Are wine tastings kid friendly? Should they be? Have you been in a tasting room when you noticed a cute curly-haired toddler standing 10 feet from the table and thought, “why is she in here?”
As a parent who has brought my child to casual tastings, I’ve come up with some guidelines, because I don’t think children should be prohibited. However, here are my thoughts on how to make sure that everyone is able to enjoy the experience:
1. Look around. Is it day time? Proceed on bringing your kids in if they are well behaved and allowed by the establishment. Night time? Turn around and come back once a sitter is properly secured.
2. Is food being served?
A) Cheese/Crackers = kid-friendly, proceed.
B) Wine pairings =Adults only
C) Wine education/Winemaker events, etc.=Adults only
D) Evening/Night events = Hey, didn’t I say to get a sitter?
E) Wine dinners = see above, adults only
3. Is your child well-behaved?
Children and/or parents causing a disturbance should leave the tasting area immediately. What kind of behavior? Any behavior that disrupts the wine experience. This includes actions or outbursts that requires constant discipline and/or excessive cuteness and especially shenanigans.
My daughter attended casual tastings for two years at a local boutique wine store. My wife and I would take turns at the counter while the other spent quality time with our daughter outside. We were extremely fortunate our favorite wine store was 20 meters from a park. After a few weeks, the owner insisted we bring our daughter into the tasting room. We were a initially uncomfortable and hypersensitive to the impact she would have on other enthusiasts. If anything other than an awhhh or goooo was muttered, she was quickly relocated to the park. She did be-friend the owner’s lovable lounging Retriever, providing her a tasting room playmate.
Casual wine tastings are about wine discovery and socializing. It was our Saturday family outing, and our young daughter was surprisingly accepted by the usual suspects. Probably because of her adorable enthusiasm while smelling our wine. A child’s age and disposition greatly influence their ability to abide by the most import rule above, #3.
Now at four, our daughter is more active and still acquiring proper food/wine etiquette (she is a child after all). There is at least a 90+% chance her presence alone will annoy at least one person and over 70% chance she will not remain within compliance of rule #3. My son is a toddler and also a high risk. Unless there is a published kid-friendly policy, mine will always be with the sitter. Only on rare occasions would I prefer to have my children at a wine event. This weekend is one of those occasions.
Our family is attending the Crane Vineyards Tomato Festival. It is a great opportunity for my children to see and experience a vineyard. It’s all for the kids:) I have attempted to contact the winery in advance concerning their tasting room policies. If children are not welcome, my wife and I will happily split time at the counter. Above all, rights and regulations of wineries should take precedence over individual opinions, and parents are obligated to understand and respect the expectations of other wine enthusiasts.
But if the timing and setting is right, there’s no reason you shouldn’t should start a healthy respect and appreciation for wine early!
The family owned winery Tenuta Valdipiatta in Montepulciano offers you the opportunity to be a winemaker. This “Adopt a Barrel’ program is ideal for wine enthusiasts with a desire to development their personal style from the estate produced fruit with the guidance of the staff. You select the varietal(s) (Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, among others) for your blend, and determine how long it will age. This program requires a 250 litre barrique investment, which will produce about 300 bottles with your custom label. Estimate total costs to be approximately 22-44 euro per bottle. Unfortunately, there are no half or quarter barrel programs. I checked!
If this is more than you want to invest, try the Barrel and Barrique tasting for 65 euros per person with Lidia. You will receive a technical description of the vineyard, climate and viticulture practices. Fermentation, blending and aging are discussed as you explore their cellar.
Plugs are then pulled from the barrels and you are treated to aging Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, along with Cabernet and Merlot blends. Use this as a baseline when you sample the finished product in the tasting room.
Lidia poured Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Super Tuscans and Vin Santo, served with bread and estate produced Olive Oil. It is a very relaxed tasting with no urgency to usher you out for the next scheduled tasting. If you’re looking for a quality producing small winery to visit while in Tuscany, consider Tenuta Valdipiatta.
