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Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard Photos

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard Review

Regions: Santa Barbara County, Santa Ynez Valley AVA, California

Reviewed: February 26, 2013 by
Published: March 3, 2013

Situated among the rolling hills of Santa Maria Valley, I walk in to the enormous wood-and-stone building prepared with a sense of adventure and the melody of an old tune I used to love as a kid playing in my head, "Davy... Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier." Yes, I'm about to taste the wines of Fess Parker Family Winery and Vineyards. Parker, the man best known to millions for his portrayals of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on TV, spent the latter part of his life building and running a successful winery a short drive north of Los Olivos, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles off the 101.

The subtle Parker-themed kitsch aside, this is a serious winery with a reputation for making some of the best wine in the Central Coast, and maybe in the entirety of California. Add in gorgeous grounds to picnic or watch your kids or dogs play, 90 minute horseback tours (by Vino Vaqueros, if you are so inclined), and the Parker house - you've got maybe the most comfortable wine experience in the area. Your Fess Parker glasses are complimentary, as well, which means you are free to walk around and take in the full spectrum of the big American outdoor setting.

The winery has produced some award-winners, but I haven't tasted any before today and I'm trying to decide whether or not to do my tasting in a coonskin cap (tastefully available for purchase in the small gift store). To approach the massive structure, I was forced to walk along the beautifully manicured lawn, taking in the fresh air and perfect weather... it was a tough assignment already.

The big wooden doors open into the gift shop, facing the first of three tasting bars. The room is big, wooden beamed, with signed photos of Parker on the walls. I'm pulled toward the bar to settle into a spot among a busy Tuesday afternoon lineup. The bar faces big windows that lead out onto the porch and lawn, bathing us in the warm sunshine and filling the room with refreshing light.

I was greeted by the genuine smile of one of the tasting room managers, handed a smart tasting notes card, and treated like a welcome guest. The notes tell me I'm about to taste a lot of wines that are rated 89-93 by various experts and retail from $22-50 per bottle. Already I feel positively about the entire experience and I haven't even seen a splash of wine in my glass.

It would be easy to feel set up for disappointment with all of the extras and attention to detail - are they distractions or luxuries? But clearly the wines were made with even more care than the grounds.

The $12 includes 6 tastes, starting with a Chardonnay.

The 2010 Chardonnay from Sierra Madre led off with a golden approach, honeyed apple tart nose, and vanilla pastry on the palate. This Chardonnay is as good as any I've tasted along the Central Coast. The melon and citrus of the grape and terroir shows cleanly, with added texture from the 10 months in oak. Are they leading with their best? I wonder.

The 2009 Viognier from Santa Barbara County was next up, and my favorite Viognier from my tour through the coast (though there's still so much more to taste). The typical orange blossom and lychee are there, but I start to get some of the floral honeysuckle and more lactic notes like vanilla creme... something else is going on. Then I read it's a blend of 80% Viognier, 13% Marsanne, 5% Grenache Blanc, and 2% Roussane. Add the 10 months in older barrels and the balanced, charismatic profile makes total sense. These guys are more than a one-trick pony. I think to myself.

Next up are their two Pinot Noirs, the 09 Santa Barbara County, and the 09 "Ashley's" from Sta. Rita Hills (named for Ashley Parker, daughter of Fess). The first is good, but The Ashley is better. When a Pinot Noir is good, it can do what great art does and stop time for a few heartbeats... maybe shake your reality for a blink. The Ashley is fine American Pinot Noir. Great acid, black tea spices on the finish, fresh fruit right up front to make sure you're happy from the beginning. This could spend more time in a bottle and only get better. Now my expectations are raised, I'll be ready for the next two wines, I mistakenly thought.

I received my ounce of 2010 Santa Barbara County Syrah, and I immediately got a craving for prosciutto. The boldness of the nuts and spices on the nose got me ready for something different than the other Syrahs I'd been tasting. The palate started with a nice plum, then moved quickly to the oak-imparted notes of vanilla and toast, then settled with pepper and spice to give that Rhone/Hermitage-type power. I think this was also my favorite Syrah from the trip. How much is the wine club again?

We finished with The Big Easy (2009). This Syrah, Petite Syrah, Grenache blend showed espresso, dark walnut wood (think walk-in humidor), and leather. It was like they bottled the essence of a world class manly man - wait, I'm at Fess Parker's winery.

Had I the time, I would have roamed the grounds with the Pinot or Chardonnay in hand, soaking in sunlight and attempting to live forever in the space of an afternoon hour. If you have the time, please do this for me.

Anchoring the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, Fess Parker vineyards are set along the most scenic drive between Los Olivos and Santa Maria. If you like Napa for the scenery and escape, you'll love this canyon. In one day you can do tastings at Fess Parker, Firestone, Zaca Mesa, Foxen, Rancho Sisquoc, and others - all with their own unique (impressive) styles. I'm already planning a trip back for "OctoberFess" to see this canyon in its full glory - and maybe to join the special event-heavy wine club.

When you visit the Central Coast, plan to hear a lot of reference to the film Sideways. It's fun to see the setting of key scenes like the infamous one at "Fass Canyon." Stay and eat in Solvang or Los Olivos (maybe at the Fess Parker Inn) - both quaint little old towns with a few inns, tasting rooms, shops, and restaurants in walking distance from each other; and spend a good couple of days driving slowly through Foxen Canyon.

The only thing I would add is a menu for food (there's not much nearby to grab, and I would have enjoyed even a small bite while sitting on the porch). I understand there is food at most events, however, so keep an eye on their calendar for those special occasions.

Address & Contact Information: 6200 Foxen Canyon Rd. Los Olivos, California 93441. Telephone: 805-688-1545, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 10:00-5:00.

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