Santa Barbara Wine Country: Part Two

Today I’m sharing more highlights and photos from Santa Barbara Wine Country blogger/influencer group trip that was coordinated by Emily Martin of The Jetsettting Fashionista and Emily Martin Communications & Events along with Lacey Fussel and Lisa Gerbac of Muse Wine Management.

I wrote about Part One of this 48-hour adventure in wine tasting, fabulous food and sightseeing Santa Barbara’s wine region earlier this month, which you can read here.

I left off with our jeep tour around the ranch and vineyards at Gainey Vineyard. After the tour, we headed to the Foxen Canyon area, a picturesque region in Santa Barbara Wine Country with rolling hills and oak trees.

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

Fess Parker, the actor who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the 1950s and 1960s, bought over 700 acres in Foxen Canyon in 1988 and decided to start a family business he could pass down to his children. That business was a winery that got its start with a five-acre experimental vineyard of Riesling grapes and is now one of the most well-known and most-visited wineries in the area.

Fess Parker’s son, Eli Parker, whom we met the previous evening at their Epiphany tasting room in Los Olivos, became the assistant winemaker in 1989. A few years later, he was the head winemaker. In 2005, he turned over the winemaking reigns to Blair Fox and is currently the Brand Visionary.

Fess Parker Winery is a gorgeous property. I love the comfortable and relaxing feel to this winery, built in 1994.

We were led to their stylish seating area with the two-way outdoor fireplace.

The table was set and waiting for us and the weather could not have been more perfect, just right for lunch al fresco.

Just beyond the patio is a picnic area and vegetable garden that will soon be overflowing with summer veggies.

Winemaker Blair Fox enjoyed lunch with us and talked about Fess Parker wines.

While I do favor white wines, I thought The Big Easy was fantastic. This blend of 74% Syrah, 16% Petite Sirah, 10% Grenache is not overpowering, and rather soft and very drinkable.

After lunch, Blair took us on a tour. First stop, one of their vineyards named Rodney’s Vineyard after the deceased son-in-law of Fess Parker.

Next, we walked though the patio area and into the winery.

There, Blair discussed the winemaking process in the barrel room where he ages and ferments Fess Parker wines.

It was a lovely experience learning about Fess Parker Winery from their winemaker and enjoying delicious food and wines. It’s such a beautiful and peaceful property, definitely worth a stop when visiting Santa Barbara Wine Country. Be sure to check out the Fess Parker memorabilia in the tasting room.

The Town of Los Olivos

After our visit to Fess Parker Winery, we headed to the charming town of Los Olivos which is located in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley. Restaurants, boutiques, antique shops and wine tasting rooms await visitors in this quaint village.

We would be visiting three tasting rooms, all within a short walking distance of each other.


Our first stop was J. Wilkes tasting room. Jefferson Wilkes began J. Wilkes Wines in 2001 with a long career in the wine industry in Santa Barbara Wine Country. He passed away in 2010 yet the brand has remained and continues to move forward, producing wonderful wines full of character and at reasonable prices.

Our tasting was led by the winemaker and brand ambassador at J. Wilkes Wines, Wes Hagen. Wes is a wine industry leader with a lengthy resume of accomplishments that include researching, writing and having approved the last three AVA’s (American Viticulture Area) in Santa Barbara County: Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon and Ballard Canyon.

Wes talked to us not only about J. Wilkes Wines but he shared some of his vast knowledge about the history of wine that impressed our entire group. You can watch his YouTube videos about the history of wine. As a wine and history lover, I find this information fascinating!

Bien Nacido and Soloman Hills Estate Tasting Room

After our tasting at J. Wilkes concluded, we went next door to the Bien Nacido & Solomon Hills Estate tasting room. Bien Nacido Vineyards is one of the most well-known and prestigious grape producers in California.

They produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Syrah grapes to both sell to high-end wineries and for their own label.

We tasted a variety of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs during our visit. My favorite was the 2014 Bien Nacido Chardonnay.

Dragonette Cellars

A couple blocks from Bien Nacido Vineyards is Dragonette Cellars tasting room.

Brothers John and Steve Dragonette, along with friend Brandon Sparks-Gilllis founded Dragonette Cellars in 2005 after working together in a wine shop in Los Angeles.

The Dragonette Cellars team focuses on creating high quality wines from small lots of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah.

We enjoyed gathering around the table and listening to the story behind Dragonette Cellars while sipping their outstanding wines.

Stay tuned for the final part in this three-part series on Santa Barbara Wine Country!

Disclosure: The wine tasting experiences were part of the blogger/influencer trip and I was not charged. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always.

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