by Fred McMillin
for March 21, 1997

Winery of the Week

A Boone to Winelovers

Prologue: "After completing my Daniel Boone TV series, I was beckoned by Bacchus"...Fess Parker

The Rest of the Story: Very bad news. His acting coach in Texas said, "Fess, at six foot six, you are too tall for the stage." But then his mentor added the fateful words, "Why don't you try TV"?

Not a bad idea. His portrayal of Kentucky woodsman Daniel Boone played to 25 million TV viewers a week for six years, all of which helped finance his current California bout with Bacchus. In fact, the Kentucky connection even reached his wine labels, which are tastefully decorated with a small, gold outline of a coonskin cap.

How good are the wines? Fess' son and winemaker, Eli, and ace consultant Jed Steele make 'em. Regarding their Chardonnay, Eli said a while ago that they were just making a nice, drinkable wine, not an explosive gold-medal type. In that case, he better fire the two winemakers, because my Scott's panel feels they are rapidly approaching the gold zone, particularly with the recent 73-acre addition in Chardonnay-friendly Santa Maria Valley. If your preference is red, you must try their rising star, Syrah. I've visited the original home of Syrah at Shiraz (in ancient Persia), and I must say the grape seems just as much at home in the Parker Vineyards north of Santa Barbara. There it's making a lovely, full-flavored wine that's ready to drink the day you take it home. "Fess" means "proud" in Old English; Fess surely can be proud of his Syrah.

Just the Facts

Name Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard
Location Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County, CA
Founded 1987
Founder The Parkers, Fess and his son, Eli
Capacity 35,000 cases
Winemaker Eli Parker (Fess Parker III)
Contact Ph. (805)688-1545, FAX (805)686-1130

Postscript: So Fess moved from a portrayal of Daniel Boone to California winemaking. Would you believe, two centuries ago one William Wolfskill also linked Daniel Boone and California winemaking. In 1775, the Wolfskill family were neighbors of Daniel Boone. By age 14, young William could handle a long rifle and fur traps. Before long he was traveling and trapping his way west. Upon reaching California, he turned from guns and traps to vines and wines with startling success. In fact, his 85,000-vine Los Angeles vineyard was declared best in the state at the annual California State Fair. Not only that, his exhibit of lemons also won first prize.. $5!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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