Eli Parker ~ Owner / Proprietor
In December 1987, the Fess Parker family purchased a piece of ranch property in Santa Barbara County's Foxen Canyon, already the home of several outstanding wineries. The family's eventual foray into the wine business proved to be an important turning point in the professional life of Eli Parker. What began as a curious infatuation would later become a lifelong vocation as his innate winemaking talent was revealed. In the early days Eli spent most of his time in the vineyard where he studied the farming side of winemaking.
In addition, he worked in the cellar at Byron Winery during the 1987 harvest as well as augmenting his practical experience with several extension courses at U.C. Davis. From 1989 through harvest of 1992 Eli continued his hands on education as assistant winemaker at the winery.
1993 Eli began a three-year apprenticeship with the critically acclaimed winemaker Jed Steele. As consulting enologist, Jed was a major influence as Eli developed his signature style. Eli's first harvest at the helm was in 1996 and shortly thereafter he assumed the responsibilities of President of the winery.
Under Eli's leadership the winery has received lavish praise and awards from wine critics and competitions alike. A perfect example would be the Boston Globe naming the 1993 Santa Barbara County Syrah "one of the best five Syrah s in the world." More recently the 1996 American Tradition Reserve, Rodney's Vineyard Syrah received a 93 point rating from the Wine Enthusiast. While Eli may have a special affinity for Rhône wines, his Burgundian varietals fare equally as well with the critics. The 1996 American Tradition Reserve, Marcella's Vineyard Chardonnay was scored 90 points by the Wine Spectator and the Wine Enthusiast gave the 1997 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 90 points as well.
The past several years Eli has overseen the rapid expansion of the winery's vineyard holdings. By the end of year 2000, Fess Parker Winery was farming over 600 acres of vineyards on four different sites in Santa Barbara County. As Director of Vineyard Operations, Eli has led the decision making concerning varietal selection which will fuel the growth of the winery while maintaining the established quality of the Fess Parker brand.
Eli and his wife Laureen (married at the winery in 1995) have five daughters between them and together they have two sons. They live just down the road from the winery and needless to say their lives revolve around the world of wine.