The wine industry is vast and complex. But, today’s modern drinkers will likely notice a perceived schism: new vs. old, cool vs. traditional, natural vs. commercial. Those terms, while at times accurate and maybe even helpful distinguishers, are loaded. Natural winemaking has been around for a very long time, maybe even forever, so is it new or old? And why is a wine with an artsy, fun label any better than the simply branded bottle of Gamay. My Favorite Neighbor, a side project from revered California winemaker Booker Vineyards, looks like a traditional, old-school wine. Minimal, simple labels alongside an air of heritage. Despite all that, owner and winemaker Eric Jensen prioritized organic farming processes, outfitting his winery with solar panels, and eschewed additives or concentrates. So, it seems that appearances might be deceiving.
My Favorite Neighbor has released a few labels: the eponymous My Favorite Neighbor Cabernet Sauvignon, MFN Blanc, and Harvey & Harriet, named for Jensen’s parents. We sampled the 2019 Cab Sauv and the 2019 Harvey & Harriet, a Bordeaux blend. In appearance, both are “traditional” wines and might even blend in on a shelf of commercial wines at the grocery store. But they are several steps above that budget bottle you might’ve picked up in your younger days. The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon was rich and lush with dark fruit flavors. At $50, it tastes like a significantly more expensive wine. Harvey & Harriet, was less subtle but way more fun. A chillable red, this wine offers more bright fruit and floral notes but would still cater to the moms and dads who might only appreciate oak-forward full-bodied reds.
My Favorite Neighbor does a lot of things well. The wine itself is great. It might not blow your mind with complex funky flavors but it certainly tastes lovely. Plus, it’s an accessible price. $30 for Harvey & Harriet feels like a steal and the $50 Cabernet Sauvignon could be seriously more expensive. But, most of all, My Favorite Neighbor bucks the trend of what a modern wine can be. Affordable, traditional, thoughtful, and fun.