Wine names are complicated. On one hand they can simplify things, making it easier to remember — and ask for — a particular wine. But they can also be a red flag and potential turnoff: Have the marketing folks created a name to enhance the impression of a mediocre wine, appealing to those who might buy a bottle simply because of its label? It’s been done countless times.
Fortunately, there are no issues with what’s inside a bottle of the 2019 My Favorite Neighbor Cabernet Sauvignon, a stellar, $50 San Luis Obispo Cab from Eric Jensen and his Booker Vineyard (which was purchased by Constellation Brands last fall). My Favorite Neighbor is the name of the wine, but it’s also a brand that includes a Chardonnay, a rosé, and several vineyard-designated, Cabernet-based blends.
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And yes, there is a story behind the name. The original “favorite neighbor” was Stephan Asseo, owner of L’Aventure Winery in Paso Robles, whose roots are in Bordeaux and who was a mentor to Jensen. Half a dozen other “neighbors” from Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, and the Edna Valley now supply Cabernet grapes for My Favorite Neighbor Cabernet Sauvignon, all of them using organic farming methods.
With the region’s relatively warm climate, Cabernet is the most planted variety in the region, and while some of the resulting wines lean toward proverbial “fruit bombs,” My Favorite Neighbor is not over the top, with alcohol listed at 14.4 percent.
A core of concentrated dark fruit is balanced by vibrant acidity and accented by notes of espresso, cedar, and mineral. Though young, it’s thoroughly enjoyable now, with just the right tannic structure that provides a frame without calling too much attention to itself.
This is a meat wine: Grilled steak and lamb are easy pairings, but so are portobello mushroom burgers and a Bourguignon-style stew made with mushrooms instead of beef and simmered with the traditional onions, carrots, and red wine. A slight chill will give it a refreshing lift in the warm weather.