Booker Wines founder Eric Jensen knows a thing or two about wine. After all, he's built a career demystifying it in one of California's burgeoning new wine regions, Paso Robles. In his latest chat with Angeleno, he dishes on how technology is breaking down barriers for winemakers and wine drinkers alike.
There is a perception to some that wine is a boy's club kind of sport, tell me how you're demystifying that in Paso Robles and around the country.
ERIC JENSEN: I want to break down all walls built in front of wine that were built by the wealthy. Wine should simply be a great, daily beverage that’s also a total lifestyle through who you drink and where you visit/vacation. For the longest time it was assumed that the old, aristocratic houses were better, and that you had to be rich to drink them. That’s a joke, and the wool has been pulled over our eyes long enough. First of all guys, relax on the old boy mentality that we need to get together to open our “big” bottles of wine, while leaving the women in the living room to drink cheap chardonnay. Women generally have better palettes, and they don’t act like they cured cancer when they see what is supposed to be a “legendary bottle." They drink what they like, and they don’t put a sports coat on to do so. Most women are like Paso Robles in general. Paso is raw, legit and without pretention. You come and act snobby around here and you’ll be alienated in a day.
What's the secret to great wine? What do you look for when you taste?
EJ: Wine is very subjective, so a great wine for one may not be for someone else. There is no recipe or playbook, but for me it starts with a winery that handles their own farming and does so thoughtfully. If I know a wine didn’t use chemicals all over the fruit it’s immediately better in my mind. Then there’s the balance of not over-extracting tannins (the drying, coarse sensation you get, especially from a lot of Cabernet-based wines), ample amount of acid to make everything pop and a moderate amount of alcohol and wood so they aren’t noticeable. The wine, whether it’s lighter in style or heavier should flow seamlessly across the middle of your palette and boast a long, opulent finish that sticks around for several minutes. Lastly, it should make you almost giddy about your next sip!
I've heard you speak to the advantages of technology in wine, but what can't you do with the limits of technology that you would like to?
EJ: The value of information in farming and winemaking is incredible, because it allows you to make great decisions without having to manipulate the wine. Water is our most precious farming resource so to continue to improve our ability to monitor exactly when a plant needs water and how much it needs will be game changing. There are already several ways to do so, but none that make it simple on a large scale to help the biggest offenders.
Who do you drink? Who is doing wine right?
EJ: I drink all different wines from all over the world, and there are hundreds doing it in the style that I like most. For decades the biggest offenders of manipulation and mediocre, mass production have been the big wine companies, but there are now a few changing the game for the better and trying to deliver the consumers great product. Before it was only the small guy that cared about the highest quality and not the highest dollar amount.
Which of your wines excites you most?
EJ: My 100 perent Syrah Fracture probably excites me the most, followed very closely by Harvey and Harriet, which is my new $50 Cabernet blend. This wine is so much more accessible than most of my wines, but I’m on a mission to deliver the public an uber high-end wine that’s made with zero sacrifices and not made like Coca Cola.
What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
EJ: I’d love to start a few different projects around the wine world to see what my peers deal with on a daily basis. Washington and Napa come to mind first with Syrah and Cabernet.
Photography by: Photography courtesy Booker Wines