I spent many years in California and visited the Napa and Sonoma regions often. It was fun to come across wineries that made such small batches of wine that they sold it only at the winery itself. After leaving California, most of the wine I bought from stores lacked a unique taste and I missed chatting with winemakers about their wines, grapes, and vineyards.
After moving to Texas, I was happy to find out that wineries could be found, not only in the Hill Country outside of Austin, but throughout the state. You don’t hear about these Texas wines as often as those from California, Oregon, and Washington. However, many individuals have created beautiful wineries in the Lonestar state and quite a few award winning wines.
These days, my family makes a number of visits to local wineries. Because of the Texas heat, a number of popular grapes cannot be grown here. Because of this, the wineries work with unconventional grapes grown locally and buy grapes from the Pacific Northwest or transport them from land they own in the north of Texas. During the tastings, the distinctive flavors show that the wineries experiment freely with the grapes they have. Tastings are very cheap (usually about five dollars for six to ten pours).
Now of course my husband and I enjoy these outings but what about my young son? Surprisingly, he has a great time too. There are many snacks available, such as a variety of crackers, cheeses, oils, jams, dips, and chocolates. They are supposed to help you enjoy the taste of the wines but they also serve to entertain a little boy. He is usually as intent on sampling the many foods as we are on sampling the wines. We sit and try the foods with him and sneak some new vocabulary words in such as “mmmmm this crunchy cracker is spicy” or this “sweet cheese has an abundance of fruit.” I think my husband and I may actually have more fun making up the silly phrases. My son just wants to eat. Wineries are also filled with interesting objects. You may have to cut short your conversation with the host about the history or making of the wines but wandering around (keeping a tight hold on your child’s hand) talking about the things the new things your child is seeing is great too.
In the summer, we stay inside the air conditioned buildings but during the rest of the year, we stroll around the winery grounds. Most wineries are generous and will give us a pour of the wine we liked the most to take outside. It’s really an excuse to let our son romp around and explore. Some wineries allow you to bring food and have a picnic as well (the larger ones have restaurants but a picnic works better for our little boy). Even though he’s many, many years away from drinking wines, wineries are one of my son’s favorite places to go. The food, the games, and running around play a huge part but it’s probably spending an incredibly relaxing afternoon with two laughing parents that make the experience the most fun.
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