Wines upon a time, heading up the coast to Santa Barbara Wine Country was something reserved only for kid-free anniversary weekends and bachelor(ette) parties. But today, these wonderful wineries are opening up their expansive outdoor space to accommodate parents and offspring alike. Read on for our picks of the best family-friendly wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley that really take the cork.
photo: Sarah Lyons
Vineyards with Vistas
Dierberg & Star Lane Vineyards Tasting Room
It makes total sense that a family owned and operated winery like Dierberg would be family-friendly in practice. The outside grassy lawn not only provides views of the valley for days, but it also gives kids the opportunity to get their wiggles out and then some. With a garden and so much space to explore, you will love being able to keep eyes on the kid while they run and play, all while your tastings are poured outside. The actual tasting room, once a small section of their charming barn, was recently renovated to include the entire barn space making for a beautifully decorated spot to check out (and where you can buy a bottle to enjoy outside). An added plus is that the wines are incredible (some say the best in the region) so plan on bringing a couple of plastic glasses (to go with that bottle) and a picnic to enjoy outside so everyone can relax and unwind.
Tasting Notes: Open daily from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Tastings are 5 wines for $20.
1280 Drum Canyon Rd.
Santa Rita Hills
photo: Sarah Lyons
Nestled in the middle of the Foxen Canyon wine trail, Koehler’s enormous grassy lawn is a perfect spot for your little companions to run around after a couple hours in the car. Tastings can be held outside on the lawn complete with picnic tables shaded by 130-year-old olive trees, making sipping while supervising that much more fun. As an added bonus to delight the younger set, Koehler’s grounds also include a few emus at the far end of the grass in a fenced off area. Outside food is encouraged (picnic time) and on the weekends, the winery currently has a taco truck on site serving up delicious food for purchase, making this place a must-stop on your tasting travels.
Tasting Notes: Open daily from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Signature Tasting Flights are $15 for 7 wines or opt for the Premium Wine Flights which are $20 for 6 wines. Reservations are a great idea for larger parties (6 people or more) but not required for smaller families/groups.
5360 Foxen Canyon Rd.
photo: Sarah Lyons
Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards
Another fun stop along the Foxen Canyon wine route, Zaca Mesa offers up an expansive patio just outside the tasting room complete with plenty of tables perfect for lunching (outside food is definitely ok). Your little road trippers will love the life size patio chess set where you can watch them move pawns as big as they are while you sip and swirl. Parents will also love listening to the live music outside (perfect for drowning out a tantrumming toddler) while your tasting flight is poured right at your table. Forgot food? No problem: Zaca Mesa’s tasting room offers salamis, pecans, baguettes and cheeses for purchase (which pairs well with a nice bottle of their Grenache).
Tasting Notes: Open daily from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Zaca Mesa offers two wine flights to choose from in their tasting room. The Mixed Flight is $15 for 6 wines and the Reserved Red Flight is $25 for 6 wines. No reservations necessary and they also allow friendly dogs on leashes to hang out patio-side.
6905 Foxen Canyon Rd.
photo: Gabriela G. via Yelp
This family run winery is a bit off the beaten path, but since it’s touted by many as having some of the best pinot noir around, we feel this one is worth the trip. Melville’s spacious grounds are quite inviting and kids are welcome to picnic/explore the outside offerings. Tastings are only poured inside the insanely gorgeous Tuscan-style tasting room building but can be brought outside to enjoy with the rest of the family. With quality vino and views like these, Melville is certainly a great stop for you and your pint-size picnickers along the Santa Ynez grapevine.
Tasting Notes: Open Sunday–Thursday from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. and Friday & Saturday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Tasting flights are $15 for 5 wines (mix of white and red).
5185 East Hwy 246
photo: Beckmen Vineyards
The well maintained, wide-open lawn at this beautiful vineyard will have you and your young ones feeling like they have stepped into the pages of The Secret Garden. Kids will adore the two active ponds on the grounds where they can search for fish, frogs and tadpoles. You will love the cozy outdoor gazebos overlooking the vineyards where you can drink your tasting flights while keeping a close eye on your mini vintners. These gazebos are complimentary but are by reservation only so make sure to put in your request ahead of time. Feed the family with food from outside or take advantage of “taco cart Saturdays” for even more delicious options (and often, live music served along-side your tacos). With the strong wines produced by this vineyard coupled with the ease of having your kids along for the ride, you will be singing “Que Syrah, Syrah” all night long…
Tasting Notes: Open daily from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Tasting flights are 6 wines for $20. Beckmen also happily welcomes leashed dogs; as the owners tell us: “We are dog friendly as long as the dogs are friendly.”
