The Fess Parker
Not many hoteliers or winemakers have a fan site, but the late Fess Parker, who qualified as both, has several. That’s because he was an actor first, still known mostly for playing Western pioneers Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on TV in the ’50s and ’60s. It’s less known that he was a pioneer in real life as well, but of a more refined sort. Parker was among the early group of winemakers who helped transform the region into a destination for oenophiles, now with five federally sanctioned American Viticultural Areas — and those don’t even account for all the county’s wineries.
Actually, the Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard lies outside the AVAs in Los Olivos, roughly 40 minutes by car from the city of Santa Barbara. After founding the winery in 1987, Parker quickly won over wine skeptics suspicious of his Hollywood background, and went on to produce a number of award-winning vintages. Indeed, his winery earned high praise from another Parker, wine critic Robert Parker (no relation), who said it made “some of the finest wines and wine values emerging from Santa Barbara County.” While Fess Parker worked hard to have his winery taken seriously, he was savvy enough to play the Hollywood card in business rather than run away from it. Etched on the wine labels are tiny coonskin caps evoking his frontiersman characters, and fans can still buy faux versions at the tasting room. But that was as close as he came to nostalgia for his old career. As The New York Times reported in his 2010 obituary, “Though he politely but consistently refused to wear [a coonskin cap] for [visitors’] cameras, he was always happy to sign a Fess Parker wine label.”
The winery, which cultivates some 250 acres of vineyards, has a tasting room along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, which also includes Zaca Mesa and Firestone. The property appeared in the 2004 film Sideways, a huge boon to the region, under the pseudonym Frass Canyon. The business is a family affair, run by Parker’s son, Eli, the facility’s former winemaker and current CEO, and his daughter, Ashley Parker-Snider, executive vice president, who oversees sales and marketing.
So perhaps it’s not really surprising that another arm of the hospitality company, The Fess Parker in Santa Barbara city, is family-oriented, despite the wine focus. (The company also owns the Fess Parker Country Inn & Spa, a boutiquey hotel in Los Olivos, eight miles from the winery.) Now a DoubleTree by Hilton resort, the sprawling 24-acre property across the street from the ocean opened a year before the winery. The Mediterranean-style hotel on East Cabrillo Boulevard has 360 guest rooms and an auspicious pet policy — accommodating cats and dogs of all sizes and offering animal menus — which has been endorsed by Fido Friendly Magazine for owners of peripatetic pooches. (Jumbo pig ears for one, please.)
Despite its ideal location for tourists, The Fess Parker was dragged down by outdated décor that included plaid furniture and popcorn ceilings, eliciting verbal thrashings by some Tripadvisor reviewers. To their credit, the hotel owners and operators took the criticism to heart and unveiled a $7 million remodel a year ago. The update is still rather conservative — re-dressed in inoffensive beige and earth-tones — but much more fitting for an upscale hotel. Also at home in the 21st century is the culinary program overseen by Executive Chef Kirk Delong, who designs sophisticated locavore menus for Rodney’s Grill using vegetables and herbs from nearby farms and fresh seafood from the Pacific, only steps away.
The Fess Parker is located at 633 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara. Nightly rates range from $149 to $429. Call (805) 564-4333 or visit fessparkersantabarbarahotel.com.
Technically in Goleta, about nine miles from Santa Barbara city and close to UC Santa Barbara, The Goodland, which opened last September, is a must for vintage-design aficionados. The trendy Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group took it over and gave it a fairly drastic remodel, bringing in heavy-hitting design firm Studio Collective of Santa Monica (which also designed Giada [of de Laurentiis fame], the celebrity chef’s restaurant in Las Vegas’ Cromwell Hotel). While Giada’s sea of white tablecloths and chairs is light-filled and sleek, The Goodland’s nostalgic-beachy-rustic décor is surprisingly cozy and charming. The rooms are a mélange of driftwood, exposed beams, museum-quality Santa Barbara memorabilia, surfboards hung from the ceiling and on the walls and vinyl albums and Crosley record players. (You can even call the record concierge if you don’t like the selection in your room.)
Perhaps the ultimate compliment to a hotel’s ambience is the patronage of nearby residents in addition to travelers. And The Goodland (a nod to the area’s nickname for its rich farmland — the hotel itself sits on the site of a former lemon orchard) is a magnet for young tech professionals in the area. Like travelers, they come for the s’mores from a self-serve cart near the three fire pits, morning yoga, two bars (one with a billiard table), Saturday DJ pool parties, performances by a house band with guest artists on Tuesdays and Sunday “Industry Nights” with jam sessions (and no, here The Industry isn’t entertainment — it’s tech).
The eclectic décor extends into The Outpost restaurant, where Executive Chef Derek Simcik serves an imaginative fusion menu and invites guests to make their own guaca-
mole with walnuts, mango and jalapeňos. Try the tasty Brussels sprouts served with coconut, pine nuts and Thai basil or the savory-sweet pork tacos, merrily enhanced with grilled pineapple, pickled onion and cilantro. A spiked agua fresca is the star of an inventive list of cocktails made with locally sourced ingredients. And be sure to check out social media for specials not on the menu.
As for pet guests, what doesn’t The Goodland offer? Look for pet bowls, pet beds, leashes, plastic bags and pet sitters, groomers and walkers. There are no restrictions on pet size or weight and no extra charges. In fact, bringing along your fur buddy qualifies you for up to 20 percent off the best available rate, according to the hotel’s website.
The Goodland is located at 5650 Calle Real, Goleta. Nightly rates start at $229. Call (805) 964-6241 or visit thegoodland.com.