Bring Kids to Napa Wine Country — A Bad Idea

childwineIt probably seems like a good idea when the kids are finally down and you are at the computer with a nice glass of wine in your hand. Sure, why not plan a little family vacation to Napa Valley, kids and all?

Here’s the truth. It’s not a good idea. In fact, it’s a bad idea.

Let’s be very clear. One goes to Disneyland to immerse the kids in the magic of Disney and ride some rides. One heads to New York for a deep dive into the cosmopolitan/international big city culture. One heads to Gettysburg to be exposed to history. But you go to Napa to drink and eat like adults and enjoy the pretty backdrop. It’s not what kids want and it’s not what Napa is for.

Unless your kids are 21 or older, don’t bring them here. Why? Because you’re coming here to drink. You may think your kids will behave and appreciate a well-appointed tasting room. You may think a quick stop at the boring old Grist Mill will satisfy them. You may think they’ll appreciate a bowl of pasta while you and the spouse chow down on sous vide beets and basil. But they won’t.

There are a number of articles you can find to justify dragging your kids to this part of the world: “Doing Napa with the Kids!” They are all wrong. Why would you want ruin any possible future appreciation of this place for your kids might one day develop by giving them memories of sitting in a chair in the corner of a tasting room while you stand at the bar slurping down shots of Cabernet? Why would you want to spoil a chance to suck down the best shots of Cabernet you’ve ever had by having to peek over your shoulder ever minute to make sure the little ones haven’t run into the cellar or aren’t reaching up to try and grab that beautiful $350 crystal Riedel decanter tottering on the merchandise table?

While a lovely and unique place, Napa Valley is not, I promise you, so special that you must get here even if it means bringing the young kids along. This all sounds harsh. But what I’m doing here really is looking out for the adults. Treat yourself right. Drop the kids at the aunt’s house for a few days. Get granny to come over and watch them. Then, and only then, head off for Napa. Splurge for a driver. Take two or three days to yourself to drink copious amounts of great wine. Linger at beautiful restaurants, Look down at the valley from atop Spring Mountain. Learn to cook pasta right at the CIA. But do it without the kids.

You’re gonna thank me.


8 Responses

  1. Elizabeth Schneider - March 1, 2017


    I totally agree with this but I want to emphasize that it really is a NAPA thing. I wouldn’t want people to extrapolate this to other regions of California (Sonoma, Mendocino, Paso, Santa Barbara) where they really are welcoming of families and not at all resentful if you bring your (well-behaved or taken out of the tasting room when NOT well behaved) kids. Napa is getting to the point that it’s almost not appropriate for most normal adults (sorry, but I had to say it!) — it often feels like our very presence is an imposition. But that’s for another blog.

    Great work, as usual.

    Wine for Normal People

  2. Tom Wark - March 1, 2017


    Thanks for commenting.

    I’m going to disagree with you. My take is hat Napa is extremely accommodating to adults of all sorts. I think what you might b referring to or being influenced by is the price of Napa wines. Yes, they are high priced hight, but that is a function of supply and demand.


    • Elizabeth Schneider - March 2, 2017


      I’m not referring to price — just to attitude. There are so many stories I have and that I hear of Napa tasting room staff being rude or condescending to patrons. It surely depends on where you go, but I think we could find a good number of people who agree that many pockets of Napa are a bit too high on themselves and don’t have the customer service orientation of others. I bet if I took a poll on my FB page, that I’d get a dozen stories in short order. I could give you a few myself…


  3. Tom Wark - March 2, 2017

    Mary Cressler wanted to comment but for some reason she could not. Here is what she wanted to post:

    While I am assuming that you are referring strictly to Napa, I wholeheartedly disagree that wine country can’t (or shouldn’t) be an experience to expose your children to. My kids are six years old and we have now taken them to wine regions throughout Oregon (where we reside), Washington, New York State (Finger Lakes and Long Island), and Sonoma, and have had some wonderful and accommodating experiences (and very few not so accommodating). And while I avoided taking them inside tasting rooms from the ages of 2-4 (for obvious reasons) I’ve experienced plenty of very family-friendly wineries. We have not taken them to Napa, though I’ve visited on my own several times.

    It is also a very privileged statement to just assume all parents have the luxury to, “Drop the kids at the aunt’s house for a few days.” Or, “Get granny to come over and watch them.” Not all parents are lucky enough to have family close by to ditch their kids with so they can go drink “copious amounts of great wine.” And speaking of drinking, not all who travel to wine country are looking to get drunk, which is what is implied in much of the tone of this post. Some of us are looking to expose our families to the beauty of wine country, outside of just the alcohol.

    For any parents turned off by this piece, feel free to consider your next wine country vacation to Oregon. I’m more than happy to recommend some fantastic family friendly wineries in every region of the state. You can also read this piece I wrote for Wine Enthusiast on my feelings about the subject:

    Thanks for sharing your opinion, and the opportunity to share mine.

    • Mary - March 2, 2017

      Thanks for posting my comment. I tried several times to post it (on 2 different browsers). Not sure why it wouldn’t go through?

  4. Tom Wark - March 2, 2017

    Mary….My pleasure….You offer some thoughtful comments. And while you are recommending places for folks to visit in Oregon, please keep a look out for a nice 4-bedroom home in the Willamette Valley for Kathy, Henry and me.

    • Mary - March 2, 2017

      Haha, well I’m not going to lie, if I find a great 4-bedroom house in the Willamette Valley I might snatch it up for myself! But I’ll let you know of my second favorite 😉

    • SAHMmelier - March 4, 2017

      We have one reserved at the north end on the Valley. I’ll let you know how it is. We found one in Yamhill but the bed configuration wasn’t quite right.

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