What We Say 2008 Santa Barbara County Viognier
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Mission Codename: Emperer Probus’ Contribution
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Return to Fess Parker Winery and acquire their latest Viognier release
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Fess Parker Winery
Wine Subject: 2008 Santa Barbara County Viognier
Winemaker: Blair Fox
Backgrounder: A very shy grape that is difficult to grow, Viognier was once an endangered species worldwide. Today, skillful growers and winemakers tend the grapes with great care, closely monitoring their progress and picking at the pinnacle of ripeness. Viognier, when perfectly produced, is a delightful wine that is the perfect alternative to more mainstream white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. For today’s wine we sent Agent Red to Stags’ Leap in Napa Valley, where he discovers their stellar Viognier. Read Agent White’s tasting notes and mission report below to learn why you will love this wine.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Clear straw yellow with golden yellow streaks through its rich colored core. Springy in its texture and when swirled randomly spaced thing legs descend to the wine below at varying speeds.
Smell – Redolent and rich with aromas of mandarin orange citrus, white peach, and melon with orange blossom and honeysuckle floral notes. A hint of sweet spice, honey and minerality blend with oaky notes as well.
Feel – Rich and creamy with great weight, this full-bodied white is dry and smooth. Its lively acidity and tannins balances against this wine’s creamy and expansive palate. Youthful, and a bit high in alcohol that will integrate as this wine ages.
Taste – Rich and bright flavors of citrus, tropical melon, tart almost ripe tree fruit and pineapple meld with floral notes, sweet spice, mineral notes, honey and oak.
Finish – Fresh, tangy and crisp fruit fades first with this wine’s creamy texture lingering on.
Conclusion – The 2008 Fess Parker Winery Santa Barbara County Viognier is a youthful and fresh wine with great weight, something you’d expect from Viognier. Lovely fruit and floral notes blend with spice and oak. Give this wine some time in the bottle and you’ll be rewarded as this wine will definitely improve with some bottle time. Pair this wine with creamy aged cheese and pate.
We tried to secure a covert meeting with Fess’ winemaker, Blair Fox, but he proved too elusive for an interview. Okay, he was too busy at the winery. What follows is our recent interview with Bliar, in which he discusses his history, and his Pinot Noir – which we featured earlier this year:
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Blair Fox
DATE OF BIRTH: 10/74
PLACE OF BIRTH: Santa Barbara, CA
WINE EDUCATION: B.S. Viticulture and Enology, UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Enologist for Fess Parker Winery ’99, Winemaker Sunstone Winery 99-02, Consultant winemaker fess Parker Winery 02, Vintage Winemaker- Haselgrove Winery- McLaren Vale South Australia 03, Associate Winemaker in charge of the Rhone Varietal programs at Fess Parker 03-05, Head Winemaker for Fess Parker Winery 05-present
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: I spend a lot of time in the vineyard because I feel that wines are truly made in the vineyard. I try to show the different qualities of the different vineyards and create wines with distinct varietal character.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: I have always been particularly fond of Syrah.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Traveling throughout the Rhone Valley in France and tasting some of the best examples of Syrah and other Rhone varietals the world has to offer.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: I feel privileged to work with some of the best vineyards and fruit in Santa Barbara County.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Blair. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Ashley’s Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
BLAIR: Thank you for showing my wine today.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
BLAIR: My parents were always traveling the globe and bringing home wines to be drunk around the dinner table. I was planning on going to medical school to become a doctor but was lured into the Viticulture and Enology program at UC Davis.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
BLAIR: I really enjoyed the viticulture side of the program, but then fell in love with the enology courses and being able to see the conversion of grapes to a final wine.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
BLAIR: I feel the best wines are made in the vineyard. You have to be diligent with your vineyard practices to grow grapes worthy of making great wine. It is all about fruit quality, canopy management and managing your yields to produce the most exciting wines possible.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
BLAIR: I am impressed by all great wines made around the world. I have gained experience making wines in two different hemispheres and like a sponge have absorbed as much knowledge from every winemaker I have ever worked with.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
BLAIR: This will be my 14th vintage.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
BLAIR: I make wines to be enjoyed by all. At Fess Parker Winery we specialize in the production of Burgundian and Rhone Varietal wines. I create these wines to be balanced with intense fruit character, rich mouthfeel and beautiful aromatics.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Santa Barbara so special?
