Sip and Play: Oregon Wine Country With Kids
Want to taste world-class pinot while your kids rope swing, bocce, Frisbee golf and picnic?
Kids and wine-tasting — these are two words not often uttered in the same breath. But having children and exploring wine don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The Willamette Valley, also known as Oregon’s pinot noir country, is home to more than 300 wineries. Many larger producers are catering in a big way to wine aficionados traveling with kids in tow. And fall harvest season — with its sunny, crisp days — makes a perfect time for a wine getaway.
A family-friendly winery isn’t just one that tolerates tiny travelers. It offers the setting and activities that can engage little people while parents do the kind of imaginative mid-sip dreaming and socializing that comes with tasting an impeccable wine. The following Oregon vineyards, all within an hour of Portland, go the extra mile in catering to wine lovers with kids in tow.
Family-friendly Oregon wineries
Wide open spaces: Stoller Family Estate
Wide open grass fields. A Frisbee golf course. A tire swing hanging from a lone oak tree set against rows of wine grapes. Towering pines. Adirondack chairs clustered on a picnic-worthy hilltop. It really doesn’t get any better for wine-loving families than Stoller Family Estate, where you can taste elegant, earthy pinot noirs with bursts of dark red fruit. Three houses are available to rent on the property, whose tasting room is perched perfectly to have views from the grape-swathed hills of Yamhill County across the valley to Mt. Hood.
Tasting rooms with a View: Ponzi Vineyards
One of Oregon’s oldest wineries, Ponzi Vineyards is set on a slope facing the Chehalam Mountains in Sherwood and has a bocce court to entertain the kids while you sip one it its signature pinots, a Willamette Valley pinot noir with flavors of spiced cherries, cassis and raspberry. The winery has ample outdoor seating and picnic tables and offers a historic vineyard walking tour where you can get to know one of the state’s most established wine-making families.
Destination events: Willakenzie Estate
Every first weekend in September (start planning for next year), with the smell of crushed grapes in the air, Willakenzie Estate invites Portland food trucks to set up their counters at the winery, just west of Newberg. The winery puts on some of the best events in the valley, like its November Pork & Pinot pairing, a celebration of wine and Portland’s best charcuterie purveyors. A new picnic area and a pétanque court (similar to bocce) are primed for family entertaining while you sip the wineries latest releases, including single vineyard, estate-grown pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot blanc, pinot gris and pinot meunier.
Family-friendly fun: Brooks Winery
Multiple on-site activities for kids and families make Brooks a great destination. Try your hand at badminton on its on-site court (no need to bring your own racket), toss a few bean bags around, play darts, or simple hang out at the winery’s picnic area, which overlooks the Eola Hills of the Willamette Valley. The staff will even serve lemonade to the kids. Sit back on the patio while the kids play and try the winery’s estate pinot noir, blends, rosé, and award-winning Red Letter Pinot noir. You’re not far from one of wine country’s biggest draws for kids: The Evergreen Air and Space Museum and Wings & Waves Water Park.
Wiking (wine and hiking): Van Duzer Vineyards
Location location location! Set right next to Baskett Slough, a national wildlife refuge home to a rare species of butterflies, migrating birds, deer and other fauna, Van Duzer is the best place to combine hiking and wine tasting. Stop in first at the tasting room to try the vineyard’s pinot noir and pinot gris, which are shaped by the cool winds coming off the Pacific in the Van Duzer corridor. There, you can pick up a trail map for the refuge and peruse its seasonal trails through marshlands or its winter trail atop a stunning mid-prairie oak savannah.
Kid-friendly attractions nearby
Just outside of McMinnville, wow them at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum with the story of flight. You can’t miss the must-see the Spruce Goose (it takes up almost the entire building), Howard Hughes’ giant wooden airplane that was six times larger than any other aircraft built during World War II. Activities abound on the campus – the Wings & Waves Waterpark offers all-season fun on 10 indoor slides and a wave pool, an on-site IMAX theater shows gut-churning widescreen movies, and an outdoor playground and park are there for a mid-day romp.
Just a few miles on one windy road out of Newberg, Bald Peak provides 26 acres of wilderness in a day-use park on top of the Chehalem Mountain range. If the weather’s good you’ll see some of the region’s majestic peaks: Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. St. Helens (WA), Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier. The park has restrooms and a picnic table as well as a short trail through old Douglas firs. Be sure to bring your own drinking water.
South of Hillsboro, Smith Berry Barn will delight kids and their parents alike. The charming farm stand has curated local products and gift items, produce from the 30-acre farm and the season’s selection of 10 berries: cane berries, including red raspberry, golden raspberry, Marionberry, several varieties blackberries including boysenberry, loganberry and tayberries. Seasonal U-pick will soothe wandering spirits. Finish up at the ice cream and espresso stand, which serves Portland’s Caffé Umbria beans.
Places to stay
Families have everything they need at the Comfort Inn McMinnville: an on-site indoor pool and whirlpool, a gym, complimentary breakfast and a full breakfast. It’s conveniently located near the Evergreen Air and Aviation Museum. Pets can stay for a fee.
Eclectic interiors – think swirling suns, UFO’s and quirky murals – are part of the draw for families with older kids to this McMenamin’s property. The building is a renovated 1905 hotel (small rooms), but a King Suite could fit the whole fam. An on-site restaurant and rooftop terrace and live music make it a happening place. From $83.
If living like a local is your favorite game and you want to be in the thick of McMinnville’s award-winning main street, stay in one of these impeccably designed city apartments right on McMinnville’s 3rd Street. They work like a vacation rental but with the amenities of a hotel, like locally made soap, caramels and a complimentary bottle of wine. From $190/night.