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1999 Icarus

Sine Qua Non

93Average Score
flagCalifornia / United States
Red

1999 Icarus: Still fresh and lively, and much younger tasting than the 1998 Antagonists or the 1995 Red Handed, this wine was certainly the biggest of the early vintages from Sine Qua Non’s Grenache program. The label says the alcohol is at 14.9%, but there is a freshness and elegance to the wine (80% Grenache, 18% Syrah and 2% Viognier) that would suggest much lower alcohols, for those who foolishly as well as erroneously equate finesse with lower alcohols. Structured, still deep ruby/purple-tinged, with fresh raspberry and black cherry fruit and some loamy soil notes, as well as hints of barbecue smoke and pepper, the wine is full-bodied, ripe, yet still somewhat tightly knit, suggesting that better things are yet to come. This obviously can be drunk now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it improve over the next several years and last for at least another decade. ||The conclusions I came to about this tasting may seem obvious just by reading the tasting notes. People forget that as famous as Sine Qua Non and both Elaine and Manfred Krankl have become over the last 15 years, their wines really only began to hit full world-class qualitative levels at the turn of the last century (2000). The vineyard sources have largely changed from Alban, Stolpman, Bien Nacido, Shadow Canyon and White Hawk Vineyards to primarily estate vineyards Cumulus Vineyard in Ventura County and 11 Confessions Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. In the future, Krankl’s newest vineyard in Alisos Canyon will be an additional component part. His meticulous craftsmanship and phenomenal attention to detail, both in the vineyard and in the winery, have been increasingly noticeable over the last decade. He seemed to hit full stride about eight or nine years ago, and what has unfolded since then is an absolutely brilliant succession of true works of genius, both in his expressive, sometimes slightly abstract artwork on the labels, to the meticulously crafted wood boxes in which the wines are housed. Of course, the most important thing of all, the actual wine itself, is both the beginning as well as the end for consumers, and where 100% of my focus and judgement are centered. Grenache, as Krankl would be the first to say, is by far the most challenging grape varietal to make majestic wine from, and unequaled in difficulty by any other grape in the world except Nebbiolo. That’s why we see so little of it from great terroirs. High quality Grenache exists in northern Spain, southern France, parts of southern Italy and Sardinia, and in southern Australia, but rarely in California. This makes Krankl’s achievement all the more remarkable. Regarding the article’s title, “Wasted” – I was so elated (by their quality) as well as depressed (because I couldn’t drink all of these elixirs) that it seemed as if too much wine had been “wasted.” On a light-hearted note, my condition once I finished the academic part of the tasting could have been described as “wasted” by those who still hold to the notion that alcohol is the demon drink.||Production ranges from 250-300 cases for the long barrel-aged Grenache to nearly 1,000 cases for the earlier released Grenache. Prices are in the $150-250 range from the winery. Tel. (805) 237-1231; Fax (805) 237-1314 Wine Advocate.August, 2011

Robert Parker    Score: 93/100

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