Guest Post: Napa Valley for Kids What to Do (And Not Do)
A friend I met at the MOM2.0 Summit last February in Houston, writes a blog about her family’s travel adventures. The Founder & Managing Editor of MOMocrats where I occasionally guest blog, Glennia describes her personal blog as that of “a California family of three who have traveled the world in search of adventure, fun, new experiences, and the perfect chicken nugget.” Since her son was born, she and her family have traveled to 22 countries and 18 states.
I envy the ability to drive to wine country whenever it strikes one’s fancy, and this past Labor Day weekend Glennia and her family did just that. She wrote about the trip on her blog The Silent I that she graciously agreed to allow me to include on Another Wine Blog. These are her pictures and her thoughts on her visit to one of the wineries. I haven’t visited this one, or tried the wines, so review you read is hers alone.
The Napa Valley Wine Country isn’t really known for kid-friendly venues, since the emphasis there is primarily on adult beverages. Nonetheless, for Labor Day weekend, we decided to do a day-trip to Napa Valley, which is about a two hour drive from our house. Even though it’s not that far from where we live, we rarely go up to the Wine Country unless we have visitors who want to see it, mainly because I didn’t think there would be much appeal for our nine year old son. We decided to spend Saturday up in the wine country, exploring fun activities for kids in Napa Valley.
Castello di Amorosa Winery
Several on-line guides recommended the Castello di Amorosa, a re-creation of the 12th century Tuscan castle on the hillside near Calistoga. The guides said that this would be fun for kids, since there is a tour that includes a dungeon and castle turrets to run around on. We made our way down the Silverado trail and pulled up in front of the castle, which from the outside, did not disappoint. Alex exclaimed, “Where there battles here, Mom?”
I had to tell him that it was highly unlikely any battles were fought here, except maybe the Great Chardonnay Wars of ’07, which resulted in casualties. Unfortunately, many grapes were crushed in the incursion. He rolled his eyes, because he’s smart like that and knows when I’m pulling his leg.
Two things the guides failed to mention: 1) On the weekends, it costs $15 per adult/$5 per child aged 5-20 to go into the castle, and the guided tour is $30 per adult/$20 per child; and 2) the wine really, really sucks. Kids under 5 get in free, and the entrance fees are slightly less during the week. The only way to see the dungeon is to pay for the full tour. I didn’t think was worth $80 to see a fake dungeon, when we’d seen real ones in Scotland, plus the next available tour was four hours after we arrived.
We plunked down our $35 for the three of us, and proceeded to look at the Great Hall, which was a recreation of a medieval banquet hall. The walls were painted from floor to ceiling in scenes that looked like they could have been on some 12th century tapestry or another, and large metal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. There was nothing going on in the Great Hall, and it was a little dark and foreboding. Alex peeked in, and promptly ran away.
We walked around the the second floor turrets, looking for a bathroom, and had a nice view of Napa Valley. It was a beautiful, cloudless day, not too hot, and the scenery was breathtaking from this vantage point. We eventually made our way down to the wine tasting room and gift shop, where we were ignored by the wine pourers, which was probably a good thing, given how bad the wine was. Some of it was pretty much undrinkable, and a tannins a tannin, not matter how “oaky” or “smoky” or whatever spin you want to put on it. I drank the first three samples and one sip of the fourth and gave up. I’m no wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but I know when something tastes bad and makes me long for a mouthwash chaser.
As a tourist attraction, this place gets high marks, as a winery, it has a long, long way to go. According to their webside, they use sustainable farming techniques and aim to reduce their carbon footprint in making the wines, which are laudable goals. Hopefully, in a few years, they’ll get this wine-thing down and start producing wines that live up to the venue.
I can understand the vintner’s desire to make a unique place for families to come out to be together, but it will take more than a free juice pouch and some coloring books to make this a destination for kids. The website touts horse-drawn carriage rides through the venue as one of the attractions, which might be fun, but sounds more like a romantic getaway than a family adventure to me.
Read the rest of Glennia’s post, which also includes reviews of wine, food and adventures at Sterling Vineyards, Bosko’s Italian Trattoria, Old Faithful Geyser in Calistoga and The Petrified Forest in her September 10, 2009 entry of The Silent I.