Fess Parker Winery
2008 Ashley's Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir •Las Hermanas (Ashley's) Vineyard
California: Santa Barbara County: Sta. Rita Hills
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT
Today’s Santa Barbara Pinot, from one of our favorite Santa Barbara wineries, is a wine of exceptional character. If you love great Pinot Noir, this one belongs in your collection.
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Mission Codename: The Lady Ashley
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Fess Parker Winery, procure the latest vintage of their always stunning Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir – for our Fess-loving Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Fess Parker Winery
Wine Subject: 2008 “Ashley’s” Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills
Winemaker: Blair Fox
Backgrounder: The Wine Spies have been featuring some really incredible Pinot Noir of late, but we are quite taken by Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir – so we sent Agent Red back to Fess Parker Winery, to retrieve their high-scoring, award-winning, attention-grabbing, Ashley’s Pinot Noir.
California’s Central Coast region, and specifically Santa Barbara and San Luis Obisbo County has become one of the state’s premier regions for Pinot Noir. The generally warmer climate, moderated by the coastal fog, its sandy and clay loam soil, and broad exposure results in Pinot of exceptional purity.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Striking beautiful ruby hues, right through the perfectly clear heart of the wine. Color is concentrated, right out the the very edge of the glass, where the wine shows off a soft pink hue. A flood of the thickest legs we have seen on a Pinot, go gushing gown the glass.
Smell – Arousing and foreboding, with dark earthen cherry, raspberry, strawberry and vanilla. As the wine stretches out after some good swirling, brown spice, India tea leaf, flint, soft cedar and the slightest hint of eucalyptus emerge.
Feel – Mid-weight on entry, then silky across the mid-palate, this wine quickly becomes more weighty as fine tannins and a bright acidity combine to drive a mouth-coating, flavor-filled experience. Slowly, an easy dryness begins to spread, starting at the tip of the tongue, eventually drying the entire palate.
Taste – A bounty of flavors, this wine drinks somewhere between a French Burgundy and high-end Cali Pinot. Lush flavors red cherry, dusky strawberry, cassis, flint and dried purple flowers lead the charge. These are balanced against more subtle flavors earthy black cherry, tea leaf, brown spice and hint of hard leather.
Finish – Extra-long, with flavors that evolve and change before they diminish. Red fruit easily yields to earthen characteristics, dark fruit, minerals and soft spice. At the very end, a subtle minerality and black pepper hang around with black cherry until, eventually, the flavors tail off.
Conclusion – This delicious wine has the longest finish of any Pinot Noir we have tasted this year. For such a youthful wine, we were thrilled to find that it is absolutely raring to go – and ready to drink. We featured the previous two vintages of this wine, from our good friends at Fess Parker Winery, and we love to see how successive vintages progress – and improve. Kudos to winemaker, Blair Fox, for crafting another high-scoring – but more importantly – delicious and exciting Pinot Noir. Built for aging, but ready to drink now, be sure to pick enough bottles for both instances. Enjoy!
With bottling underway, we were unable to spend time with winemaker, Blair Fox. Here for your information, is our previous interview, in which Blair discusses the 2007 vintage of this great wine:
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: Travelling 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
Awards & Accolades:
91 Points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
90 Points & Cellar Selection – Wine Enthusiast
90 Points – Stephen Tanzer
About This Wine:
A dark ruby garnet color and aromas of cherry, raspberry, black tea, baking spices and vanilla, all set the stage for this elegant wine. Black cherry, ripe raspberry, nutmeg and wetstone with well integrated oak are highlighted by the hallmark acidity found in fruit from this cold climate vineyard. A great balance of acid, tannin, weight and fleshy texture frames it all in nicely and makes for terrific aging potential.
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).
VINEYARD SOURCE: 100%LAS HERMANAS VINEYARD (FORMERLY
ASHLEY’S VINEYARD) IN STA. RITA HILLS
COMPOSITION: 100% PINOT NOIR
BARREL AGING: 16 MONTHS IN 50% NEW FRENCH OAK
COOPERAGE: SIRUGUE, FRANCOIS FRERER, ERMITAGE, & SEQUIN MOREAU
HARVEST DATE: SEPTEMBER 26TH – OCTOBER 9TH
TONS PER ACRE: 1.8-2.7
ALCOHOL: 14.1% ALCOHOL BY VOLUME
PRODUCTION: 2465-6 PACK CASES