Vineyard Lunch: Fess Parker Adds Culinary Elements to Wine Tasting

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 5/5/16

Fess Parker Winery is elevating the wine tasting experience by going gourmet.

This month, the winery’s launching its Spring Family Lunches, an intimate series of midday meals that treat visitors to great food, plenty of wine and a behind-the-scenes looks at winemaking.  The chance to mingle one-on-one with members of the Parker family is a bonus.  Two of the lunches – the ones scheduled for this Friday, May 6th, and June 7th – are already sold out, though seats remain for the May 20th event. (UPDATE 5/7: all Spring Family Lunches are sold out!)

Fess Parker's Spring Family Lunches are held in the winery's new, airy outdoor terrace
An intimate setting for Fess Parker's Spring Family Lunches
I visited the sweeping estate along Foxen Canyon Road during the 2015 harvest season, when this culinary endeavor was launched.  I loved the lunch experience, as much for the abundance of premium wine and fabulous food as for the setting.  These lunches are held outside, adjacent to the main tasting room, in the winery’s open-air terrace that opened just a year ago this month.  We sat around a long white-clothed table, under a matching canopy, with a fireplace and a raised bed organic garden nearby and rows and rows of vines just a stone’s throw away.  The space is airy, with plenty of seating, but it’s also intimate. 

Our small group broke bread and chatted with Eli Parker, Fess Parker's son and the winery's CEO, head winemaker Blair Fox, and winery President (and husband to Fess Parker's daughter, Ashley) Tim Snider.  We sipped on award-winning wines – like the 2013 Bien Nacido Vineyard pinot noir poured from magnums, the Rodney's Vineyard viognier and syrah and Ashley's Vineyard chardonnay.  And we savored a menu prepped exclusively for our gathering: a hearty cassoulet of white beans, sausage and breadcrumbs, an autumn salad of frisée, apples, walnuts and dried cherries, and plenty of fresh baked breads.

Winemaker Blair Fox leads a post-lunch winery tour and barrel tasting
This spring, the lunches feature the gastronomic handiwork of Chef Ashley Williams, who joined the Fess Parker team in January.  She’s a graduate of the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of California in San Bernardino, and she worked for four years in the kitchens of the Chumash Casino.  She’s prepping a unique menu to pair with each of the selected wines to be poured at each of this season’s Spring Family Lunches.

Lunch will be followed by a discussion on wine grape farming and a winery tour complete with barrel tastings.

This offering by the Fess Parker folks is brilliant.  Tasting wine at Fess Parker Winery is always a treat, and that tasting room is easily one of Santa Barbara wine country’s most popular stops for curious consumers any day of the week.  But adding the food element, and creating a special space in which visitors can experience the marriage of great wine and great food, strikes a real chord.  I’m more liable to fall in love with a wine if there’s food on my plate, too, and I’m more apt to buy a wine if I understand the nuances behind the way it was made and if I’m introduced to the personalities responsible for making it.  What’s more, how much coaxing does anyone need for a seat to a wine country meal?

Fess Parker Winery President Tim Snider is a generous pourer
The Spring Family Lunches cost $70, or $48 for wine club members, and are limited to just 20 people.

This move toward culinary appreciation also includes other new offerings at Fess Parker Winery.  Saturdays and Sundays now feature food and wine pairing opportunities, where seasonal dishes – like a chicken pot pie made with locally sourced chanterelle mushrooms, sage and acorn squash – are paired with select wines.  Throughout the week, there are also enhanced, outdoor, tableside tastings – like single vineyard flights – led by one of five Fess Parker team members who’ve completed the prestigious Master Court of Sommeliers introductory certification.  Reservations are recommended, and these are also available by appointment.

For more information on all these opportunities, as well as the extensive portfolio of Fess Parker wines, check out the Fess Parker website.


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