Tenuta Valdipiatta Via della Ciarliana, 25/A 53040Montepulciano (Siena) – Italy
Dark, black mold covered ceiling and walls will be the first thing you notice upon entering the cellar. No need to be alarmed, the mold is actually penicillin and improves the air quality on the cellar. The underground tunneling system is lined with oak barrels.
You can also find the owner’s private collection carved off the main tunnel. It is almost completely absent from light and gave me chills peering into the darkness imagining the treasures stored ten feet away.
I could have spent hours in the cellar and tried to slow the pace considerably to prolong the experience. You will also get to walk through the Vin Santo barrels which are stored above ground where they utilize seasonal temperature fluctuations during the aging process. The small caratelli barrels used for aging are stored off the floor and exposed to natural light through the facility’s windows.
Our tasting included a Bianco Avignonesi, Chardonnay Cortona, Rosso Di Montepulciano, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano and Merlot Cortona known as “Desiderio”. This is a very good flight, but the Nobile and the Desiderio were the standouts. For an additional cost, you can indulge in a glass of Vin Santo, white or red. Both are fabulous and were enjoyed very slowly.
This tour and tasting is a mere 15 Euro per person, unless you add the Vin Santo, and you will not be disappointed. Arguably the best 15 euro spent in Montepulciano.
With so many fine vineyards to visit in Tuscany, how do you establish your wine touring itinerary? We are five weeks out from our trip and this is how we solidified our wine agenda.
First, I shortened my list of potential wineries by examining their proximity to our villa in Montepulciano, aka home-base for the week. Wine tastings should be a relaxed, yet memorable experience and spending most of the wine touring day in the car getting to and from each vineyard seems like wasted barrel extraction time! Since we are only going to be in Tuscany a week, we are forced to be very selective. Depending on your length of stay and your transportation resources, you can expand your target zone. No matter how long your stay, I recommend getting a driver for wine touring. Most wineries are off the beaten path for public transportation and driving yourself home could prove risky!
I reduced my projected list with the recommendations from several respected sources. Karen MacNeil, author of “The Wine Bible,” was a valuable resource as well as Michael Bryan, Founder and Director of The Atlanta Wine School. Trusted endorsements within your target area will provide you a solid wish list. If you have unlimited time and resources, your wine tour planning stops there. But, if you are like most wine enthusiasts and have limited time on holiday, you will have to narrow your focus. With great anguish, most itineraries will need to be trimmed. However, this begins the most pleasurable phase of the selection process, Phase Two.
In this phase of planning, start by uncorking a bottle or two from each winery on your list to either validate or adjust your wine tour agenda. Having had their wine last month, last week or ten minutes ago is no excuse to skip this step in the selection process. This process can take a few days, but stay committed and endure the pain (I say with tongue in cheek and wine in glass!). One winery on my itinerary went from hopeful to a reserved tour, after having a glass of a 2001 Casanova di Neri Tentu Nuova Brunello di Montalcino. After suffering through the torture of drinking some of Italy’s best wines, your itinerary should be solidified.
Phase Three: Make your reservations as soon as possible. Don’t assume they will have availability on the dates or times that fit into your schedule. It’s probable your list will be very similar to many other visiting enthusiasts. Available slots could be filled well in advance or you may be left with scheduling conflicts. It is also not uncommon to have your reservation request unanswered. We were not able to confirm a tasting at one of my favorite vineyards, Il Poggione , and with great disappointment, had to remove them from our itinerary.
The ease of arranging a tasting was a pleasure with Pier at Casanova di Neri, Tamara at Avignonesi and Lucia at Tenuta Valdipiatta. I look forward to meeting my new friends in May. You may consider meeting them too.
One final note: Most wineries offer quick tastings to private vineyard and cellar tours with drinking from the barrels. Reserve a tour with lunch pairing for an epicurean experience. If available, sample the olive oil or other delicacies produced by the vineyard. You can spend twenty minutes to three hours at each winery. If you plan to travel out after this May, be sure to use me as a resource. I would be happy to help you sort your way through the fun but often difficult task of determining which wineries to add to your tour.