Walsh Family Wine’s Kristi Delovitch in the vineyard with her three sons: Willima, Henry, and Maddox / Photo by Sarah Walsh
Before the pandemic, Kristi Devlin Delovitch, a Washington, D.C.-based director of sales for the wine importer and distributor Winebow, kept her home and professional lives rigidly separate. Often away on business, she’d excitedly schmooze with winemakers and wine bar owners. But once back at home with her husband and three kids—aged five, 12 and 15—wine talk was kept to a minimum.
“Now it’s all meshed together,” says Delovitch of life after March 2020. While the pandemic lifestyle shift was challenging in the same ways it has been for so many parents, it also revealed an unexpected silver lining. Raising her kids around wine is beautiful, she says. The realization came after one evening of filming her Facebook livestream, It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere, during which she interviews wine professionals from around the globe.
“When we finished, the kids would just hop on my lap or sit down next to me, and just chat with the winemakers and the owners,” says Delovitch.
Her husband, Ross Delovitch, agrees. “It’s brought Italy, it’s brought France—people from those countries and their culture into our house,” he says. “It’s allowed us as a family to see the world and to experience it from the comfort of our own home.”
The Delovitches aren’t alone in this sentiment. They join other wine industry parents who believe that raising kids around wine can be not only enriching and world-expanding, but also, when deployed wisely, potentially protective against alcohol’s more dangerous qualities. It’s an ethos starkly at odds with the prevailing mainstream American narrative that children should remain shielded from alcohol until they’re of legal drinking age.
Jeremy Parzen at the Universitia di Scienza Gastronomiche, Italy / Photo by Marcello Marengo
“We don’t make wine a taboo subject,” says Jeremy Parzen, a Houston, Texas-based wine writer and educator. Every evening, Parzen and his wife drink a glass or two of wine, he says, and they never conceal their consumption from their daughters, aged eight and 10. “We talk about how wine is a type of food, how it aids digestion, and how it can be a healthy part of your diet,” says Parzen. “I believe that they will have healthier attitudes about wine as a result.”
Shelby Hearn Ulrich, general manager for Suhru Wines in Cutchogue, New York, believes that her own exposure to wine at an early age encouraged her to develop self-control around alcohol, rather than encouraging excess. She credits her early wine education to her father, Russell Hearn, a career vintner who served as the original winemaker for Long Island’s Pellegrini Vineyards from the early 1990s until 2012. Hearn went on to found Suhru Wines with wife Susan in 2008.
“My parents enjoy wine with a meal but are not big drinkers, so I never saw them drunk or drinking as a stress relief or in a negative context,” says Ulrich. “Wine was always a beverage to complement a meal or to enjoy with friends and to celebrate special occasions. I think this attitude toward alcohol has served me well in life and in the long-term, although you could say it also made me a little boring in college.” Now married and contemplating starting a family, Ulrich says she hopes to replicate this experience with her own children.
An appreciation for wine beyond its inebriating qualities is key for many parents who’ve chosen to raise their children around wine. Austin Johnson, a manager of sales and events for Dakota Shy Wine in Napa, California, says that she and husband Erik, the estate director at Patrimony Estate in Paso Robles and the former head sommelier at The French Laundry, run informal training sessions at dinnertime with their daughters, aged four and five.