Sine Qua Non

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Sine Qua Non (SQN) B-20 Syrah 2008 750mL
Tasting Notes

  • 2008 Sine Qua Non B-20 - Wine Advocate # 190 - Aug 2010: The 2008 Not Yet Named Syrah (91% Syrah, 6% Grenache, and 3% Viognier) will probably spend 24+ months in barrel. Admittedly a hard act to follow after the 2007 Not Yet Named and 2006 A Shot in the Dark, this 2008 requires introspection. Its opaque purple color is followed by tightly knit aromas, but like the 2008 Grenache, it unfolds incrementally in the mouth. There is abundant freshness as well as tremendous intensity and richness, but everything is tightly coiled in the mouth, and this wine begs for more barrel aging. This loaded, intense red will be one of the finest 2008s made in the Central Coast, and again, will confirm Krankl's obsessive decision to pick in late November in order to achieve perfect ripeness. (Not yet released) 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.
RP95
Sine Qua Non (SQN) Dangerous Birds Grenache 2007 750mL (Stained Back Label)
RP99

Sine Qua Non (SQN) Dangerous Birds Grenache 2007 750mL (Stained Back Label)

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Sine Qua Non (SQN) Eleven Confessions 2003 6-Pack OWC 750mL (The Inaugural - 5 Syrah & 1 Grenache)
Tasting Notes

  • 2003 Sine Qua Non - Wine Advocate #172 - Aug 2007: The mind-boggling 2003 The Inaugural Syrah is an emotional experience to taste as well as drink. Aged 38 ? months in French oak, it was fashioned entirely from the Eleven Confessions Vineyard, which is planted with Syrah clones #470, 174, and the Estrella River and Alban field selections. This stunning Syrah boasts a magnificent bouquet of spring flowers, blueberries, blackberries, charcoal, licorice, and roasted meats. It hits the palate with remarkable intensity, purity, and full-bodied power, but it somehow manages to dance across the taste buds with the gracefulness of a ballerina. Awesomely long, I still tasted this wine 60 seconds after I had spit it out no easy task, even for a professional. This majestic Syrah should be a modern day legacy for Sine Qua Non, ranking alongside the other stunning Syrahs they have produced, such as the two 2002 cuvees, Just For The Love Of It and Heart Chorea. This is a nuanced, complex wine, whereas the 2004 Poker Face is more exuberant and flamboyant. It should age beautifully for 10-15+ years. The recently released 2003 The Inaugural (90% Grenache and 10% Syrah, the first vintage from the Eleven Confessions Vineyard) is a stunning effort. Boasting superb intensity and purity, it spent 38 months in French oak, and has taken on mind-boggling nuances and subtleties. It is a huge wine dominated by black cherry, blackberry, and cassis fruit, but also offering notions of plums, figs, soy, smoke, and roasted meat-like notes. The wines enormous complexity, silky, full-bodied, voluptuous texture, and remarkable finish suggest it will last over a decade, but who can resist it now? It hits all the palates and olfactory glands sweet spots, a hedonistic and intellectual joy
RP100
Sine Qua Non (SQN) Eleven Confessions Inaugural Syrah 2003 750mL
Tasting Notes

  • 2003 Sine Qua Non - Wine Advocate #172 - Aug 2007: The mind-boggling 2003 The Inaugural Syrah is an emotional experience to taste as well as drink. Aged 38 months in French oak, it was fashioned entirely from the Eleven Confessions Vineyard, which is planted with Syrah clones #470, 174, and the Estrella River and Alban field selections. This stunning Syrah boasts a magnificent bouquet of spring flowers, blueberries, blackberries, charcoal, licorice, and roasted meats. It hits the palate with remarkable intensity, purity, and full-bodied power, but it somehow manages to dance across the taste buds with the gracefulness of a ballerina. Awesomely long, I still tasted this wine 60 seconds after I had spit it out no easy task, even for a professional. This majestic Syrah should be a modern day legacy for Sine Qua Non, ranking alongside the other stunning Syrahs they have produced, such as the two 2002 cuvees, Just For The Love Of It and Heart Chorea. This is a nuanced, complex wine, whereas the 2004 Poker Face is more exuberant and flamboyant. It should age beautifully for 10-15+ years. To reiterate, it is a challenge to analyze these wines. I know they are distinctive, and I think I am beginning to understand why they are so much greater than just about every other Syrah or Grenache-based wine in California. In short, it is talent and incredibly meticulous hard work. No one works as hard or is as maniacal about a vineyards viticulture and winemaking as Manfred Krankl. Take that, add in exceptional talent, humility, top-notch vineyards, and I believe I understand the fundamentals of why these wines are so special.
RP100
Sine Qua Non (SQN) Eleven Confessions Inaugural Syrah 2003 750mL (Missing Wax Capsule)
Tasting Notes

