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Raise Your Glass: A wine that transcends its famous name

  • Warren Johnston. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



For the Valley News
Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Fess Parker

Marcella’s 2016

White Wine

Santa Barbara County, California, $15.99

Alcohol by volume, 14.1%

Fess Parker Marcella’s is a bright, fresh white-wine blend with flavors and aromas of peach and green apple that’s perfect for drinking during the warmer months.

Although Fess Parker Jr., the actor who is best known for his television roles as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the late ’50s and early ’60s, died in 2010, his children and grandchildren still run the winery and produce this and other award-winning wines.

Parker brought Crockett and Boone to life for countless kids in the baby-boomer generation who took to wearing coonskin caps and carrying cap guns that resembled small frontier rifles.

Some of the other celebrity wines are name only, but the Parkers are serious winemakers who in February celebrated their 30th year in the business.

For those of you who are drawn to good, affordable wines at lower prices, I make no apology about the cost of Marcella’s. It’s well worth its full price, even if it is only for special occasions. And who knows, like most wines, it probably will go on sale, which will make it a real bargain.

Marcella’s is named after Parker’s wife of more than 50 years, Marcella Belle Parker. Marcy Parker, who died in April at 91, loved Viognier and Rhone blends, a company spokesman said in an email. This wine is a blend of 53 percent Viognier, 34 percent Grenache Blanc and 13 percent Roussanne.

Marcy Parker was born on March 18, 1928, in Iowa, the middle child of a family of seven. She left home just after her 18th birthday to make her mark as singer, her obituary says.

After some success in Colorado — she was crowned Miss Pikes Peak in 1947 — singing at big hotels, she moved to Hollywood.

She worked at a music store during the day and sang in the Zebra Room at the Ambassador Hotel where Bob Hope noticed her. The entertainer invited her, along with Debbie Reynolds, to tour Korea entertaining the troops fighting there.

While in Hollywood, she met Fess Parker. She was visiting a friend at private swimming complex. He was not a member, but he snuck in to cool off. They were married in January 1960 and unlike many Hollywood marriages, theirs lasted until he died at 86. Their two children, Eli Parker and Ashley Parker Snider, have been running the winery for the last decade.

After she and Fess married, Marcy Parker established a new career as an interior designer in Los Angeles.

Fess Parker, a tall, handsome guy from Texas with a broad smile, quit acting in the mid-1970s and turned his attention to real estate development. The Parkers purchased 23.5 ocean-front acres in the heart of Santa Barbara’s waterfront in 1986, and built The Fess Parker resort hotel.

Two years later, the family purchased a 714-acre inland ranch in Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County and set out to produce wine of the highest quality made from estate grown grapes, the website says.

Purchasing the ranch changed the career direction of the Parker family. Eli Parker, who was initially curious about wine, discovered he had a talent for making it. In 1996, he became the head winemaker. In 2006, he received the winemaker of the year award from the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Award-winning winemaker Blair Fox took over the helm at Fess Parker in 2005, and Eli turned his attention to running other aspects of the business.

After graduating with an English degree from Bates College in Maine, and spending a time working for the Reagan Administration in Washington, Ashley Parker returned to work for the fledgling wine business. She is now vice president of sales and marketing. Her husband, Tim Snider, is president of the company. Two of their three children have graduated from college and are working in the wine business.

Most of the grapes — 71 percent — that go into the Fess Parker Marcella’s 2016 are aged and fermented for nine months in French oak barrels, and the remainder is fermented in stainless steel tanks, which gives the wine a mild vanilla flavor and aroma.

Fess Parker Winery produces around 65,000 cases a year, but Marcella’s is available throughout New England. You may have to ask your wine merchant to order it, but it’s worth the effort.

Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at raiseyourglassofwine@gmail.com. For past recommendations, go to raiseyourglassofwine.com.