Fess Parker's Legacy
In the Santa Ynez Valley, situated in the Central Coast of California wine country, lies a vineyard owned and operated by Fess Parker. His Shiraz is known throughout the world, though he makes several different kinds of wine. I was very surprised to learn that this American icon, having portrayed both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, is a winemaker. Then I did some investigating. It turns out the former Western TV idol has been churning out alcoholic beverages for the masses for many years. Here's what I found…
Jack Daniel Boone
Whiskey, Est. 1954
Capitalizing on the Daniel Boone persona created by Mr. Parker, a Jack Daniels' representative approaches him one foggy night on the set of "One Possum Too Many." Parker, a gin and tonic man from way back, hesitates. When the man promises "free whiskey 'til the sun blows up," Parker succumbs, raking in thousands of dollars under the table — which, coincidentally, is where Parker usually ends up after a day of shooting. The money and whiskey flow his way until the show's producers get wind of the idea — which doesn't take long, what with Daniel Boone's breath nearly decapitating every Billy, Timmy, and half-breed Indian starring opposite him. Remember kids: "Daniel" is a close drive to "Denial."
Daniel Boone's Farm
Jug Wine, Est. 1960
Parker gets the itchy pinky finger once again in the late '50s when he inadvertently leaves a jug of apple cider on his front porch for seven and a half weeks while shooting the never released Disney Film, "But the Bear Was Bigger."
Upon returning home, Parker takes a swig from the jug and tastes pure nirvana. He quickly markets the 80% grain alcohol as "Daniel Boone's Farm Apple Cider" and it spreads like wildfire through the Southland. Amazingly, Disney management sees nothing wrong with being associated with jug wine and starts selling it in its Lake Buena Vista theme park. The logo even features Parker as Daniel Boone with his arm around Mickey Mouse, both smiling and giving a "thumbs-up" sign. The apple wine sours quickly with Walt, however, when one afternoon Pluto and Minnie Mouse, appearing together in Fantasyland, drink a gallon of the stuff and proceed to put on a improvisational skit entitled, "What Mickey Don't Know!"
A California company snatches up the product and shortens the name to Boone's Farm. Ask any Baby Boomer what their memories are of this cheap booze and you'll usually be treated to an overblown story a la, "Things were great back then! The music was better! Free love! Man, I need a drink!"
Wine, Est. 1982
Finally rid of his TV obligations, Parker plunges feet first into the art of making fine Kosher wine. A deliberate move to upstage the famously anti-Semitic Walt? We may never know. He proceeds to make a fortune with this wonderful grape wine perfect for every occasion this side of Christmas and Easter. The label, a Hasid wearing a coonskin cap, is a pure stroke of genius, and Parker is on his way to becoming the master winesmith he is today.
Mogen David sues, of course, but not before Parker hides millions in offshore accounts. He gives up the name and moves to his current home, where he begins making wine under the moniker Fess Parker. No copyright lawsuits pending.
Davy Crockettle One
Vodka, Est. 1990
Parker takes a break from the wine business and hits pay dirt with this trendy vodka. The brand is known for its inability to be detected on your breath after a three-martini lunch — a definite plus during the heady days of 60-hour workweeks, hyper-critical bosses, and George Bush.
Parker's trusty designer, Herr Von Starkshmidt, creates a label that defines an era — a red, white, and blue coonskin cap dangling on a sickle. The combination of American Frontier meets Russian Glasnost strikes a chord with a world waiting to see the two countries "Play together, then stay together" (its slogan).
His good fortune continues when Ketel One Vodka sues him, claiming to be in existence for centuries. No drinking lawyer will take the case, however, so Ketel One buys the name to end any confusion. Smelling like a Rosé, Parker pours more money into his Shiraz vineyard, creating one of the best wines in the world.