I don’t know why, but I thought finding a handful of family friendly wineries for a Napa Valley Kid article would be a breeze. But besides “the usual” go-to kid recommendations (the gondolas at Sterling, the picnic lawn at V. Sattui, the castle tour at Castello di Amorosa) tasting rooms that welcome kids are few and far between. Thus, this project has sat on the back burner for almost a year. Good thing the boss is my wife!
Finally, I got inspiration, and it took a day trip to St Helena while Talia (THE Napa Valley Kid) went to Art Camp at Nimbus Arts (which, by the way, could be weaved into the fabric of a Napa Valley family trip…check it out). Bury those car keys and make a day out of my two tasting room recommendations that are directly across Highway 29 from each other in St. Helena. The biggest problem I see is the food. They both have such great options you’ll need to bring along an extra stomach. Added plus: If your kids are into trains, the Napa Valley Wine Train cruises by twice, outward and inward, in the afternoon right around lunch time.
CLIF FAMILY TASTING ROOM
709 Main Street, St Helena
The first thing I noticed as I approached Clif Family is THE FOOD. To the left is the Clif Family Bruschetteria, a gourmet food truck open at this same location every day except Mondays from 11:30 am to 4 pm. More on them later. To the right is Azteca Market, a family-owned taqueria and grocery store that makes delicious, inexpensive Mexican food to go. While I had the urge to get a killer burrito fix, I chose the Bruschetteria.
The Clif Family Tasting Room is bright, friendly, full of wine country and gourmet retail goodies, and boasts a friendly, professional, educated staff. All the wines have their fans and rightly so. I particularly like their tiny-production sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc and “The Climber” Bordeaux-style blend. Their regular tasting is $30, waived with 4-bottle purchase. They also offer a tasting of four Howell Mountain Cabernets for $40, waived with 6-bottle purchase of those wines.
Clif Family has an enclosed back patio where well-behaved kids can hang out. The patio is dog-friendly, also. For youngsters, the staff has coloring sheets and crayons at the ready. And you can bring food from the Bruschetteria over and have a family lunch. Speaking of which, the menu features a changing selection of Bruschette, salads and rotisserie meats. Everything’s organic, much is grown by Clif Family, and is made with love.
FARMSTEAD at LONG MEADOW RANCH
738 Main Street, St Helena
A little confusing perhaps to have the tasting room be under a different name as the winery. The confusion is easily overcome.
For kids, Farmstead is a dream. Lots of safe outdoors area for walking around. Includes a horseshoe pit, gardens and a glorious red tractor for climbing and playing pretend.
As for food, there are two choices. The café is a kiosk that serves breakfast and lunch for al fresco dining on site or take out. Farmstead Restaurant is great for all ages and serves lunch and dinner. Like I said, bring along your second stomach.
The wine tasting is well done. It’s unique for Napa as Long Meadow Ranch purchased Anderson Valley, Mendocino vineyards recently, and hired the talented Stephane Vivier to make the wines. Three of the Long Meadow Ranch Anderson Valley wines stand out for me: the Chardonnay, Rosé of Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir. It’s $25 to taste four wines, and a fee is waived with every 4-bottle purchase or a wine club membership…I suggest going in with the intention to buy so you don’t pay for the tasting.
If your kids are into flavors, the Farmstead tasting room has a Napa Valley/Italy comparative olive oil tasting for $5. There are ample cold non-alcoholic non-corporate drink choices. And, like Clif Family, there are seemingly limitless gourmet food items, many of which are made by Long Meadow Ranch, sold here. There really is something for everybody here.
Click here for Napa Valley Vintners’ list of family-friendly wineries.
Dan Dawson, wine critic, founder, and president of Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor, is married to Napa Valley Kid founder and CEO, Holly Krassner Dawson and is Talia’s dad. Dan brings 25 years of Napa Valley wine experience to Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor. From 2001 to 2017 Dan owned and operated Back Room Wines, a fine wine shop and wine bar in Downtown Napa. He created Back Room Wines and built it into one of the best and most highly regarded wine shops in Napa Valley. Prior to Back Room Wines, Dan was wine buyer at All Seasons Bistro and Wine Shop (1992-1998), Head Sommelier at The French Laundry (1998-1999) and Wine Merchant at Dean & Deluca (1999-2001).