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Average critic rating : 100.0 points
The soon-to-be-released 2006 A Shot in the Dark is composed of 96.5% Syrah and 3.5% Viognier from the 11 Confessions Vineyard in the cool Santa Rita Hills. Performing better from bottle than it did from barrel, this prodigious red exhibits incredibly velvety tannins, a seamless style, and no noticeable oak (which is remarkable given the fact it spent 32 months in barrel). Dense purple to the rim with an extraordinary perfume of blueberry pie, blackberries, soy, Asian spices, and hints of forest floor and charcoal, this is a complex, rich, seamless, well-balanced tour de force in winemaking. A full-bodied, exuberant, unabashedly California Syrah, it will offer stunning drinking over the next 10-15+ years. ||After three decades of tasting wines from nearly all the world's greatest winemakers, many on an annual basis, have I fully understood what motivates them? For some it may be insecurity, for some others an overwhelming competitiveness, while for others it may be a ferocious fury focused on a single goal. Manfred Krankl and his charming wife, Elaine, are well-known to me. I have been visiting Sine Qua Non for over 15 years. This is a Horatio Alger tale of an immigrant (in this case, from Austria) who arrived with only a backpack to his name, and who in a few short years opened the finest artisanal bakery in Los Angeles ( La Brea Bakery) as well as one of the area's pioneering Mediterranean-styled restaurants (Campania - still flourishing today). However, Krankl's fame rests on the strength of his wines - compelling, singular, and world-class wines that are like no others being produced on Planet Earth. Is it his insecurity, his zealous competitiveness, a raging fire in his psyche, or merely a deep passion that suffers no fools or compromises? I suspect that even Krankl, in his most private moments, is unable to articulate what drives him to produce such magnificent vinous works of art. Some things at Sine Qua Non are etched in stone. First and foremost, Krankl works as hard in the vineyard as anybody. For example, a lot of wine producers talk yields, etc., but very few actually practice as small of yields as Krankl does. In 2007, his white wine yields were 1.28 tons of fruit per acre. His Grenache yields were 1.3 tons of fruit per acre, and his Syrah was 1.52 tons per acre. In 2008, he had a bumper crop by his standards, with white wine yields coming in at 1.74 tons of fruit per acre, Grenache at 1.66 tons, and Syrah at 1.70 tons per acre. There is a lot of phony baloney talk in the wine trade that low yields are not all they're cracked up to be, but talk to any top winemaker, look at any great wine; the unavoidable conclusion is (1) most are produced only from top sites, (2) nearly all of them are meticulously cultivated and looked after, and (3) yields are consistently low! Krankl's wines would never have the flavor or nuances they do if yields were two or three times higher. In any event, this was probably my last visit to his -Mad Max- junkyard dog sort of winery in one of the ugliest sections of Ventura. That will all change as his new winery on his estate property just south of Ojai, becomes a reality. I have mixed emotions about that as his old warehouse has become hallowed Rhone Ranger ground for me. Nearly a decade ago, Krankl began to offer both a Grenache and Syrah that saw extended barrel aging. I believe he was the first Central Coast producer to institute that practice, and the success of this technique, practiced by Marcel Guigal since 1976, has been emulated by Justin Smith at Saxum and John Alban at Alban Vineyards.||Tel. (805) 649-8901 Wine Advocate.August, 2010
Sine Qua Non: The Importance
Sine Qua Non has emerged as arguable one of the most collectable fine wine producers on the planet; a Rhône-inspired Californian tour de force. Their fame exploded in the early 2000s, leading to what Robert Parker described as “an absolutely brilliant succession of true works of genius”, which has not abated since. On the global fine wine market, there are few who can touch Sine Qua Non in terms of sheer desirability and originality.
Robert Parker has called Sine Qua Non: “one of the world’s great wineries”, and it has earned a place alongside icons such as Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Leroy, Petrus and the first growths for its “compelling, singular and world-class wines that are like no other being produced on Planet Earth.”
Parker’s colleague Jeb Dunnuck concurs: “About as good as it gets across the board, these singular, incredible wines are the result of an obsessive attention to detail at all stages of the wine making process.” Antonio Galloni seconds the motion: “The sheer drive for perfection and attention to detail at Sine Qua Non is something I have rarely witnessed anywhere else in the world.” And Jeff Leve seals it: “There is no winery on earth that competes with what Manfred and Elaine Krankl have done at Sine Qua Non for creativity… The wine is stunning young and with bottle age. There is nothing out there like it.”
Sine Qua Non: The Insight
Those looking to buy Sine Qua Non need to be fast and well connected, such is demand and rarity. Critic scores are consistently huge with the number of perfect 100 pointers from Wine Advocate extending well into double figures.
Staple Rhône varietals are used – Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Viognier and Chardonnay – but Sine Qua Non believe that each vintage is unique, they therefore produce different cuvées each year in tiny quantities. Each one is individually and idiosyncratically named, receiving new and unique label designs every time. The range is therefore diverse and extensive and the labels are works of art in their own right…
Robert Parker offers some broad-brush advice: “In an ocean of mediocre wines, the SQN offerings are totally profound. They inspire and energise anyone who tastes them…. They produce California’s finest Grenache, one of the two or three best Syrahs and some of the top white varietal blends in addition to some utterly profound dessert wines.”
Wines are produced in tiny batches and released via tightly-controlled allocations through the domaine’s private mailing list, making the hard to come by. However, FINE+RARE’s extensive network can provide fleeting access to them before they are snapped up by collectors and aficionados.
Sine Qua Non: The Background
Born in Austria, Manfred Krankl moved to Los Angeles in California where he met Elaine, his now wife. The pair began to dabble in winemaking, supported by Bryan Babcock and John Alban in the early years, with the idea of making wines for their restaurant. But in the end the winemaking consumed all. Their winery was established in 1994 and the first official release, Queen of Spades 1994, has become highly collectable and vastly expensive. The rest of their wines have followed suit.
Sine Qua Non’s winemaking facility is located in Ventura County, not far from the Santa Barbara vineyards from which they source their fruit. Although some grapes are bought, much of the fruit comes from their own vineyards, which are as eclectically named as their wines: Eleven Confessions in Santa Rita Hills, Cumulus in Oak View, The Third Twin in Los Alamos, Molly Aïda in Tepusquet Canyon. Manfred Krankl’s winemaking techniques have been compared to Etienne Guigal’s, opting for small volume, natural yeasts, extended lees ageing for whites, repeat racking for reds and new oak. Sweet wines were produced with help from legendary Austrian winemaker Alois Kracher, hence their name: Mr K.
Sine Qua Non is a Latin term meaning a thing that is absolutely necessary. For all serious collectors, owning Sine Qua Non’s Central Coast AVA wines has become absolutely necessary.
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