A couple of days ago, I gave you a few pointers how to have a successful wine tasting experience post-children. As Beth from Traveling Wine Chick pointed out, many of those pointers could probably apply to wine tasting in general–kids or not. Dragging your kids around on excursions you used to do before you started pro-creating, however, creates more than a few challenges. So here are a few more tips, slanted to keeping your little geniuses (more or less) under control while you cozy up to the tasting bar:
- Tag team: Wine tasting is generally more fun with your spouse, but there is no rule that it has to be that way. One person can go into the winery while the other stays with Junior who has miraculously fallen asleep in the car, or would rather run around in the vineyard than suffer through another tasting indoors. One of you go in alone, go through the tasting, then switch. Sure, this process takes a bit longer, but it is worth it in the long run. You can certainly make it a learning exercise–take quick notes of the wines you drink and then compare when you are both back in the car.
- Bring games: Any kind of games. Your kid’s favorite game (as long as it can fit in a backpack), a new game, your favorite game (after all, you’re the poor chump that is going to be playing it). Ideally, this game does not have a board or a ton of pieces since he will likely start chucking them around once you get your third pour. So before you go, teach your kid a valuable skill: Texas Hold ‘Em..
- Bring lots of snacks: Nothing shuts a kid up quicker than stuffing a Ho-Ho in his pie-hole. Sure, you will have to deal with the sugar crash later, but that Barrel Fermented Old Vine Reserve Pinot Grigio is worth it, isn’t it?
- Keep it short: You would love to try the “very unique” blend of Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, and Chambourcin that the staff keeps hidden below the tasting counter, but pass on the extra glass to avoid a total meltdown. Think about it–you are not going to be able to afford those end-of-the-tasting wines anyway, so why bother? Tell the tasting room staff (politely) to keep that super-secret-ultra-exclusive-one-of-a-kind gem hidden for the next 47 couples who come in to taste.
- Get a hotel with a pool: Along similar lines to the tag team approach, one of you stay at the hotel with the kiddies (make sure they stay above water) while the other goes out and tastes. Switch mid-day (or not–particularly if the desire is to no longer be married).
- Don’t go on the weekend: Nor during a festival (Passport to Dry Creek, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, etc.). Yeah, I get it, the weekends are the “natural” time to go wine tasting, but the problem is that everyone on the planet has the same thought. Yes, I also realize that some tasting rooms are only open on the weekend (which is why calling ahead and making an appointment is key). A packed tasting room with Junior running around is a recipe for disaster, though, trust me. Go on a Wednesday.
- Spit: When I started going to tasting rooms, I would never spit (Free booze!), but by the end of the day I was either loaded or wiped out, and usually both. My wife would do the driving, but that is an outcome no one really wants. The kids, however, do not care one iota that you need a nap before dinner–they want to go to the pool or to the playground (after all, you had been saying they could all day). Save your serious imbibing for dinner, or in the hotel room. I am really surprised by how few people actually spit in tasting rooms–don’t worry, the staff will not be offended at all–they do it all the time themselves.
Bribe them: My kids are always clamoring about wanting an allowance, but I am a firm believer that they actually have to do something in order to earn it (and I am incredibly cheap). We live in the city, so we do not have a lawn to mow (a fact that my brother still can’t accept), and my wife still is exercising her veto power over the boys’ desire to get a dog for them to walk and clean up after. So, I bribe them when we go wine tasting–“be quiet and don’t bother me and there is something in it for you at the end.” We all know that none of us is ever going to win parent of the year so what is the point in perpetuating the charade?
Go to Europe: I realize this is not the most economical answer, but if you find yourself in the “Old World” with the kiddos, I would not hesitate to hit up a few wineries for tastings. Believe it or not, in my opinion American kids are far better behaved than their European counterparts. By a long shot. Most of my experience comes from France where French parents have an incredible ability to not care even slightly what their kids are doing at any given moment. I say that without even the briefest hesitation. Both my kids attended a French immersion school and I have been to France countless times. Trust me. Your kids, even though they seem to have the ability to spin their horned heads all the way around, are far bettered behaved than François and Françoise. There is nothing your kids can do during the tasting that the staff has not seen before–a thousand times.
- Convince your in-laws to live near Wine Country: This is the best possible solution and will make trips to visit your spouse’s parents markedly more palatable, again, speaking from experience. It is amazing how you can actually look forward to a two week stay with the in-laws (when one of those weeks is spent in Wine Country). If you need a reason to visit the your in-laws, I really can’t think of a better one–drop the kids off, and your days of child-free wine tasting have miraculously returned!
So that is my list–I would love to hear if you have any other suggestions in the comments below!