Does a Family-Friendly Tasting Room Fit Your Winery?

The picturesque town of Middleburg, Virginia is anchored by an opulent, stately resort — the Salamander Resort & Spa — that is situated within a stone’s throw of several boutique estate wineries.

Three wineries — Greenhill Vineyards, Boxwood Estate Winery and Cana Vineyards — are located close enough to the resort and each other that guests can get a free ride from resort staff and see what each one is about.

The resort pool and dining room are definitely populated by families, and you can find kids playing giant chess on the resort lawn in the afternoons. In order to visit all three wineries, however, one must be at least 21. 

While Cana is family and dog friendly, Greenhill and Boxwood require all who attend to be of legal drinking age.

Each winery that spoke to Modern Winemaker said it took price point, desired atmosphere and general philosophy into account when setting its age limit policy.

Having different approaches and atmospheres — especially when you’re part of a wine trail — can definitely be a plus, Boxwood Estate Winery VIce President Sean Martin said, noting that things did not need to be one-size-fits-all.

“We’re all in the family, everyone is making good wine, and we’re all a little different,” Martin said. “Which is nice.”

Boxwood’s tasting room is industrial and clean with a tasting bar just inside the front door and a wine cave tasting option that’s visible through a glass window. The production room, bottling line and lab are all visible to visitors in the urban winery-like setting, which contrasts with the acres of vines on the rolling hills that surround it.

The museum-like atmosphere is interesting for oenophiles, but not a space that’s geared toward people under 21, Martin said. 

“We don’t allow kids, we don’t allow dogs,” Martin said. “It’s not a safe place for kids. We don’t allow outside food, either. We’re focused on people who are serious about wine.

“We do get a lot of young Washingtonians who are about 28 and up who will come here all the time.”

Large groups and corporate events that are good revenue sources are welcome, as well as birthday parties, anniversaries and bachelorette parties are also welcome. While one might argue that large groups might prove as unwieldy in tight spaces as families and children, Martin said the price point helped keep things in check.

“There aren’t a lot of 20-year-olds who would want to come here and pay $50 for a bottle of wine,” Martin said. “We’re for someone who wants a high-end experience.”

Jenny Travers, Assistant General Manager at Greenhill Vineyards, said that if a winery was confident in its product and has determined it wants an adults-only atmosphere, it should not feel compelled to appease the public nor worry about negative feedback about their policy.

No exceptions, Travers said. If you show up with children, they will ask you to leave.

“When you look at our reviews, none of them say we have crappy wine,” she said. “They say they don’t like our policies. And that’s OK. You don’t have to like our policy.

“I don’t like driving 55 mph, but I still have to drive that speed when it’s the speed limit. The policy is there for a reason and it doesn’t need an explanation. It is what it is.”

Resort-goers have one option within a 5-minute drive of their accommodations that families are welcome at — Cana — which Winemaker and VIneyard Manager Melanie Natoli acknowledged gets some resort traffic, though most customers are locals, wine club members and people driving around the state supporting Virginia wine.

Dogs are welcome, with water bowls present for pups, and the large outdoor shaded pavilion provides ample space for parents and grandparents with young children who want to enjoy a glass 

Natoli said she wanted to make sure wine was approachable, and said Cana kept that in mind when setting its price points and determining what its atmosphere would look like.

“Wine is food,” Natoli said. “I made a bottle last year that won the Governor’s Cup that I charged a lot more for, but I’m also excited about the accessible wines I make that you can drink every day. Accessibility is important for bringing in a new audience. You don’t want someone saying ‘Oh, I don’t know much about wine, maybe I shouldn’t be here.’ No. Come in. Sit. Let’s talk.”

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