Education,Napa,Sonoma County,Wine,Wine Country,Wine Education

Children in wine country… get over it

Children in wine country? Yeah… get over it, those of you who don’t think that children should be here.

I was just reminded of this, last weekend at the Bacigalupi 50th Anniversary celebration of the Judgment of Paris decision… Bacigalupi’s grapes were a portion of the Number One chosen wine from Chateau Montelena… Yeah, Sonoma ruled and Napa got the credit. (Easier for the French to say “Napa,” n’est ce pas?)

[Image of Senay Ryan and her two children, while David Ryan was exploring food and wine offerings.]

FROM Rusty Gaffney: In 1973, Mike Grgich of Chateau Montelena came to the Bacigalupi’s house and asked to buy some Chardonnay. He made 1,800 cases of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay using 20 tons of grapes from Henry Dick in the Alexander Valley, 14 tons from the Bacigalupi’s, and the remaining 5 tons from Napa Valley growers John Hanna and Lee Paschich. The original weight tag from 1973 is displayed in the Bacigalupi’s tasting room.

So, anyway….

As I was walking around the grounds during their next back-to-back event that day, the Third Annual Vineyard Designate Tasting, immediately following their ceremony, I spied a lovely woman, sitting at a table with her two adorable kids, who were also very interesting and articulate, I might add. She waved, and I took their picture. Very friendly, I thought, so I struck up a conversation. I immediately knew she was really from away. It turned out that she’s from London. I had to ask, “What do you think of our food?” I know that it’s awful… GMO, pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, I eat organic, so I know the difference when I don’t. I also know the bloating when I’m eating gluten products. We’re a nation of bad eaters. I also know that Europe hasn’t followed in our footsteps. It’s not necessary to label foods as “organic” over there, unless they want to. They just don’t engage in our food crap regimes.

Her answer… “It’s horrible.” Yeah, I wasn’t surprised, so we had common ground. We also talked about a lot of other cultural differences. One especially… Her two kids were the only children at this event. I told her that it’s a crime that most Americans haven’t figured out that if children aren’t put into the culture, they’re not going to understand it.

This is coming from a former Girl Scout Day Camp director. For years I managed 200 kids for two weeks, with a staff of 50. I know that anything is possible with children, we just have to “care.”

Wine needn’t be taboo

Back to my Robert Mondavi Winery days on this one, because I gathered the best stories while working there.

This day delivered a tour with four overly rambunctious boys, Rumble, Tumble, Fumble, and Bumble, I dare say.

There were decidedly not happy about being in wine country with their parents; and frankly, if I were a 10-year old boy, I’d be jumping all over my buddies, too, instead of looking at an expertly positioned trellising system with stressed vines.

I began, not with my usual spcheel, but instead with….

“Well, what have we here? Four young men who are pretty awesome to let their parents do something other than Disneyland! Please help me, Ladies and Gentlemen, to welcome these wonderful young boys!”

I started applauding, encouraging with body language that everyone else join me… In others words, “Get your eyeballs back into your heads, please, or we’re all gonna wish we had stayed home today.” (Everyone’s eyeballs had shifted up and to the back of their eye sockets as they watched these kids, realizing they were all about to share the winery tour from hell.)

As an adult tour guide for adult subject matter, I had to do some really fast gear shifting. I reached way back into myself and returned as a former director of Androscoggin Girl Scout Day Camp, completely leaving the adults behind… for a few minutes, at least.

“Thank you, Young Men, I know how hard this is. There’s nothing here for you, and this is about to be so boring. But I have to thank you all for being on your absolute best behavior, giving this special day to your parents, who have given so much to you all of your lives.”

“Aren’t they wonderful, Ladies and Gentlemen? Please help me in thanking these adorable young men for being so selfless and generous to their parents!”

Lot’s of applause… and we hadn’t even started yet.

As we went form one place to the next, before I’d begin to talk about whatever segment of winemaking we were covering, I’d start with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please help me again to thank these young men. Haven’t they just been the best kids you’ve ever met?”

