Mark Aselstine
May 21, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

When Is Family Owned Not Family Owned?

We don’t talk competitors much in this space for a number of reasons, mainly because we don’t think it is appropriate, but every once in a while a wine that one of our competitors ships gets our attention.

While I won’t name them out of courtesy, I saw a post on a wine blog that I read frequently with the review of the wine club shipment.

The wine club in question sells itself in much the same way that we do, they’re family owned and feature family owned wineries.

The bottle in question was made by Fess Parker.

Yes, Fess Parker is family owned.

Yes, Fess Parker makes some nice wine.

Yes, Fess Parker has a great story behind it. (It was started by the actor of the same name who made a name for himself as Davey Crocket and Daniel Boone on tv)

I have to wonder though, if this is what customers expect when they hear about a family owned winery. The winery currently owns 1,500 acres of vines and crafts at least a few hundred thousand cases of wine annually.

I guess I wonder, when is family owned what we expect? Is there a production level limit as well? If so, where does it lie?

It also made me think how lucky we are to know the Santa Barbara wine scene so well. Fess Parker has been a providing and training ground for a number of up and coming winemakers in the area. Mike Siqouin who makes the wine at Beckmen Vineyards and under his personal label Kaena would have made an excellent choice. Blair Fox got his start at Fess Parker at that same time and now crafts Robert Parker’s favorite group of wines in the area out of a 200sq foot tasting room on the back of a coffee shop in Los Olivos, with pictures of his young children on the walls. Lastly, Larry Tercero makes wine under his own label to craft more eccentric wines which we’ve also enjoyed. Heck, the three of these winemakers now get together every year to celebrate their becoming friends while working at Fess Parker by making a wine called Thread. We were lucky enough to be present at a blending meeting during one trip to Beckmen Vineyards and saw them working to put the best barrel of fruit they each had into this interesting blend.

Maybe it’s some nostalgia on my part having lived in Santa Barbara for five years, but the wine scene is really full of great winemakers who have great stories to tell about why they make wine under their own label. I wish our competitors would take the time to discover those stories from time to time. Admittedly, this is the one competitor who I think works most closely to the way that we do, so it was even more surprising.


larry schaffer's Gravatar
larry schaffer
@ May 22, 2012 at 9:51 AM
Interesting blog post indeed . . . and thanks for mentioning me and my tercero brand! Greatly appreciated.

Let me 'correct' a few things here about Fess Parker if you don't mind (and by the way, though Blair Fox and Dave Potter from Municipal Winemakers are still there, I left last July to pursue tercero in earnest). The family no longer owns Camp 4 Vineyard, and so at this time, they own the estate on Foxen Canyon Road that has approximately 200 acres planted (I think it's probably less than that but forget the actual number). They have long term contracts from other vineyards, but no to the tune of 1500 acres. And though they make a lot of wine, I would put their annual output in the low end of the numbers quoted.

That said, I could not agree with your last paragraph more! I do not believe there is a more exciting winemaking community right now than Santa Barbara County. One of our strengths is also one of our biggest challenges - we grow a LOT of different varieties around here and make GREAT wines from most of them . . . not good, but GREAT! So unlike other areas that can claim to be great at a small number of wine varieties, our tagline is 'Diversity Perfected'!

I invite all of your customers to come up to our area and experience all that we have to offer - not just great wines, but wide open spaces, wonderful inns and restaurants, beautiful beaches, and more!


Larry Schaffer tercero wines

Add A Blog Comment
E-Mail me when someone comments on this post

Leave this field blank: