Fess Parker, whom millions remember as Davy Crockett, "the King of the Wild Frontier," died Thursday at the age of 85.
The actor was known mostly for playing one of the heroes of the Alamo, but he also made a name among wine lovers for his winery in Santa Barbara County, Calif., which produces lauded Pinot Noirs, Syrahs, Chardonnays and a Viognier that recently received a 90 rating in Wine Spectator magazine.
"He was a kind, gentle man," said Ray Ayala of Republic National Distributing Company, who met Parker when he visited San Antonio a few years ago. "He was a tall, big guy, about 6-feet-5, a gentle giant with a deep voice, but he was really nice."
Parker was originally from San Angelo, and he never forgot his Texas roots. He was a supporter of the Daughters of the Texas Republic, which owns the Alamo, and he appeared at benefits for the shrine.
His winery recently worked with fellow Texan and restaurateur Tom Perini on a spice blend to complement several of Parker's wines. You can find samples of Perini Ranch rub slipped on the necks of bottles of Parker's Santa Barbara County Syrah, Frontier Red and Parker Station Syrahs.
While he played a pioneer on TV, Parker was a real trailblazer in life. He invested in Santa Barbara land and a winery there long before it was fashionable.
"He was in Santa Barbara before it was cool to be in Santa Barbara," Ayala said.
The famous scene in "Sideways" in which Miles (Paul Giamatti) drinks from the spit bucket, was said to have been filmed at Fess Parker Winery, though the site's name was fictionalized in the film.