For many in the DC area, the Virginia wineries are a popular weekend destination. The calm countryside can make you feel worlds away, and the peace and tranquility allows you to quickly unwind from a hectic week in Washington. But what about those of us who want to bring along our children and four-legged friends? Do we have to forego those winery visits? Is it considered poor etiquette to show up with a baby? Will the other visitors give us strange looks? This is a hotly debated topic amongst some wineries and winery visitors who think children and pets encumber the winery experience. Fortunately, there are a few wineries that are quite family-friendly (and dog-friendly as well)!
I would like to emphasize that even the family-friendliest of wineries still deserve parents and dog owners who are responsible with their visits. Don’t let your kids scream and run around the property disturbing others, and keep your dogs on a leash. Designating a driver for the afternoon is a smart move too. With that said, here are four family-friendly Virginia wineries with some pretty good juice to-boot:
Barrel Oak Winery
This winery, located in Delaplane, Va., was named one of the Top Family-Friendly Wineries in the world by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in April 2012. The winery offers juice boxes and candy for kids and has a jar of milk bones on the counter for dogs. There is also a play area for children out by the picnic tables and numerous water dishes for your pups.
Coming Up: If you’re a pet-lover, head to “Dog Daze” Aug. 3–4 for a weekend of pet-themed activities and contests. Families will also love the annual “Stomp n' Chomp Festival” Sept. 28–29 where the young and old can taste wine grapes, learn about the process in the cellars, and even get messy with grape stomping.
What’s Pouring: Options include three tastings for free, 6 for $6 and 12 for $11. They are also offering a new $24 premium table tasting once each hour featuring gold and platinum winning wines with hors d'oeuvres, a production tour and a complimentary glass.
Summer Sipper: BOWHaus White – A Riesling-style, refreshing blend of 75% Vidal Blanc and 25% Seyval Blanc.
Located just outside of Charlottesville, Va., Keswick allows kids and dogs in the tasting room, and they offer coloring sheets and games for the kids and treats and water for the dogs. On Sundays, the vineyard hosts “Yappy Hours” where local animal shelters bring out dogs who are available for adoption. A portion of the proceeds from wine sold goes to those shelters.
Coming Up: "Good Eats, Good Beats,” held Aug. 17 and Aug. 31, is a family-friendly event that features a local musician and food served up by a caterer or food truck.
What’s Pouring: Current tastings are $7 for 10 wines. The fee is waived if you purchase three bottles of wine or if you are a member of the military or the Keswick Vineyards wine club.
Summer Sipper: V2 – A blend of 51% Viognier and 49% Verdejo, all aged in stainless steel. It is crisp and refreshing with vibrant fruit forwardness and radiant acidity.
Early Mountain Vineyards
Located in Madison, Va., Early Mountain provides outdoor spaces, picnic areas, patios, a marketplace and entertainment. A kids menu features food and Oakencroft Farm juices, which are made from wine grapes, but are non-alcoholic. Games such as Banana Grams and Connect Four can be found in the tasting room as well.
Coming Up: You can join Early Mountain for their “Sippin into Sunset” series every Friday through the end of August. The event includes wine tasting, food and live music.
What’s Pouring: Early Mountain is featuring four flights of wines ranging from $12–$15. The wines showcase the featured “Best of Virginia” program, which includes reds, whites, rosés and sparkling wines from across the state.
Summer Sipper: 2012 Rosé - A traditionally blended rosé made from 79% Merlot and 21% Malbec. It has a striking ruby color with a refreshing yet weighty palate, and it gives off strong aromas and flavors of candied red fruit.
Breaux, located in Purcellville, Va., holds many family-friendly events, such as an annual Dog Day celebration and Cajun and Key West Festivals where children are welcome.
Coming Up: Breaux will host its 2nd Annual BBQ & Bluegrass Festival on Aug. 24. Enjoy wine tastings, tours, BBQ for sale, craft vendors and live bluegrass music. Admission is free.
What’s Pouring: Tastings are $10 per person.
Summer Sipper: 2011 Sauvignon Blanc – Steel fermented and dry, emphasizing fruit flavors such as honeydew, lemon and green apple. The wine is light and crisp with a bright acidity that helps the wine finish clean.
For information on additional family-friendly wineries, visit virginiawine.org/wineries, and select “Child Friendly” from the dropdown menu of winery features.
@UncorkVirginia is an enthusiastic supporter of the growing Virginia wine industry, and she is currently enrolled in the WSET II program at the Capital Wine School. You can follow her adventures in wine on her website.