Napa WineryA Toast to Napa
If the thought of a family trip to wine country is enough to drive you to drink, it’s time to rediscover Napa Valley. Grab the kids and a glass of your favorite grape juice and savor the experience. Ride a bike through an olive grove; pick up a sketchbook and release your inner artist; pack a jack and join a bocce tournament; and, of course, enjoy a glass of wine or five.
Good For: Families looking for a fun, foodie experience – and the scenery to match.
- Lounging by the pool at the Coppola Winery.
- Chocolate tasting in the dungeon of Castello di Amorosa.
- Touring the olive mill at Round Pond Estate.
- Indulging at the dessert bar at Morimoto Napa.
- Sampling local fare at Dean & Deluca and Oxbow Public Market.
Suggested Stay: 4 Days
What to Know: Pool passes at the Coppola Winery are a hot commodity and can’t be purchased in advance, but “cabines” (private poolside changing rooms with showers) may be reserved, guaranteeing you pool passes. Weekends are the best time to visit the Coppola Winery, for the live entertainment in the pavilion, as well as an upgrade from juice box to smoothie.
Al Fresco in Napa
Forget the secluded B&Bs and romantic retreats and uncork in a cozy cottage with a private patio. While many wine country resorts are not geared toward family travel, some do cater to all ages, with family-friendly pools, bicycles, bocce courts, and board games. In Sonoma, MacArthur Place features expansive grassy areas, complete with fantastic sculptures, as well as a giant outdoor chess set. The Carneros Inn, in Napa, has mini lounge chairs next to “Otto’s Pool,” as well as private family yoga classes.
While the inviting accommodations set the stage, it’s the landscape that steals the show. Surrounded by sprawling vineyards, lush olive groves, and native California foliage, don’t expect to spend much time in your hotel room. Embrace the great outdoors via an al fresco massage, pedaling through the vineyards, or on a flight in a hot air balloon – just don’t forget to stop and smell the grape leaves.
With a little advanced planning, touring the wine country can be a fantastic family experience. Many boutique wineries will accommodate requests for tours that emphasize winemaking over wine tasting, and vintners are eager to share their craft with enthusiastic visitors of all ages. Your junior sommeliers can serve as “smell-iers” by helping to identify visual and aroma cues while you tackle the tasting.
For a truly fortifying experience, head to the Castello di Amorosa, a 13th century-styled Tuscan castle and winery producing Italian-style wines. Don’t miss the guided castle tour, which leads you through the interior courtyard to a torture chamber furnished with authentic artifacts, and then down to the dungeon for a barrel tasting. This is topped off with a wine and chocolate pairing with grape juice made from wine grapes.
Continue to expand your tasting skills with a swirl, smell, slurp, and swallow at the Round Pond Estate. Tour the olive groves and mills and watch a demonstration of Spanish and Italian methods of olive oil production. Complete your tour with an olive oil tasting accompanied by an assortment of local treats.
A trip to the Coppola Winery is an offer you can’t refuse. Reservations are a must, so that as soon as you arrive, you can claim your poolside cabine, order some snacks, and dive in. After soaking up the sun, head to the vineyard and sample grapes off the vine, and then go into the winery and bottling facility, where the whole family will be mesmerized by the spinning labeling machine. Your tour concludes with a tasting (it is a winery, after all) with wine for the adults and juice for the “young adults.”
The afternoon provides ample time to check out the movie memorabilia and to pose in matching fedoras by the desk from the Godfather. Afterwards play a game of bocce and a repose in the giant teepee filled with books and games.
For a Hollywood ending, enjoy live entertainment in the outdoor pavilion – Latin dancing, a Cole Porter revue, even Hamlet, followed by dinner on the rustic terrace, overlooking Alexander Valley.
Wine and Dine
Toro tartare and sake flights don’t usually come to mind when you think of Napa, but that’s what you can feast on at Morimoto Napa, where the exquisite presentation is surpassed only by the food. Even the dessert is excellent, consisting of a variety of unique treats served on a grapevine wrapped with lime cotton candy “moss” and set in chocolate-sesame “dirt.”
Before you leave Napa Valley, be sure to take some family pictures. Standing in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, you’ll be “grapeful” you did.