Tuesday, February 20 , 2018, 1:13 pm | Fair 55º

Here & There

Donna Polizzi: Tessa Marie Parker Continues Family’s Proud Tradition, with a Twist

From a Blush that tastes like ‘flowers in a bottle’ to festive Lily Pearls, winemaker’s extra steps set her apart from the herd

When my kids were young, I sometimes would get a call from their school informing me that they had been tardy that day. I’ve heard every excuse under the sun for why they were late.

Meeting with Tessa Marie Parker brought back those memories.

Apparently, she could not get to our meeting in time because — of all things — cows were in the middle of the road, licking her car, and she could not get them to mooo-ve.

Tessa Marie Parker’s 2010 Sangiovese earned her a silver medal in the 2015 International Women’s Wine Competition. Click to view larger
Tessa Marie Parker’s 2010 Sangiovese earned her a silver medal in the 2015 International Women’s Wine Competition. (Donna Polizzi photo)

Ohhhh, but she was worth the wait.

Parker, of Tessa Marie Wines & Tasting Room in Los Olivos, started in the business of making wine when she was only 17. Her education began at Santa Barbara City College, and she earned a degree in viticulture and enology from Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria in 2008. Her first harvest actually was in 2005.

Her favorite varietal, Sangiovese, is her flagship specialty. I must say that the 2010 Tessa Marie Sangiovese is impressive. It was no surprise to me that this bold wine with striking cherry and cranberry notes won the silver medal in the International Women’s Wine Competition in 2015.

It’s kind of cool to hear such humility when Parker spoke about the difficulty she faced as a very young woman working with mostly men. This medal is a tangible acknowledgement of the hurdles she came through and she is excited to be doing what she loves: creating wines that people really like enough to win an award.

Suz Alexandra is the sassy and sweet tasting room associate. She nailed it when she said the 2014 Blush is like flowers in a bottle. On the nose it was like roses and strawberries with a slightly tart finish.

A favorite is the 2012 Sangiovese, Clone 6. It’s light, aged 28 months in neutral French. I think it’s a perfect everyday wine if you like a jammy, earthly and fragrant light-bodied red. It’s the smallest production at 98 cases.

To me, the highlight of the lineup is Parker’s Sparkling Vermintino. I loved it. It was perfectly balanced and wasn’t too sweet.

What makes this really special is the Lily Pearls in the bottle. They are ingestible encapsulated yeast beads. They float like beautiful festive pearls in your glass. It’s very unique in the sense that the pearls eat the sugar in the bottle and release Co2.

Parker’s Champenois style of winemaking is a laborious process, but the outcome is so wonderful that it’s worth it to her. It has sold out four years in a row.

Talk about sparkling ... it would be an understatement to say that Parker bubbled over when she spoke about her big family, how much she adored her father, his passion for winemaking, and her family.

I had the opportunity to talk to Parker’s dad, Eli Parker, CEO of Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard, one of my favorite stops along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.

“Tessa knew from a very early age what she wanted to do and she really took to the business,” he told me. “She hung in there and seemed to enjoy working in the tasting room and the not so glamorous parts of the harvest as a young girl.

“I’m proud how well she’s done in the industry ... juggling winemaking, running a tasting room and raising my two grandsons.”

It’s no secret that Tessa Marie’s grandfather was the late Fess Parker, who died in 2010. He is remembered for his role as Davy Crockett in the 1950s mini-series and as the title character in Daniel Boone, the popular TV series that aired from 1964 to 1970. At 6 feet 6 inches, he was a man to look up to.

Fess Parker passed on his talent and a love of winemaking to his children and grandchildren.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Tessa Marie Parker and sipping Sangiovese in her charming tasting room at 2901 Grand Ave. And I could stay in the quaint little town of Los Olivos until the cows come home.

Tessa Marie Wines & Tasting Room is open 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Click here for more information, or call 805.688.6081.

— Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys to the Coast, a free Central Coast travel resource providing honest recommendations on the best places that locals want to go. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

(Donna Polizzi / Noozhawk​ video)

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