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Average critic rating : 98.0 points
Made from 100% Chardonnay from the Alban Vineyard, the 2005 Mr. K. The Noble Man possesses 235 grams of residual sugar per liter as well as exceptional acid levels. This incredibly rich, sweet white is almost like the Quintessence bottlings from Alsace’s Domaine Weinbach. Its mind-boggling purity, balance, intensity, and sweetness are balanced by the wine’s zesty acidity. An amazing achievement fashioned from 100% botrytised fruit, it will keep for 20 or more years.||I don’t know whether it’s catching on or not, but there is a school of nonsense going around that somehow low yields are overrated. Of course, farmers who treat their vineyards like industrial plants, and wineries who do not control vineyards, or have accountants running the bottom line, are the usual suspects making this specious argument. From my perspective, thirty years of experience have always suggested that vineyards with the lowest yields tend to produce the most interesting wines. Sine Qua Non has emerged as one of the world’s greatest wineries over the last decade, and low yields are part of the reason. Yields for their white wine varietals have gone from .91 tons per acre in 2003, to their most generous yield of 1.86 tons per acre in 2005. Their red varietal yields have increased from a scary, financially disastrous .32 tons per acre for the 2003 Grenache, to a whopping 2.11 tons per acre in 2005. In 2007, yields averaged 1.28 tons per acre for the white varietals, 1.31 tons per acre for Grenache, and 1.52 tons per acre for Syrah. (I did not taste the 2007 SQN wines, but other Central Coast 2007s I did taste suggest this will be a great vintage for this region.) When tasting wines such as Sine Qua Non, these statistics mean something because the Grenache is the finest in the New World, the Syrah begs to be compared with the greatest of France, California, and Australia, and the white wine blends assembled by Manfred Krankl are as sumptuous and complex as the world’s finest Chardonnays, even though there is little Chardonnay included in recent vintages, and there will be none in future releases. The ultimate “garage” winery, this operation’s back alley warehouse looks like a set scene from the movie Mad Max, but inside are the elixirs of dreams. Despite Krankl’s already lofty reputation, he continues to fine tune and build more nuances and complexity into his wines without sacrificing their intrinsic exuberance, purity, intensity, and individuality. I am increasingly convinced that no one in Australia, America, South America, or anywhere else in the New World makes a finer, more complex and compelling Grenache than Manfred Krankl. He is now producing two Grenache cuvees, an experimental, highly successful, long barrel-aged (40-43 months) effort, and a Grenache that is aged in oak for nearly two years prior to bottling.There are also two renditions of Syrah, a long-aged offering that is essentially an hommage to Marcel Guigal’s single vineyard Cote Roties (the SQN Syrahs are aged 42 months in 100% new French oak), and a Syrah that is bottled after 21-22 months in oak. These cuvees are rarely 100% Syrah as Krankl frequently adds in some co-fermented Viognier as well as Grenache. There are four sweet wines being made, but, unfortunately, the Mr. K. series will end because of the premature and tragic death of the renowned Alois (Luis) Kracher, the genius behind so many extraordinary sweet wines from Austria, and a partner with Krankl. In a year filled with some extraordinary tastings (2005 Bordeaux, 2007 Southern Rhones to come), this tasting at the so-called “garage d’or” on the back streets of Ventura stands along side the wine-tasting/dinner at the Great Wall of China as one of the two wine-tasting events of the year.||Tel. (805) 649-8901 Wine Advocate.June, 2008
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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