I was pleased to see us mentioned in Mother Magazine's Paso Robles Guide, published online today. I was even more pleased to see Paso Robles recognized:
We moved out to Paso Robles in part because we were ready to start a family, and we haven't been disappointed. From the great downtown park to a terrific library system, the different children's museums to an active youth sports community, it's been a great place to raise our two boys. But I think that the kid-friendliness of the food and wine community has been noteworthy as well. It's been fun to see the enthusiasm of the servers in the restaurants we visit, taking the kids seriously as they learn how to navigate their way around a real menu. And the bartenders we ask to make up fun kids' cocktails. We've never felt like we attract dirty looks by bringing the kids into the many great restaurants here, and for that we're grateful.
So it's really nothing more than paying it forward to do what we can to help make parents who visit Tablas Creek with kids feel welcome. And, having been a parent in the shoes, so to speak, of our visitors, it's easy to remember how grateful even simple accommodations made us feel. What do we do? It's not rocket science.
- Offer an activity for kids while parents taste. In our case, we have a kid-sized coloring table in the corner of our tasting room, with pictures of grapes and vines that they can color. Heck, you don't even need to be a kid to use it, though if you're more than about 5'2" your knees may complain. But giving parents the chance to focus on your wine instead of corralling a bored kid who otherwise is underfoot is good for your customers, your bottom line, and your sanity.
- Offer events for families to do together. Clearly, many or most of the events you're going to offer as a winery are going to be focused on wine drinking (or pairing, or making) and won't be appropriate to kids. But much of what a winery does is agriculture, and it's important and typically fun to get kids involved in how things are grown and made. We use animals as a part of our biodynamic program, and have created events to bring families out to meet the animals and learn their role in a healthy vineyard.
- Be inclusive where you can. We take as many people as are interested out on tours to see the vineyard, our grapevine nursery, and the winery. All of this is interesting to kids, in my experience. Have them taste different grapes and see if they can describe what makes them different. Explain why you plant, or graft, or farm the way you do. It costs nothing, builds goodwill, and gets kids involved in important conversations.
- Be involved in your community. The work that we do here is only one way that we interact with our customers. Many of them live in our community, and most of them visit. We have made it a point to get involved in the community activities that enrich the life experiences of kids who grow up here, from creating a partnership with the Performing Arts Center, to donating wine to raise funds for art in schools at the Paso Arts Fest, to creating a program with must! charities to support the Boys' & Girls' Club here in Paso and a local expansion of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. There are so many ways to make a difference... and many of the most compelling focus on kids.
It's really not the case where in making your winery family-friendly you have to choose to somehow make it less adult-friendly. In general, thinking of the needs of kids who may be (unwillingly) accompanying their parents when they come out to visit you is going to make for a better experience for not only their parents, but also the kid-free customers who might otherwise be caught in the crossfire.
And if you can create an experience that involves an alpaca, some donkeys and a whole passel of sheep, so much the better.