Sunday, August 19, 2007

Romantic Wine Tasting: A family outing in San Luis Obispo

My husband and I both enjoy wine, and before the kids came along, we used to spend many a relaxing afternoon at wineries in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains, picnicking and sipping class California wines. Along came the kids, and somehow this did not see practical anymore. We had new afternoon plans, which mostly involved naps, scheduled feedings and lots of play time. Wine tasting seemed like it was to go the way of our golf games....

Turley Wines Then, last summer, we realized we could bring it back, albeit with a slightly different twist. Driving north from Santa Barbara, lunch time hit us just as we were nearing Templeton, a wine-rich enclave south of Paso Robles. We knew from past research that Turley Wines, a long-time favorite which we often see at auction fundraisers, was located in Templeton and a quick call to the winery confirmed that they have a picnic area. A stop at the Trader Joes in Atascadero and we arrived at the winery ready to eat, figuring we could picnic with the kids while tasting wine on the side. And it turned out just that way - we nabbed a table outside and the women behind the wine counter were incredibly accommodating, allowing us to come in to get the next taste. The kids were accommodating too, eating lunch, playing around the picnic area and generally behaving themselves. Success!

While planning our southern California road trip this summer, we decided to spend a night in San Luis Obispo and taste wine in the nearby Edna Valley. Based on the success of last year's experiment, we decided to try for 3 wineries, with a lunch stop in the middle. After consulting the San Luis Obispo Vintners, we decided to stop at Claiborne & Churchill, Tangent Winery, and Tolosa Winery. We knew that Tangent had a picnic site, so we planned to eat lunch there. We began our day at Claiborne & Churchill and set our kids up on a table outside. To occupy the kids, we had brought a couple craft kits, which they jumped into, allowing us to taste the first of 5 wines they were pouring that morning. So far, so good, although the wind had picked up, making it a little hard to work on the craft projects and as a result, the kids were a little restless.

After leaving C&C, we stopped at the nearby Old Edna Townsite to load up on lunch items at the Fialas Deli, where they kindly made an off-menu PB&J for our kids and the husband and I selected from several of their pre-made sandwiches. It was a big weekend for the Townsite, as they were hosting a local honey tasting, as well as an animal rescue fair. The kids loved that, checking out the cats and dogs ready for adoption. We two parents had to be strong, otherwise, we were going to be coming home with a new fur-child!

Onto Tangent Winery, our planned lunch stop. The outdoor eating area was great, the kids were hungry and dived into lunch, while we began our wine tasting program. At the next table, two past-the-age-of-small-children couples unpacked a gorgeous picnic with local cheeses, breads, and fruit. In between bites of my sandwich, I looked longingly over to their organized, calm table. About half way into lunch (on about our second of five wines) the kids decided they were done with lunch and got up to run around. I tried to encourage them to come back and finish lunch, but they were ready to burn off their excess energy. While the husband and I tried to hurry through the wine tasting, I tried to come up with some games to keep the kids occupied (and ideally quiet!). Nothing was working and I was finding myself using my loud mommy voice, something that can be embarrassing in public and even more so at a winery. Sensing that this was not going to get any better, I encouraged the husband to finish the wines, and perhaps procure something in a bottle to-go for later. We packed up our picnic and our kids and got the heck out of dodge.

Sensing that another winery was not going to be appreciated by the kids, the husband and I regrouped and decided to abandon the next stop (sadly, as perhaps we had saved the best for last!). We high-tailed it to a park in downtown San Luis Obispo where the kids spent the next two hours sliding, swinging and climbing.

Strategy for next time: Leave the kids at home, or maybe just one winery and present it as a picnic opportunity to the kids!