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More wineries in the Napa Valley and elsewhere throughout California are including family-friendly activities such as juice tasting and play areas.

Wineries innovate to build domestic demand

Family-friendly amenities, Oakland A’s promotions among activities.

Amid lingering trade uncertainties and a changing consumer market, some Northern California wineries are trying to get creative to maintain demand.

Among their efforts is to make their winery grounds more amenable to families traveling with children, holding grape juice tastings, play areas, visits with farm animals and outdoor games, according to a recent report by the San Francisco-based Wine Institute.

As family visits to wineries become more of a trend, the activities keep children happy and engaged while their parents sample the latest vintages, the report notes.

“Most of the California wine industry is predominantly family-owned,” says Gladys Horiuchi, the institute’s director of media relations. “So I think they understand that more and more families are traveling with their kids and so some of them prefer not to just have people 21 and older.

“A lot of them are leaning toward making more kid-friendly experiences for families,” she tells Western Farm Press.

To be certain, some wineries still do not allow guests under age 21 in their tasting rooms, for reasons of liability or preference. The Wine Institute encourages travelers to check ahead with the wineries they’ll be visiting and see if they accommodate children.

Among those that do, here are some of their offerings, according to the institute:

--At Alexander Valley Vineyards in Healdsburg, kids can join in winery and cave tours with their parents and visit the picnic and vineyard areas.

--At Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, tours led by period actors include wine caves and a museum featuring a multimedia show. There’s also a hedge maze.

--Castella di Amorosa in Calistoga offers tours of a massive replica of an Italian castle, complete with a dungeon. Children can see farm animals, sample grape juice and enjoy a play area.

--Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville welcomes families with a large swimming pool, bocce ball court, children’s library and board games.

For a more extensive list of family-friendly venues, visit

Oakland A’s promotions

While many wineries are catering to a more diverse clientele, others are taking their products out to where consumers are, such as Major League Baseball games.

Francis Ford Coppola Winery has begun a four-year partnership with the Oakland Athletics, including the debut of the premium seating Coppola Theater Boxes, winery offerings at various concessions, and the A’s Winefest on May 26.

The special ticketed event coinciding with a game against the Seattle Mariners sought to highlight the rich heritage of wine producers in the San Francisco Bay area, according to an A’s news release.

“What better way to spend the summer than sipping wine and cheering on the A’s?” says Jennifer Leitman, executive vice president of Coppola’s marketing team. “We’re super excited to offer something unique outside the game as well. The integrated collaboration will extend through a themed content series, several promotional elements, and other unexpected offerings for A’s fans that we’ll be announcing throughout the season.”

While pro sports have long been a nearly exclusive domain for beer, that’s changing as newer ballparks and arenas have started featuring wines from local vintners. Across the bay, the San Francisco Giants are offering their own Club Series Collection, which consists of area wines in collectible bottles featuring the Giants’ logo.

The efforts come as changes in consumer attitudes, more competition among drink choices, a sudden global glut of grapes and increases in production costs have cast some clouds over an industry that is used to sunny outlooks.

The U.S. wine market is still growing, but at a lower rate than before, noted Danny Brager, senior vice president of the beverage marketing practice at the Nielsen Co.

“The younger generation is looking for an experience along with their eating or drinking,” Brager said during the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento in January. “And the competitive landscape is much wider than in the past when it was just wine.”

For more news on pests, disease management and other issues affecting vineyards, subscribe to the bi-monthly newsletter The Grape Line.

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