by Anna Levy
An afternoon spent meandering along the winding roads of Anderson Valley is certainly a joy for adults in the summer. The region, known for its small-town feel, beautiful vistas, and beloved wineries, is often celebrated for its Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer varietals. Yet increasingly, places along Highway 128—including wineries—are looking for ways to appeal to a broader set, such as those who travel with children, the designated drivers, and people who simply prefer not to drink alcohol.
Towards the western end of Anderson Valley, Husch—with the oldest tasting room in the valley, housed in a small wooden cabin framed by bright roses and a wide back deck—offers a non-alcoholic grape juice if you're seeking something sweet and light. Along with the rest of their choices, the tasting of the 2017 Gewürztraminer Juice is complimentary. The juice is delicious on its own but also provides a strong foundation for a mocktail at home. Metah Green, the Tasting Room Manager, suggests mixing it with iced tea for a standout version of an Arnold Palmer.
Husch makes sure that children feel welcome in other ways. There’s a self-guided walk around the vineyards that highlights both the grapes used for the juice and the Owl Box, which welcomes varmint-catchers to the neighborhood. Picnic tables outside and a small desk inside offer young people a place to relax, and there’s even a small coloring book—created by third-generation owner Amanda Robinson Holstine—and crayons for some of the youngest visitors.
Up the road a bit, Navarro Vineyards has long embraced the non-alcoholic scene, offering Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir juices, the latter resplendent in its deep rose hue, along with Verjus, a green juice made from either varietal. Again, tastings are complimentary, as are tastings for all of Navarro’s lineup. There are tours of the vineyard and winery twice each day, and it is a simple joy to buy a bottle, along with snacks from the case in the tasting room, to have an impromptu picnic at the tables outside. Well-behaved dogs are welcome to join, and the large blue blocks on the patio are a draw for kids, making this an easy outing for the entire family.
Navarro’s sister winery, Pennyroyal Farm, also makes sure children and other non-imbibers are not left out. There are regular tours of the farm available—at certain times of year, the baby goats are a particular draw. At the tasting bar, Navarro’s grape juices are offered alongside Pennyroyal’s own wines, and food options include cheese pairings, meats, olives, and seasonal delights.
Pennyroyal is also looking at new ways to tailor activities to children, and it’s worth keeping an eye out—or calling the tasting room directly—to find out which upcoming events are open to younger folks. In the spring, the farm hosts Good Farm Day, traditionally held on Good Friday. Past highlights included a bouncy house, wagon rides, and popsicles made from that distinctive, delicious grape juice.
Toulouse Vineyards, tucked away on a hill on the northern side of 128, offers gorgeous views from its patio and also welcomes families. In addition to a refrigerator full of snacks, visitors can bring their own food to make a picnic on the property. Anyone skipping the wine is offered local, organic apple juice from Anderson Valley’s Apple Farm.
Of course, there are all sorts of stops throughout Anderson Valley that make a summer day one worth remembering. From restaurants to redwoods, ice cream to swimming holes, taking the family out for a day of fun is easy. Stopping by some of the tasting rooms that have, perhaps unexpectedly, tailored their offerings to include the younger set just makes it that much more special for everyone to tour this unique region of Mendocino County.
WHERE TO GO (summer hours):
Husch Vineyards: www.huschvineyards.com
Tasting Room open 10am–6pm
Navarro Vineyards: www.navarrowine.com
Tasting Room open every day from 9am–6pm
Toulouse Vineyards: www.toulousevineyards.com
Tasting Room open every day from 11am–5pm
Pennyroyal Farm: www.pennyroyalfarm.com
Tasting Room open Mon–Thu, 10am–5pm; Fri–Sun, 10am–6pm
Anna Levy writes, cooks, and plans travel of all sorts whenever she can. She lives on the Mendocino Coast with her husband and two dogs.