At Fess Parker, Lunch in the Vineyard is a Lesson in Wine

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo

At Fess Parker Winery, lunch is served.

During the throes of the 2015 wine grape harvest, the popular winery, set along Santa Barbara wine country's Foxen Canyon, introduced the Harvest Lunch series.  These intimate gatherings -- four in all -- featured a delicious sit-down lunch prepared by the winery's full-time chef, Barrett Crandall.  And they included a behind-the-scenes peek at harvest time activity with winemaker Blair Fox.

In mid-October, I got to attend the final harvest lunch, where the setting was an attraction all its own.  We sat around a long white-clothed table, under a matching canopy, on the winery's brand new terrace.  Opened in May, and adjacent to the tasting room that hosts hundreds of tasters each weekend, it's an open, airy, yet intimate space that creates a truly special tasting experience.

Each lunch featured an exclusive menu.  The theme for our gathering was "Cassoulet," and Chef Barrett's hearty dish of white beans, sausage and breadcrumb topping, was delicious.  It was paired with an autumn salad of frisee, apples, walnuts and dried cherries, and plenty of fresh baked breads. 

As we ate, Eli Parker, Fess Parker's son and the winery's CEO, and head winemaker Blair Fox, engaged us in conversation and offered insight into their business.  Winery President Tim Snider (and husband to Fess Parker's daughter, Ashley), poured the 2013 Bien Nacido Vineyard pinot noir from magnums.  And bottles of other award-winning Fess Parker wines -- Rodney's Vineyard viognier, Ashley's chardonnay and Rodney's vineyard syrah -- were spread across the table.

On this sunny afternoon, and surrounded by a garden that supplied fresh produce for our lunch and by vines that have graced this property for more than 25 years, this really was an idyllic vineyard meal.

After lunch, we followed Fox into the winery, where we witnessed wines being pumped from tanks to barrels, and then into the barrel room, where we learned about things like cooperage and fermentation.  An insider peek that enhanced our appreciation of the wines in our glasses.

And as we ended our tour, a telling observation: the license plate on Fox's dusty truck reads "SYRAHHH."  And I thought to myself, "Fess would be proud."

I'm told the Harvest Lunch series will pick up once again during the spring and will include walks through the vineyard.  Winery club members get first dibs on these limited-seating gatherings, but they're open to the public, too.  For more information, check out the Fess Parker website.

The garden adjacent to the new terrace was the source for much of our harvest lunch

This pinot offers pretty red berry aromatics, cherry-spice flavors and a silky mouth feel

Tim Snider made friends pouring the '13 Bien Nacido pinot from a magnum

Winemaker Blair Fox walked us through the winery

Head winemaker Blair Fox joined the Fess Parker team in 2003

Fox demonstrated punchdowns and showed us bins of fermenting wine
Fess Parker Winery, 6200 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos, CA 93441. 805-688-1545.

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