About an hour to the northeast of San Francisco, and comprised of the towns of Napa, Yountville, Oakville, St. Helena, Rutherford and Calistoga, the 30-mile-long Napa Valley is home to over 200 of California's wineries, yes, some of them kid-friendly. They're a great place to introduce kids to responsible drinking, but there's other fun family stuff to do in Napa, too.
Although visiting wineries is primarily an activity for moms, dads and grandparents, there are exceptions: Castello del Amorosso has family-friendly tours daily; Robert Young serves up petting animals with a hearty Chardonnay. The vineyards listed below are particularly kid-friendly and many children do enjoy some aspects of the tours, such as watching the bottling and labeling of the fancy grape juice. Take a look at these family-friendly wineries…
Kid-Friendly Napa Vineyards and Winery Tours
Robert Mondavi Winery
7801 St. Helena Highway (Calif. 29)
Oakville, CA 94562
Your family will learn a lot about grape growing, picking, crushing, fermenting and bottling on the 30-minute, guided Discovery Tour that includes viewing and discussion of the historic To Kalon Vineyard, state-of-the-art To Kalon Cellar, and barrel aging room. Robert Mondavi (at left, atop barrels) founded the vineyard back in 1966 and revolutionized the American wine industry. While mom and dad sample the vintages, there's plenty of room for kids to play on the large lawn adjacent to the tasting room. Weekends only, $15. Reservations for the tour (a day in advance) are suggested and seasonal concerts include a jazz festival and classical music performances.
V. Sattui Winery
1111 White Lane at St. Helena Highway
St. Helena, CA 94574
Tours of the underground cellars south of town are by appointment only, but free tastings for adults are available daily from 9am to 6pm in summer (to 5 pm in winter). This spot is known for its extensive cheese shop/deli stocked with Italian goodies, and gift shop full of attractive and amusing wine-related products. The outdoor, shady picnic area is a great place to stop for lunch or a snack.
2000 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574
A California National Landmark, the Rhine House is a fine example of German architecture and the home of the oldest operating winery in the Napa Valley. Beringer is located north of St. Helena and is open from 10am to 5pm, with eight family tours daily. Tour guides take visitors through the Old Stone Winery and wine-aging tunnels, highlighting Beringer's long history. It's a $25 charge only for those 21 years and over, who can taste two wines during the tour.
1111 Dunaweal Lane
South of Calistoga 94515
Good place for the family with kids of all ages. This winery offers something unusual – it is reached via an aerial tramway. During the exciting ride 300 feet up the mountain, you can enjoy an impressive view of the area's peaks, valleys and vineyards. The tasting room offers another fabulous view, and knowledgeable servers are happy to answer your questions about the wine-making process. The large lawn is a great place for kids to romp, but no stroller access means your little ones must be carried. There is also an extensive gift shop. General Admission is $25 for the aerial tram, self-guided tour, complimentary tasting of five wines and a souvenir wine glass. Guests under 21 pay $10, kids 3 and under enter free.
Work Off those Vino Calories with a Bike Tour
Napa Valley Bike Tours
6488 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599
With gentle rolling hills, temperate weather and lots of scenery, the Napa Valley is an ideal destination for a family bike tour. This local company can arrange everything from a one-day, guided tour for those with adult kids who bring their own gear, to a multi-day package with rental equipment, bike trailers for little ones, you name it. Special routes feature kid-welcoming wineries where, in lieu of counselors to play with, there are grounds to romp in while those over 21 sample the goods. NVBT recommends a stop at the local favorite, Mary's Pizza Shack, if your brood isn't up to a meal at Thomas Keller's famed French Laundry. They'll arrange babysitters, and steer families to other local attractions, including an indoor rock-climbing gym, the Jelly Belly Factory, Six Flags Marine World and Safari West. For an in-depth tour of the region, check out their five-night "Family Adventure Vacation" in which the itinerary, hotels, meals, bike rentals, sports equipment, etc. are provided, along with the staff's expert guidance.
For general tourist information, call or visit the Napa Valley Conference and Visitors' Bureau (707/226-7459).
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.