Wine to Check Out: New Bar at Santa Barbara's Fess Parker Hotel is a City First

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
photos by Austin Sosa and Andreina Diaz
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 6/28/16

The new wine bar at The Fess Parker is just off the main lobby (Sosa)
A wine tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara is pretty common these days, but this wine bar is something totally new.

The Fess Parker family of wines, which includes both the Fess Parker and Epiphany labels, has just opened what is the only dedicated wine tasting room inside a local hotel.  The space is elegant and sleek: a lustrous metallic bar anchors an intimate space decked out with leather banquette seating and a wooden communal tasting table, with plenty of natural light.  And located just off the main lobby of the beachfront Fess Parker – A DoubleTree by Hilton Resort, it’s a natural extension of a family enterprise that also includes a wine country hotel and three tasting rooms in the Santa Ynez Valley.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to bring the Fess Parker Winery experience ‘over the hill’ to our hotel guests who aren’t able to journey to wine country during their stay,” says company CEO, and Fess’ son, Eli Parker.  The 24-acre Fess Parker is a 50-50 ownership between the Parker family and the Hilton brand, which also manages the property.

The space occupied by the new tasting room, which is enclosed by floor-to-ceiling glass, formerly housed desks for concierge staff and Hertz, which are now located a bit further down the hall.   “For the longest time, people would walk by this area and not even think about tasting wine,” says the hotel’s general manager, Matthew La Vine.   “Now, they see this spot that’s so beautiful, and it’s easy to stop in and sip.”

The tasting room’s centerpiece is the state-of-the-art wine dispensing system, called Enomatic.  Italian-made and found in no other wine venue in Santa Barbara County, it allows for each of the 16 bottles it holds to be temperature-controlled and, using inert gas, completely preserved.  “It’s like you’re having a totally fresh glass of wine every time,” Mr. La Vine adds.  Guests are given pre-loaded plastic cards that are then inserted into the machine, like debit cards into an ATM.  Using portion-control technology, wine is dispensed in 1.5-, three- and six-ounce servings, and the cards are charged accordingly.  Dollar amounts vary based on the wine selected.

The sleek design of the Fess Parker's new wine bar was inspired by the slick Epiphany tasting room in Los Olivos (Sosa)

The 16-bottle Enomatic wine dispensing system is the only one of its kind at a Santa Barbara Co. tasting venue (Diaz)

The wine menu features Fess Parker and Epiphany wines, all by winemaker Blair Fox, which will be rotated over time.  Both labels – TV icon Fess Parker founded his eponymous wine brand in 1987 and son Eli launched Epiphany in 2000 – have long focused on limited-production and vineyard-specific wines.   The 16-bottle lineup this week includes the 2014 Fess Parker Dry Riesling ($2.75 to $12, depending on amount dispensed), the 2014 Fess Parker Chardonnay ($4.75-$19), the 2013 Fess Parker Pinot Noir, Pommard Clone ($6.75 to $25) and the 2013 Epiphany Grenache ($3.75-$15).  With Santa Barbara’s recent heat spurts, the Fess Parker Pinot Noir Rosé has already proven popular.  “Rosé wines are getting new appreciation,” admits Maria Docouto, an year-long employee of Fess Parker Winery in Los Olivos who is now educating guests at the new seaside tasting room.  “They’re made with more complexity nowadays.”

The tasting room can arrange for shipping of wines by the bottle or by the case.  Guests can also enjoy bottles they buy at the hotel’s steakhouse, Rodney’s, with no corkage fee.  Fess Parker and Epiphany wine club members enjoy a 10% discount on tastings and purchases.

The new wine bar at The Fess Parker is open seven days a week and is also available for private parties.

The Fess Parker – A DoubleTree by Hilton Resort, 633 East Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara.  805-564-4333. For info on The Fess Parker, click here.  For info on the Fess Parker wines and properties, click here.



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