October 26th, 2020

Tiny Travels: Tots in tow? Wine tasting with kids becoming a thing at vineyards around McMinnville

The Tiny Traveling Tots explore wine country.

The wines at Knudsen Vineyards were divine, the views resplendent with the bright light and rich colors of a late splash of Oregon Autumn, the guidance through our flight of estate Pinot noir convivial and charming. I can tell you these things even though my husband and I were joined at a table with two boys, eight and ten. 

They were ours.

Yes, I’ve dragged my kids along while wine tasting before, but never with as much success as our recent visit to Knudsen, which only opened its tasting room in July and which just launched its brand new Kids’ Tasting Challenge. 

For great wineries for families, there has always been Stoller, where the wide lawn beckons and the distant glint of a frisbee golf goal post is enough to give a parent a little peace on a good day. I find that Brooks Winery often goes the distance to accommodate small people you know. I’ve even been known to take kids to Winter’s Hill to taste and walk the on-site nature trail. 

Yes, wineries in and around McMinnville are beginning to engage children in the experience of tasting and the winner in this game is everyone. 

Knudsen, a longtime family grower of grapes (and supplier to Argyle’s and Erath’s award-winners) has only in the last decade returned to its roots as a self-named wine producer. Under the auspice of the four Knudsen siblings and winemaker Nate Klosterman, Knudsen has jumped to the top tier of Oregon producers.

The winery is a family affair and the kids’ challenge works like this: You choose your flights ($25 or $35 for library and estate flights) and the kids get a tasting trio of orange, grape and apple juice, along with a snack pack of cheese, crackers, nuts and dried fruit for $10 each. 

Challenge accepted!


  • The winery’s 2014 Pinot Noir has all of the hallmarks of a great Red Hills product — fruit-forward with hints of dark cherry and a bit of spice. The 2015 Reserve was also a standout, with floral notes atop stone fruits, forest floor and nutmeg. I remember them well since I got to concentrate while tasting. 


  • I can only recall the little fun fact my server shared with me about how the image on the Oregon wine country license plate is actually a stylized view of Knudsen Vineyards because my children were happily coloring and filling out crosswords and word jumbles about vineyard life.


  • Being tucked into the back of the Red Hills with nothing but vineyards and old oak groves in view did enough to sooth my distance-learning heart that I entered the week with new verve, because my children were happy and left me alone for a moment. 


  • We noshed on the Charcuterie Board of salumi, olives, dried local apricots, and hazelnuts ($35) while the kids each got their own snack pack box ($10). If you’ve been distance learning with kids of late, you might know that kids require an average of 10lb. of snacks per day per kid or they crumple into a wad on the floor. Mine loved the snack packs, and the elder one, who is clearly externally motivated, appreciated the sticker awarded when he met the challenge.


Friends, we have spent a lot of time together these last months. Feelings are fleeting and a little bit of distance can assuage even the most housebound souls. For a moment, there at the vineyard, everything else fell away. It was just the four of us, happily tasting and eating, a stray oak leaf falling here and there, the din of laughter on the patio.  

If you go:

Do call ahead and let your hosts know that you will be bringing children with you. The staff at Knudsen is happy to accommodate them. 

Family-friendly hotels in and around McMinnville

Best Western McMinnville

A full breakfast and indoor pool are your new friends at this great place for the whole crew. 

Atticus Hotel

The bunk room is your best bet if you’re staying at the uber-swanky Atticus, so you can make it a sleepover but still have space for the fam.

Comfort Inn and Suites McMinnville

Great access to the Evergreen Museum and affordable options (including larger suites) will make families happy here.

McMinnville Inn

Clean, comfortable and no-nonsense are the hallmarks of this budget-friendly motel.

Emily Grosvenor is the voice behind Tiny Travels, the Editor of Oregon Home magazine, and chief storyteller for #mcminnvilledentist.