BLAIR: Santa Barbara is a very unique region. We have very cool areas such as the Santa Rita Hills, which is the ultimate place to grow high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and we have the more interior Santa Ynez Valley where some of the most exciting Rhone varietals in the world are grown.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
BLAIR: We are in the middle of racking and blending a lot of our wines right now. I taste every barrel for quality and defects to make sure only the best wines are produced.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
BLAIR: It is our 2007 Ashley’s Pinot Noir sourced entirely from the cool, Santa Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara County. This vineyard was planted over 10 years ago and produced an average of less than 2 tons per acre in 2007. Six different clones of Pinot Noir were hand-picked, hand-sorted, fermented in small tanks, basket pressed and aged in French Oak for sixteen months before being bottled.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
BLAIR: Blackened Salmon
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
BLAIR: I am very casual about my approach to wine. I feel wines are best drunk with food, but are also great as an aperitif or after dinner. I feel you should drink what you enjoy regardless of price or region. It is fun to be adventurous with wine and see what else is out there.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
BLAIR: I love Syrah and would choose something like an old Grange from Penfolds or Cote Rotie from the Northern Rhone.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Fess Parker Winery in Santa Barbara’s famous Foxen Canyon can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Fess Parker Winery
About This Wine:
This refreshing, well balanced Viognier presents aromas of honeysuckle, orange blossom, peach, lemon cream, ripe honeydew, cashew and white flowers. Mouthwatering flavors of pinapple, white peaches, vanilla and butterscotch can be found on the palate, it’s sure to please with it’s fresh acidity that leads to a nice, zesty finish!
About The Winery:
When Fess Parker was cast in the roll of Davy Crockett in the mid-1950’s, it caused an international sensation and changed his life forever. So too did the purchase of 714 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley change the course of the Parker family’s history.
Realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County as a premium grape-growing region, Fess and his son, Eli, originally set out in 1989 to plant a small vineyard and sell fruit to local producers. But, as Fess’ daughter, Ashley explains, “ Fess is from Texas, so he can’t do anything small. “The Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard now farms almost 700 acres on four vineyards throughout Santa Barbara County.
The characters Fess portrayed, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, inspired generations of Americans. Throughout the late 1950’s and 1960’s Fess was at the pinnacle of a television career that has an unprecedented impact upon American popular culture. But is was Fess’ entrepreneurial spirit that prompted his leaving Hollywood to go into business for himself. The traits that Crockett and Boone embodied – integrity, resourcefulness and good humor — carried over to Fess’ personal life and formed the foundation upon which the family business was built. First-class hospitality has always been at the core of their ventures, first as hoteliers and eventually with the opening of the winery.
Working as a family has always been a great source of pride and pleasure for the Parker family. Eli Parker began in the family business as assistant winemaker in 1989. After several years of learning the craft at the side of renowned and accomplished winemakers, Eli took the reigns as winemaker himself with the 1995 vintage. A leader of the winery since it’s inception, it was in 1996 that Eli formally assumed the title and responsibilities of President. In the early 1990’s, Ashley ran the first tastings out of the barrel room and represented the winery at trade shows. In 1998, Ashley became Eli’s partner, working on the public relations and sales and marketing teams. The presence of Fess and his wife Marcy as the founding visionaries of the winery is a vital and enduring one.
About The Winemaker:
BLAIR FOX – Head Winemaker – Graduating from UC Davis in 1999 with a combined degree in Viticulture and Enology, Blair Fox gained winemaking experience at Sunstone Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley (1999-2001), and at Haselgrove Winery – a custom-crush winery in McLaren Vale, Australia (2003).
He also traveled through France’s Rhône Valley before returning to his hometown of Santa Barbara. He then joined Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard as Associate Winemaker, overseeing the Rhône varietal wines. Fox had previously consulted in the vineyard for the winery’s 2002 harvest.
“Having focused on the winery’s estate Syrah and Rhône varietal vineyards, I’m excited to add on the responsibility for Ashley’s and Bien Nacido vineyards and control the Burgundian part of our portfolio (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay),” said Fox. “The vineyards and clonal selection here are of such high quality, and the Parkers are a great family to work for.”
Fox continues the stylistic direction set by Eli Parker when capturing the terroir of the vineyards. He aims to continue raising the bar for the award-winning Fess Parker wines, such as the 2001 Rodney’s Vineyard Syrah (91pts, Wine Advocate), 2002 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir (93pts, Wine Spectator), and 2001 American Tradition Reserve Syrah, (92pts, Wine Advocate).