This past weekend, I received the Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint Winery newsletter in my inbox. Although I no longer live in Virginia (at least at the moment), I still like to stay in touch with the local wine scene. Chateau O’Brien has been a favorite winery, and always a regular on the wine trail when visiting Northern Virginia. Not only do I enjoy their wines, but their hospitality is unmatched. My last visit to the winery, Howard O’Brien pointed us to the second tasting station, due to the large, boisterous crowd of twenty somethings. We were kindly greeted by Debbie O’Brien, who went above and beyond while guiding us through a tasting of current offerings.
The newsletter highlighted several new announcements, including the expansion of the second tasting room. In addition to the upcoming events and tastings, I noticed a small section in the newsletter titled “Howard’s Corner”, with the following statement:
Effective, January 1st, access to the winery is limited to guests 21 years of age and older. We are a family owned and operated winery and place tremendous emphasis on family. This decision was made with the truest interest in the safety of children. There are numerous liability issues that influenced this decision. For the sake of the protecting our family owned business and our children’s future, we were driven to make this change. We are regretful, but it would be more regretful to our family if a child were injured. We sincerely appreciate your understanding and support of this change!
I’m not 100% certain, but I believe this is the first winery in Virginia to restrict access to a winery, or at least so publicly. I did notice over at VirginiaWine.org a child friendly icon available under the “Winery Features” section. Perhaps this is a new movement in the wine industry? I have several friends with young children who regularly visit wineries, a.k.a. big spenders and return visitors. Complete opposites of the twenty-something crowd who are increasingly visiting tasting rooms and turning a quiet afternoon at the vineyard into a forgettable visit. I’m curious to see how my fellow readers feel about the decision…