2670 Ontiveros Rd.
photo: Tercero Wines
The Tasting Room Touch
This tasting room may be small, but what it lacks in size it definitely makes up for in amazing family-friendly vibes. Owner Larry Schaffer, father himself, is a firm believer in personal attention, which is reflected in how he welcomes anyone and everyone into his downtown Los Olivos space. Kids are welcome to take full advantage of their sidewalk chalk which can be used either on the inside chalk board wall or on the sidewalk out front. The fine folks at Tercero also might just be inclined to turn their interior TV sets to Netflix Kids for your little adventurer’s viewing pleasure while you take full advantage of their delicious pours (they often have special wines available fresh from their local vineyards). Location is everything here, so if your vineyard-hopping brood are weary after a round of Tercero tastings, take them across the street to Stafford’s Famous Chocolates for an instant mood-boost.
Tasting Notes: Open daily from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Tasting flights include 5 or 6 wines for $15 and tasting fees are fully refunded with a purchase (win/win!). While Tercero is both dog and kid friendly, due to its small size, they do not recommend having both dogs and children in there at the same time.
2445 Alamo Pintado Ave.
photo: Sona K. via Yelp
Boasting one of the best selection of certified organic wines in the Santa Ynez Valley, this adorable tasting room is a perfect oasis-like alternative to a vineyard visit. Their enormous outdoor garden space features large picnic tables shaded by beautiful trees, a bocce ball court (a favorite with young game enthusiasts), fountains, bean bag toss games and winding pathways perfect for curious tots to inspect. Food trucks from their also-owned First & Oak restaurant in Solvang occasionally make an appearance here or bring snacks for your wee ones to enjoy on the patio (while you enjoy a few tastes of your own poured table-side). This hidden gem is also super dog friendly so be sure to bring your furry family member along as well.
Tasting Notes: Open Sunday–Thursday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. and Friday & Saturday from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Winemakers flights are $15 for 6 wines (3 whites, 3 reds) and their Reserve flights (weekends only) are $20 for 5 wines (1 white and 4 reds).
2884 Grand Ave.
photo: David G. via Yelp
And the award for “Most Philanthropic Family-Friendly Tasting Room” goes to…Carivintas! The winemakers at this whimsical kid/dog-centered spot donate a portion of their profits to nonprofit animal shelters and support groups around the country. Their raison-d’etre has always been to give back to the community while doing what they love (and they really put a lot of love in their wines). Located in downtown Solvang (convenient walking distance from many nearby hotels), kids have their very own play area inside of this tasting room complete with Legos, puzzles and other small toys to keep them occupied. While they are otherwise entertained, parents can relax with a tasting flight (or a bottle for that matter) knowing it’s money very kindly spent.
Tasting Notes: Open Monday–Thursday from noon–7 p.m. and Friday–Sunday from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Tasting flights are $15 for 6 wines (white/red mix).
476 First St.
photo: Royal Copenhagen Inn via Facebook
If you’d rather turn your family day trip into an extended-stay trip, be sure to make advance reservations at any of these parent/kid-approved overnight accommodations in the adorable Dutch town of Solvang (which has wonderfully convenient proximity to all above-mentioned wineries/tasting rooms).
Royal Copenhagen Inn
Kids Will Love: Large outdoor heated courtyard pool, secret garden outdoor grassy space and the breakfast pancake machine.
Parents Will Love: Complimentary breakfast, BBQ area, dog-friendly policies and spacious rooms.
1579 Mission Dr.
Kids Will Love: Large indoor heated pool and flat-screened HD in-room televisions with DVD players.
Parents Will Love: Complimentary breakfast in attached restaurant, insanely comfortable beds and the Haven Day Spa located inside hotel.
1450 Mission Dr.
Kids Will Love: Outdoor heated pool & jacuzzi plus Cable TV & HBO.
Parents Will Love: No frills expense (best “bang for your buck” lodging!), complimentary continental breakfast and central location.
1711 Mission Dr.
Got a local wine country fave that welcomes your wee ones? Let us know in the comment section!