Frontier Gold at Fess Parker Winery

In addition to playing the heroic Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, Fess Parker left behind a formidable wine legacy

The Fess Parker Winery, an operation covering more than 1,500 acres of vineyards, is a stop on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in California
The Fess Parker Winery, an operation covering more than 1,500 acres of vineyards, is a stop on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in California.

My father spent a good portion of his childhood wearing a coonskin cap and playing Davy Crockett. Like many boys of his generation, he was inspired by the Disney films starring Fess Parker as the brave and clever frontiersman. You, too, may remember classic lines like the adage “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead,” or the cheer “Give ‘em whatfer!” And, of course, there was Davy’s tongue-in-cheek description of himself as “half-horse, half-alligator, with a little touch of snapping turtle.” But did you know that after playing Davy Crockett (and later Daniel Boone), Parker went on to become a winemaker?

Fess Parker
Fess Parker

The vineyards of California might seem far removed from the forests, swamps, and riverboats that were the settings for the colorful adventures of his characters. Nevertheless, Parker proved his skills in the wine country of Santa Barbara. Although he died in 2010, the winery has remained part of his family’s story; his son and daughter are at the helm, and many of his grandchildren are involved as well.

A few years before his death, I had the privilege of talking with Fess Parker about his winery. It was a phone conversation, and I remember the strength and warmth
of his voice—it was as if I could hear that famous grin. He told me a funny story about a wine critic who had been in Santa Barbara County but driven by the vineyard without bothering to stop, making the dismissive comment in his column, “What could Davy Crockett know about wine?” Parker saw the comment and sent him a bottle. In the next column, the critic admitted the wine was excellent and that it “paired well with crow.”

Fess Parker displays a coonskin cap as the logo on the wine label
Fess Parker wine label.

In keeping with his frontier roles and his wry wit, Parker selected as his winery’s logo a tiny coonskin cap, picked out in gold. It’s an image that is elegant and subtle yet also evokes memories of frontier adventure. All in all, it’s the perfect emblem for the winery.

You will see the golden coonskin cap on the label of Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Syrah, a wine that I recommend as the ideal choice for summer barbecues. The syrah is a fruit-forward red that is brimming with notes of forest berries. Blackberry, raspberry, and blueberry all seem to leap from the glass. The lush fruit is complemented by pungent notes reminiscent of freshly ground black pepper. The combination of berry and spice makes this a great pairing for barbecue favorites such as steak, lamb, chicken, or grilled vegetables.

I have not, however, tried it with crow.

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