Fess Parker, best known for playing both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, died today at age 85 at his home near Santa Barbara, CA. Much like his most famous characters, Mr. Parker was a pioneer. In 1989, long before the movie Sideways brought Hollywood fame (and lots more tourists!) to the region, he planted a small vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley with the intention of selling his grapes to local producers. It wasn’t long, however, before his little vineyard project became a full-fledged winery. Indeed, Fess Parker Winery is billed as Frass Canyon in what is arguably Sideways‘s most famous scene, when Paul Giamatti’s character Miles drinks the contents of the spit bucket in the fictional Frass Canyon tasting room. Today, Fess Parker Winery has more than 700 acres of vineyards and produces a score of wines. And, Mr. Parker’s contribution to Santa Barbara’s wine tourism scene doesn’t end there. As a real estate developer, he built a posh inn and spa in the town of Los Olivos as well as the eponymously named Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort on the Santa Barbara waterfront.
Having once lived and worked there, I have a real fondness for Santa Barbara wine country, and it’s evident to me that it wouldn’t be where it is today without Mr. Parker’s many contributions. So tonight I’ll raise a toast to Fess Parker with a Santa Ynez Valley Chardonnay. Here’s to the King of the Wild Frontier!