While some Virginia tasting rooms can be raucous with bachelorette parties or hushed with elevated tastings, kids won’t get the cold shoulder at these area wineries that put families first. The winery owners below offer activities for children of all ages, from live music and games to juice boxes and play rooms.
‘Cacophony of Joy’
When you walk through the door at Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, you’re just as likely to hear a Jenga tower collapse as a cork pop.
Youngsters are handed juice boxes and scavenger hunt maps as adults pick up their glasses, and families are encouraged to bring in food, flowers, tablecloths and plates to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other special events in the tasting room.
In the spring and summer, the winery hosts FarmFarm, a crafts and farmers market where kids can also see farm animals like pigs, goats and chickens. Pony rides will be added this spring, and kids also gravitate toward the dirt piles scattered across the winery’s gigantic lawn.
“It has changed the nature of how we are perceived as a winery,” says owner Brian Roeder. “[A winery] is seen as a place where people come to taste wine, but we have become a place where people go to celebrate life.”
“This place is obviously looking to attract the parents who still want to do the things they did before kids with minimal compromise,” says Burke resident Connie Genne, who has made several visits with her 5- year-old daughter. “But whenever we’re there, there is a huge range of folks, including families, couples and retirees.”
Roeder admits that not every wine drinker is a fan of what he calls the “cacophony of joy,” especially on weekends when 1,500 people pass through the doors in a single day. Occasionally people walk in, take a look around and walk right back out.
Luckily his wife Sharon, a self-taught winemaker who oversees 12 varietals on the property, has brought home dozens of medals for her work, including several last year for the honey-scented 2012 Petit Manseng Estate. Because what really matters, says Roeder, is “if the wine isn’t good, they are not coming back.” / Barrel Oak Winery, 3623 Grove Lane, Delaplane; barreloak.com
Growing Up Grape
Potomac Point Vineyard & Winery owners Cindy and Skip Causey traveled to wine-making regions around the world with their young daughter Chelsea, who now handles the winery’s sales and marketing, and appreciated when she was welcomed into tasting areas.
Enter the Lil Buds Room, a space in the Stafford winery’s tasting room that is stocked with bean bag chairs, tables, DVDs and toys. The adjacent D’vine Lounge has couches for relaxing and plenty of board games, checkers and chess. Outside at the picnic pavilion kids can play cornhole while adults enjoy snacks from the on-site bistro.
Potomac Point also hosts family-focused events throughout the year, including Mother’s Day and Easter brunches, grape stomping and pumpkin bowling during the Harvest Festival in September and photos with Santa during the holiday open house.
But is regularly having kids around a problem?
“We are an industrial and agricultural site. Having children run around like crazy isn’t the safest thing, which is why we have the Lil Buds Room,” explains Chelsea (Causey) Sparaco. “If we see little ones wander off without their parents, we help them find their way back.”
Something for parents to try: Head winemaker David Pagan Castaño, who joined Potomac Point last year, brought back juice from monastrell grapes grown at his family’s winery in Spain and blended it with Potomac Point’s cabernet franc for a limited-edition blend called Vino Camino, released this past fall. / 275 Decatur Road, Stafford; potomacpointwinery.com
Pick Apples, Sip Wine
At Great Country Farms in Bluemont, look up while picking strawberries or roasting marshmallows and you can’t miss Bluemont Vineyard across the street. Mark Zurschmeide, who owns the family-run farm with his wife, Kate, launched the neighboring winery with his West Virginia University classmate Bob Rupy in 2007.
The two businesses have a symbiotic relationship: spend the morning at the farm picking apples and watching the goats climb the tractor barn, grab some cider-sweetened housemade barbecue and head up the hill for a bottle of wine at Bluemont while the kids romp on the vineyard’s lawn and expansive porch.
While Rupy does receive occasional complaints about children at the vineyard, he says, “there has never been a time when I’ve said ‘We have to rethink this.’”
This spring brings a number of new Bluemont bottlings including a Bordeaux-blend rosé, an apple wine and peach port—both made from Great Country’s fruit—and an estate-grown albarino. / Great Country Farms, 18755 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont; bluemontvineyard.com
More Kid-Friendly Vines
Loudoun Valley (Waterford)
Home to an annual back-to-school event with a bounce house and snow cones; loudounvalleyvineyards.com
Cobbler Mountain (Delaplane)
Hosts tubing parties on its hillside in the winters and offers a cozy play area inside the main tasting room; cobblercellars.com
Old House (Culpeper)
Offers family-friendly meals (cheese fondue, wood-fired pizza) and catch-and-release angling in their pond; oldhousevineyards.com