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From value wines to big-buck beauties

January 21, 2019

It’s been a while since I’ve written of Fess Parker. People of a certain age may remember Fess as Davy Crockett, a 19th century Tennessean, wild animal slaughterer and white supremacist killed at the Alamo. I think of Parker as an actor who loved America and made great wine.

Sadly, Fess has been wearing his coonskin cap in that beautiful forest in the sky since 2010. Fortunately, his winemaking legacy lives on. The 2015 Ashley’s Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills, 92-point McD and a great buy under $45, won gold at the 2018 San Fran Chronicle event. Garnet-colored with aromas of cherry, rhubarb and smoke. On the palate, raspberry, lavender, thyme, rosemary, chocolate and more smoky notes. Medium body, great balance and enough oak to tell me it will cellar.

The 2015 Ashley’s Chardonnay is ready to go. I gave it a solid 94 in June 2016. It is perfect now. Parker’s Ashley and Bien Nacido Vineyard Chards are usually top flight. The 2016s are both 93-94-pointers. With 2015 Ashley’s, 14.5 percent ABV, look for white peach, apple, honey, vanilla, barrel spices, and a touch of oak. On the palate, pear, citrus, lemon, tart apple, brioche and more spices.

The Parker 2016 Big Easy is a 93-point star. Not for the faint of heart, this is a huge blend of Syrah, Grenache and Petit Sirah. Intense, powerful fruit opening evolves to ripe cherry, white chocolate, and new American oak vanillin. In the past this label has been OK, 88-89 points. The 2016 is killer.

They also make a nice Santa Barbara Riesling 2014 that goes for $14, 88 points. The ‘16 is a bit better and sells for $18. The vineyard is still owned by Ashley Parker and her brother Eli, winemaker and Andre Tchelistcheff Winemaker of the Year Award winner from the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

He also launched Epiphany Cellars which produces several very good 88-90-point Rhone-style reds at favorable pricing. I really like the Camp Four Grenache Blanc. Floral bouquet: orange blossom, lime. Nice minerality and acidity, peaches on the palate. Good summer sipper and great with lobster stew. The winemaker at Parker since 2005 is Blair Fox, who hasn’t missed a beat. I thought Fess was better as Daniel Boone.

Years ago, I wrote of a terrific Spanish red for the QPR-conscious red wine readers – Celler Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica Old Vines, Monsant. The 2014 just opened its window and is findable under $14.

I’m tickled whenever I read the label of this perennially well-made baby Priorat, due to the mixed use of Spanglish. The 2014 is blended of Garnacha (70-year-old Grenache), Merlot and Syrah (30 years old). Aged nine months in new and older American and French oak. Dark ruby color with rose petal, mixed berry and mineral aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with raspberry, cherry, blackberry, barrel-driven spices and mineral notes supported by supple tannins; 90 points McD. All vintages 2006 to date rated in the 89-90-point range.

Folks who enjoy grilling with winos could order a mixed case for $165 or less and wow 12-16 of your very best friends with a very instructive vertical wine tasting of 3 oz. servings. Perhaps as you are standing around under a street light, cooking and warming your hands, you could sing a little Philly doo-wop.

For big-buck buddies, I had an opportunity to sample a flight of Chateau La Tour Blanche Sauternes 2007, 93 McD, $61 drinking perfectly now; the 2009 is $63 ready now. This got mixed reviews from 95 points to 88 points, 2010, $68 really surprised me. Still not quite ready, light golden-colored, it was almost like drinking a dense, round, plush pear wine with a very dry finish. Ready 2021. 2011 also appears still a bit tannic, ready in five years, $50 price makes it a poor QPR. Avoid the 2012 and ‘13 not because they are bad but because they are priced similarly to their older betters and not as good. The 2014 $50 is terrific for those who cellar, ready in 2022, better than 2015, $48. I am still surprised how consistently the pears show up in these wines. Was this formerly a pear orchard? Unfortunately records only go back to the 1700s.