Sparkling Addition: Parker Family's Portfolio Now Includes Bubbles

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 2/12/15



When the Bubble Shack opens its doors to the public this weekend, Santa Barbara's Parker family will officially enter the bubbles business.

“The goal will be to make sparkling wine fun and approachable,” says Ashley Parker Snider, “and I think it’ll be a nice addition to the tasting rooms in downtown Los Olivos.”

This joint effort by Mrs. Parker Snider and her brother, Eli Parker, is the latest addition to a diverse and popular portfolio of wines that was launched by their father, actor and developer Fess Parker, in the mid-1980s.  The Bubble Shack will offer the public the chance to taste and buy three brand new sparkling wines.  The Fesstivity label, a playful homage to the late Mr. Parker, features an all-pinot noir Brut Rosé ($40) and an all-chardonnay Blanc de Blancs ($37), both from the 2013 vintage.  The Sibling Bubblery ($37), a tongue-and-cheek reference to this brother-and-sister project, is a 2012 sparking grenache.

While the still wine base for all three sparklers was crafted by Fess Parker Winery’s head winemaker, Blair Fox, these bubblies were finished at a sparkling wine house in Napa.  Starting next year, the Parkers plan on moving the entire production, which requires a bevy of specialty equipment, in-house.  Production on each is small, ranging from about 110 to 140 cases a year.

Sparkling wine is not a new phenomenon in Santa Barbara County, although, for years, production was mostly sporadic.  The late Chris Whitcraft, for example, released the first of his three bubblies back in 1982 and the Parkers, themselves, launched a celebratory sparkler at the turn of the millennium.  But in the last decade, beginning with winemaker Norm Yost’s popular Goat Bubbles release in 2005, a growing number of local wineries have committed to yearly sparkling wine releases.  Today, more than 30 Santa Barbara producers dabble in bubbles.

Mrs. Parker Snider says the rise in local bubbly production mirrors “the rise in stature of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA,” the federally designated growing area near Lompoc where a cool, marine-kissed climate allows pinot noir and chardonnay, Champagne’s main ingredients, to ripen at high acids and low sugars.  “The fruit from this region is incredible,” she says, “and are so well suited for sparkling wines.”  The Parkers’ inaugural bubbles were sourced, in part, from Las Hermanas Vineyard, which was known as Ashley’s Vineyard, after Mrs. Parker Snider, before the family sold it in 2005.  The Parkers retain access to the same block of grapevines that was part of their program for years, though, “so the continuity of fruit remains,” Mrs. Parker Snider says.

Starting this Saturday, February 14th, the public will be able to taste Fesstivity and Sibling Bubblery at the new Bubble Shack, at 2974 Grand Avenue.  It’s located adjacent to the Parkers’ Epiphany tasting room, in a quaint complex that Fess Parker warmly referred to as World Headquarters.  The shabby chic space features an airy garden cottage feel complete with tin roof and white-washed beams, as well as vintage furniture acquired through celebrated Northern California antique purveyor, Atelier de Campagne.  It was designed by Shan Hinton, the English-born wife of actor Darby Hinton, who starred alongside Fess Parker in the widely popular 1960s TV series, Daniel Boone.

The wines will also be featured at a launch event at the Santa Barbara Wine Collective, in downtown Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, on February 19th.

For more information, visit the Fess Parker wines website.


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