Lots of applause, winking, and smiles.

Ah… we dodged the bullet!

When the adults were enjoying their wine tasting, I ran to the back room, got non-alcoholic grape juice, brought it out for Rumble, Tumble, Fumble, and Bumble, who had now collectively become Humble, and it was drinks all around.

At the end of the tour, when everyone had left, the parents and boys remained. One of the mothers said, “My sons and I want to thank you. They told me that this was the most fun they had had in a long time, and they learned some things, too!”

It’s amazing what a little spotlight can do…

6 Responses to “Children in wine country… get over it”

  1. TJ says:

    “Her answer… “It’s horrible.” Yeah, I wasn’t surprised, so we had common ground.”

    Food in America is not horrible. It can be anywhere — including America, but a woman from London who is enjoying the food of Napa & Sonoma should know better.

    Furthermore, not sure why you would pander to that sensibility.

    I can eat PLENTY of crap in Italy, France and certainly England. I know this to be true because I’ve been to all of them, on many occasions. When in Italy, I asked an Italian friend “where is the worst pizza you’ve eaten on any of your world travels?” Answer was Rome…

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Pizza… Yeah, there’s a perfect food… It contains all of the food groups…

    I “pander” to it, because I grew up in the US; and being in my 60s, I’ve eaten a lot of food… Nothing (unless it’s organic) even comes close to what my grandparents fed me… nothing. Had any GMO foods lately? Yeah, by 80 percent our food is contaminated. It took me $10,000 of my own money one year to try to figure out what was going wrong with two of my children… in and out of emergency rooms, exploratory exams… nothing came up. Today, it’s called celiac disease, brought on by GMO foods, inflammation of the gut. NO ONE… I mean NO ONE in my family EVER HAD FOOD ALLERGIES… Modern food in the US is crap. Even the WORST of foods in Europe are better than the crap our FDA has approved and what food manufactures are dishing up for us. When in Europe, I also met people who told me that the worst food they had ever eaten was in the US. So, good on your for being okay with the crap we have in supermarkets. That means you’re allowing me more food options when I go to the organic section…

  3. Steve Howe says:

    An increasing number of wineries have began catering to children and providing activities to keep the kids busy while mom and dad enjoy a glass of wine. Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville stands out, but there are others.

    At Coppola children can swim, read inside an Indian teepee, play board games or bocce, and tour a movie museum. Larson Family has a petting zoo. Bianchi Vineyards in Paso Robles has remote control boats. And the list continues….

  4. TJ says:


    I think you’re missing the point. This woman from London is enjoying top shelf food (and wine) whilst visiting Bacigalupi. It’s a bit rich to condemn from there. Now if you met the same woman and her children at Burger King in Santa Rosa and asked the same question — then it wouldn’t be so precious…

    I agree that GMOs and the “food industry” is crap, complete crap, but you seem to condemn ALL food in america which is unfair. We attend the Marin farmers market every Sunday and buy most of our food there. Why would you suggest all their hard work and the endless number of conscientious restaurateurs and producers is “crap”? You’re painting with a very wide brush.

    BTW. I have an issue with people from wine country preaching about GMO’s etc when we all know that the pesticide load up there is not healthy. My understanding of Bacigalupi is that they are sustainable but not organic. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that means they use pesticides in the vineyards, which ends up in the wine and ALSO means that said woman from London (with children in tow) lamenting about American food, was what? I don’t have the words to ask or describe this situation. Maybe the word is hypocrisy ?

  5. Jo Diaz says:

    She, her husband, and her children have been in the US for the last two years. perhaps i should have said that as clarification. Her kids are going to school here;t hey know the crap that’s being served to our children, like pizzas have all of the four food groups in them… Maybe, but at what healthy percent would that be, versus giving the kids a salad, a piece of protein, a piece of raw fruit (for dessert), some small amount of carbohydrate. Their carbo leads the parade, greasy cheese covers it, and their protein is pepperoni. I eat organic foods, because my standards are high for having foods that aren’t bombarded with herbicides, pesticides, and artificial fertilizers.

