Eric Jensen seems like the kind of guy that I would love to hang out with. He makes great wines, is an apparent sport and fitness junkie, and has incredible stories. Yup, my kinda dude. The problem is that I just don’t think I am cool enough to hang with a guy who lists NBA stars, titans of industry, and the heavy metal band Metallica as his friends.
Yeah. I am nowhere near that cool. My idea of a risqué dinner party is a 50+ bike racer, a UPS driver, and a single woman with seven cats.
We spoke for just about an hour, but our conversation ranged from the best place to see a college basketball game to what it means to be a real rockstar, bottle weight. In this first clip, we talk a bit about our shared love of basketball and what I consider to be the absolute best place to see a game, the Palestra in Philadelphia.
Just a quick warning: Eric does not shy away from “colorful” language…
Along the same vein, I was surprised to discover many tidbits about Booker Wines and Eric Jensen while doing research for this piece. Not the least of which is what he built at the winery, which is, at least to my knowledge, unique in the wine world:
We then moved on to how Eric came to the wine industry. It is no secret that he came from rather modest beginnings and made a name for himself in real estate and event management who never even mowed his own lawn.
Quickly, he realized that winegrowing was no joke, it was really hard work…
“They’re just farming to pass the time just to get to the winemaking.” Not so with Eric, who takes the farming aspect as seriously as the winemaking. He also sees himself as a leader in the use of technology in winemaking.
He stops short, however, of this notion of “rockstar winemaker” as he sees it as a skill to be learned much more so than an inherited “gift.”
While certainly Booker is known for their red wines, Eric assured me that their whites are just as “killer” (California term meaning “great”). Although I did not try any of the whites for this piece, I am willing to take him at his word.
We eventually got around to the wines (although we never tasted them–he was coming off a rather rough night) and chatted a bit about the three labels: Booker Wines, My Favorite Neighbor, and Harvey and Harriet:
2019 My Favorite Neighbor (Booker Wines) Cabernet Sauvignon, San Luis Obispo County, CA: Retail $50. Big. Ass. Bottle. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Several months ago, I had a Zoom interview with Eric Jensen, the somewhat bigger-than-life head of Booker Wines in Paso Robles. We chatted a bunch about countless topics but never got around to tasting the wines. That is a shame since they are stellar, including this “second label.” Dark in the glass with fantastic fruit, anise, some cedar, and forest floor. Yowza. The palate is equally noteworthy, with plenty of fruit, but balanced perfectly with a lip-puckering acidity. Yowza. Yeah, I am sold. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2019 My Favorite Neighbor (Booker Wines) Harvey and Harriet, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $30. Big. Ass. Bottle. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Syrah, 14% Petite Sirah, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot. A bit of a kitchen sink wine with all five Bordeaux varieties with a healthy dose of Syrah thrown in. Named after his parents, whom he feels would appreciate an affordable “great” wine, farmer and winemaker Eric Jensen makes this wine with the singular purpose of challenging the notion that an outstanding wine can’t be made at this price point without considerable manipulation or additives. Whoa, that’s a heady charge but Jensen achieves it, at least it seems so to this knucklehead. Medium to dark color in the glass with a joyous nose of blackberry, plum, black pepper, a bit of flint, and a truckload of verve. Yowza. Past the lips? Even better, if that is possible. Holy cow, and a Whoa. Great fruit (see above), tartness, balance, and soft, integrated tannins. Sure, you could hold onto this wine for another 3-5 years, at least, but holy goodness, why would you? Outstanding. 94 Points.
I’ll be back with the rest of our conversation next week…