Travel & Day Trips

Wine Country’s Last Truly Family-Friendly Winery

When I first moved to the Bay Area over 10 years ago, Napa and Sonoma were pretty chill places. You could go up there with your kids, and maybe your dog, and hang out in the tasting room for hours.

Tastings were cheap, especially in Sonoma, California. Things were often family-run and very relaxed. Fast forward 10 years, and much of wine country has gotten very serious and haughty.

I was recently asked to leave a winery in Sonoma because my kids were running around. They weren’t even making noise, just running in circles. Sadly, many wineries purport to be family-friendly, but in practice, they don’t want kids there.

Larson Family Winery: A Welcoming Experience

One winery is different, though: the Larson Family Winery, which is just outside of downtown Sonoma, California. It not only allows kids and dogs but practically requires them.

Larson had a devastating fire in its tasting room during the pandemic, but that hasn’t held it back. I recently visited and the winery has leaned into its outdoor seating areas, which are beautiful and have nice views.

There are comfy couches you can reserve, perfect for little kids, as well as cornhole games in the winery fields and other things to keep them occupied while you taste the wines. The winery also has several dogs on staff. If you don’t bring your own dog, which they would love you to do, you essentially get a winery dog assigned to you. Your kids will love that too.

Larson offers a variety of casual and approachable wines. When I visited, they served several of their excellent cabernets as well as a delicious Chardonnay. My kids could run around, play, and most importantly, be kids. The staff member who helped us seemed genuinely happy to have a family there.

That’s probably because, as the name suggests, the Larson Family Winery is owned by a family. They’ve kept things fun and accessible. They even have a funny motto: “We drink what we can, and then sell the rest” when it comes to their wines.

Affordable and Accessible

Another nice feature of Larson Family Winery is its affordability. Their wines and tastings are reasonably priced. The food is even more reasonable. I paired a wheel of Mount Tam with my tasting. This fancy cheese sells for about $18 per wheel at Whole Foods, but Larson only charges $20.

There’s almost no markup on their food, unlike many Napa wineries that would easily charge $50 for a wheel. Another unique feature of their food menu is its inclusivity. They offer plenty of kid-friendly options.

You can have a classy plate of cheese and charcuterie with your wine while your kids get apple juice and goldfish, which are also on their food menu.

A Breath of Fresh Air in Wine Country

It’s refreshing to see a winery distinguish itself not by its haughtiness but by how welcoming it is to a wide array of people who are there to have fun and enjoy the beautiful spot and the tasty wines.

I felt totally welcome at Larson with my family, which is more than I can say for most wineries in Napa and Sonoma. Even more so than in Livermore, where I recently visited a winery that had banned kids on many days.

I joined the Larson wine club, which is a great deal, and will definitely be back again. I hope that in time, the trend towards family-unfriendly wineries reverses. In the meantime, I’ll be going to Larson more and more.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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