    Not hypocrisy from either of us…

    The difference between sustainable and organic at this point in time is that organic farmers jump through all of the hoops set up by the FDA, to discourage “organic,” while organic farmers don’t take those measures, instead will use cover crops and only spray if their vineyards experienced a rain just before harvest and they have to ward off bunch rot or powdery mildew.

    I just met with and interviewed Jim Pratt (a consultant for sustainable practices). He told me that there are chemicals that have a very short life that are used in these instances, leaving no residue. Do I like this? Nope. Can I do anything about it? Yes, I can buy organic. Do I enjoy only organic wines? No. Am I a hypocrite (or is she)? No… We were having a conversation about America’s food supply, and we both know it sucks.

    From one of my Facebook friends, who proves my point perfectly.

    And, I’m not going to use her name, because I haven’t asked her permission… but I can if you’d like (privately). She wrote:

    PA: “I lived in Europe, 3 different countries, for 3 years – + lots of summers backpacking around the continent and England with a Eurailpass and 3 weeks at Passover in Israel. The food was real. Nearly everyday I took my beloved basket and went to buy fresh groceries, fresh produce. In Vienna there was an outdoor market like a Farmer’s Market but in the form of quaint, old, tiny buildings in a circle. One sold chickens. Another carried only eggs. Another beef, maybe lamb in season. Another milk, butter, and yogurt. Another sold vegetables. Another shack had fish. Another had breads and rolls. I brought home very fresh food, much of it locally grown, and bought what I could consume in the next day or two. Closer to me, around the corner was a “corner store” with bottled water, soft drinks, milk, aspirin, tabloids, the usual. A little further was a fabulous bakery with lovely Viennese pastries. Downtown there were stores where I could buy real, fine wine. It was a nice way to live. I don’t think most Americans have any idea how far removed what they eat is from real food…”

  6. TJ says:


    I’m not arguing, that on average, the European food scene is superior. That said, as I’ve mentioned, I have been there many times (Vinexpo as an example) I’ve been all over St Emillion, Bordeaux, Paris etc etc. Then there is Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, England and even lived 1.5 years in the Middle East. I’ve been a few places and seen a few things. I also know the American food scene very well. Your Facebook friend obviously had an idyllic experience. But read carefully. What did she really know about what she was eating and drinking? She seemed to be describing a postcard and translating that into superior ingredients. They aren’t the same. Sorry. When you have a magical experience in St Emillion that mirrors your friends experience, yet you KNOW whats being used to provide your food and drink — reality is a bitch. Trust me. It’s beautiful (like Sonoma & Napa) but there is so much artificial chemicals involved your head spins.

    We all know there is plenty of good wine made with organic grapes — which are not labeled organic because of the stigma of terrible organic wines. But I think the days of conventionally grown grapes made into wine are short lived. As a PR / Marketing pro, you surely understand “headline risk” and the scientific realizations that the pesticides (short lived long lived who cares) are ending up in the bottle. The wine biz does not need the MAINSTREAM media headline that says “Is Wine full of pesticides?” We already know the trades discuss this often.

    Being an investor. There is no (as in zero) chance that I would invest a single penny in conventional grown wine now. No negociants, special projects, vineyards, wineries or brands. The headline risk profile is much too dangerous to investor capital right now. Simply put. The wine industry MUST clean up its act — and do it right now.

    Anyhow, we are engaging in “point creep” whereby the original message is lost. Sorry, but I will disagree with your point that ALL American food is crap. Thats simply not true and unfair to everyone committed to proving otherwise. I also think its important to not confuse vacation euphoria with reality. Regarding Pizza. I’m sorry you don’t hold an Italian nationals opinion of pizza above your own. Pizza is important to Italians — especially in Italy.

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