Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard
Driving north along the pastoral Foxen Canyon Wine Trail feels like traveling back to California’s early days. Rolling hills frame vast meadows, deer and wildlife roam free, and pristine landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see. This peaceful environment enticed the late Fess Parker into buying a 714-acre ranch here back in 1988. The Texas-born actor, who played the television roles of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the 1950s and 1960s, had moved his family to Santa Barbara in the early 1960s and begun construction of a blufftop home. When heavy rains caused it to collapse onto the beach, he revised his plans and headed inland.
There, he discovered the Foxen Canyon property, where he initially planned to run cattle, plant a few grapes to sell to other vintners, and establish a small winery. Parker, an only child, dreamed of starting a family business that he could pass on to future generations. He asked his children to join him, and they planted a five-acre experimental Riesling vineyard in 1989. Eli, his son, started as assistant winemaker and spent three years under the tutelage of acclaimed enologist Jed Steele before taking the helm. Eli then planted more vines and started a four-year project to build a cutting-edge winery and tasting room.
Eli Parker and his sister Ashley continue to stay involved as stewards of the family’s vision for the winery while Ashley’s husband Tim Snider serves as President and oversees day-to-day operations. The family’s vineyard is the 120-acre Rodney’s Vineyard, named after Fess Parker’s late son-in-law, at the 400-acre Foxen Canyon Road estate where the winery is located. They also source grapes from Camp Four vineyard in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, which Parker planted in 1998 as well as vineyards in the cooler Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley appellations. Blair Fox assumed the role of head winemaker in 2005. In recent years, the winery has sharpened its focus to produce more small-lot, vineyard-designated wines made from high-quality Rhone and Burgundian varietals, which have won awards in national wine competitions.
Completed in 1994, the new winery and tasting room are loosely designed after an Australian sheep station, with a grand stone fireplace, stone floors, and a wraparound veranda with picnic tables. The spacious complex is set amid an acre of meticulously landscaped grounds that border the vineyard. The amphitheater-style lawn, rimmed by mature oaks, provides a serene setting for picnics, summer evening performances by Shakespeare Santa Barbara, and other events. Indoors, visitors taste the latest vintages at a worn knotty pine bar, surrounded by photos of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone and other memorabilia related to the actor’s television roles.