Seeing celebrities take a crack at making wine is no surprise.
The Smothers brothers were one of the first in Northern California to try, having limited success.
Over the years several Southern California wineries have had celebrity connections. I remember meeting Alex Trebek of "Jeopardy" fame in the early 1980s at his Creston Manor winery. It did not last long.
Golfer Greg Norman has had success in his winemaking ventures, while Arnold Palmer wines have a ways to go. Celebrity chefs and even NASCAR racers have put their name on wine bottles with varying success. But several seasoned actors, who were favorites of mine many years ago, have put their name on wines that they can be very proud of.
In the late 1930s Fred MacMurray purchased 900 acres in Sonoma's Russian River Valley with the hopes of having a secluded spot to fly fish. Years later his ranch became a family retreat and a perfect spot for growing grapes. His daughter Kate oversees the MacMurray Ranch property today. With assistance from the Gallos, its pinot noir and pinot gris are two signature ranch wines worth seeking.
Watching "Davy Crockett" as a kid, and then rediscovering him as I watch the Disney stories countless times with my two boys, I would never have pictured the actor who plays him as a winemaker. But Fess Parker has built quite a name in the wine trade with more than 700 acres planted at his Santa Barbara winery. With his son Eli and daughter Ashley at the controls, the operation continues to receive accolades for its pinot noirs and Rhone-style wines. A new label called Epiphany includes a number of beautifully crafted Rhone varietals and blends.
Both actors were family favorites and now their wines show the spirit of their own families.
MacMurray 2006 Pinot Gris
Peach and ripe melon aromas start off this wine, which carries some weight and a nice creamy texture. Dry with a light mineral character, it would complement lighter foods. Try it with a baked herbed chicken breast wrapped with bacon. About $15.
MacMurray 2005 Pinot Noir
A pleasant drinking pinot with dry herb aromas followed by black cherry and vanilla oak flavors. From grapes in the Sonoma Coast appellation. About $22.
Fess Parker 2006 Viognier
The winery has experimented with several styles of viogniers, and the Santa Barbara County effort has a creamy texture and ample pear, apricot and tropical character. About $20.
Fess Parker Frontier Red
An everyday red that shows spicy black stone fruit flavors. Pleasant blend of syrah, mouvedre, cinsault, petite sirah, grenache and carignane. Good value. About $10.
Fess Parker Syrah 2005
The Rodney's Vineyard syrah is a beautifully crafted wine with plenty of spice and power. Full-bodied red with cocoa, plum and blackberry fruit. Silky tannins in the finish. About $45.
Wine picks are from Tom Bender, wine instructor at Columbia College and wine steward for O'Brien's Market, 4120 Dale Road, Modesto, 545-8100.