do wish to be especially respectful of those in the tasting rooms and vineyards.  I assumed the best course of action is to just call ahead to any places I'd like to visit and make sure that they're fine with kids.  That said, I don't like to stick to an itinerary.  There are certainly articles on the web documenting the most "kid friendly" wineries, but I didn't find many that seemed to serve "jaded, snobby, wine rep- friendly" wines that I desire to try (okay, I'm not that bad, but most seemed to be places that are already well-distributed back home, and I want to try new things).

To this end, in a brilliant stroke of persuasion, I've invited my parents to join us on the trip.  Mostly, I wanted to share the wine country experience with them.  As a pleasant side-effect, they've offered to act as babysitter when necessary.

With all the scenarios in place, I'm reaching out to those who have had the wine country experience with toddlers.  I love sharing vacation experiences with my whole family, but would we be best-served leaving our child with my parents and tasting alone (my wife and I)?  I don't want my folks to miss out on the experience either.  Do we visit some places alone, and bring the kid to others that seem like they can handle it?  Or, do we skip wine and enjoy Oregon's... uh, I don't know... marionberry farms?

Ultimately, I'm not worried, and I know the whole adventure will be wonderful.  But I am interested and eager to solicit any insights from those with prior experience.

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