  • 2003 Sine Qua Non - Wine Advocate #172 - Aug 2007: The mind-boggling 2003 The Inaugural Syrah is an emotional experience to taste as well as drink. Aged 38 ½ months in French oak, it was fashioned entirely from the Eleven Confessions Vineyard, which is planted with Syrah clones #470, 174, and the Estrella River and Alban field selections. This stunning Syrah boasts a magnificent bouquet of spring flowers, blueberries, blackberries, charcoal, licorice, and roasted meats. It hits the palate with remarkable intensity, purity, and full-bodied power, but it somehow manages to dance across the taste buds with the gracefulness of a ballerina. Awesomely long, I still tasted this wine 60 seconds after I had spit it out – no easy task, even for a professional. This majestic Syrah should be a modern day legacy for Sine Qua Non, ranking alongside the other stunning Syrahs they have produced, such as the two 2002 cuvees, Just For The Love Of It and Heart Chorea. This is a nuanced, complex wine, whereas the 2004 Poker Face is more exuberant and flamboyant. It should age beautifully for 10-15+ years. To reiterate, it is a challenge to analyze these wines. I know they are distinctive, and I think I am beginning to understand why they are so much greater than just about every other Syrah or Grenache-based wine in California. In short, it is talent and incredibly meticulous hard work. No one works as hard or is as maniacal about a vineyard’s viticulture and winemaking as Manfred Krankl. Take that, add in exceptional talent, humility, top-notch vineyards, and I believe I understand the fundamentals of why these wines are so special.
RP100
Sine Qua Non (SQN) Eleven Confessions Naked Truth Grenache 2005 1.5L
Tasting Notes

  • 2005 Sine Qua Non - Wine Advocate # 184 August 2009: The 2005 The Naked Truth (a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah) displays a backside portrait of Manfred Krankl's wife, Elaine. (Krankl does all the artwork for his labels.) Approximately 38% whole clusters/stems were used during fermentation, and the wine is aged in a combination of small barrels and larger demi-muids. Contrary to everything I have learned about Grenache, this offering spends 38 months in wood, yet it shows no evidence of oak, and it possesses remarkable vibrancy and freshness. Its the kind of wine that makes a mockery of all conventional wisdom about oak and Grenache. Made totally from fruit grown in the 11 Confessions Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills, it is about as profound a Grenache as one is likely to taste. Krankl looks everywhere for inspiration, and there is a large picture (and I mean large) of the great southern Rhone oenologist, Philippe Cambie, hanging in the winery. There may be a spiritual kinship to what Cambies magic is unleashing in the southern Rhone and what Krankl is doing in California. The dense ruby/plum/purple-colored Naked Truth reveals an extraordinary bouquet of sweet black raspberries, boysenberries, kirsch, licorice, pepper, and spice. Full-bodied with noteworthy concentration, freshness, texture, and length, it is a tour de force as well as a mind-boggling example of Grenache that is likely to turn heads, but how many wine lovers have the guts, courage, and are willing to put up with the tiny yields and challenging maturity curve of Grenache in California to pull off something like this? Not many. That why we don't see more than a handful of wines such as this emanating from California. <br /><br />Passing through what looks like a junkyard (or the first or second level of hell) to get to the warehouse of both bodily and spiritual pleasures called Sine Qua Non, is a hoot and a howl, but well worth it if you can somehow wrangle an appointment with the reclusive proprietor, Manfred Krankl. Tasting here is one of the highlights of my year, and all my expectations were satisfied if not eclipsed by what Krankl has made in 2007 and 2006. Oh, and there is one utterly perfect late-released 2005. Yields in 2007 were exceptionally low, with the Syrah averaging 1.5 to 2 tons of fruit per acre, Grenache 1.3 tons per acre, and the white grapes 1.28 tons of fruit per acre. Put another way, Krankl's highest yields averaged a meager 1.05 to 1.55 pounds of fruit per vine. That in large part explains the compelling aromatics, texture, richness, and intensity of these wines. Add to that the compulsive viticultural work and fanatical attention to detail in the winery, and its no wonder Sine Qua Non remains one of Californias most remarkable reference points of world-class wines. The good news is that the first wine from the new home vineyard in Ventura County, the Cumulus Vineyard, has been produced. Moreover, the continued brilliance of the other estate vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills, 11 Confessions, is confirmed. Over the last few years I have not been able to taste through the Sine Qua Non wines without coming across one that merits a three-digit score. The final wines to be bottled under the Mr. K. moniker include the 2006 The Nobleman and 2006 The Strawman. As some readers may know, this partnership between the famed Austrian, Alois Kracher, and Manfred Krankl has finally come to an end because of the tragic death of Alois Kracher, who fell victim to pancreatic cancer at age 49. The Mr. K. offerings have been remarkable wines that showcased the talents of both of these great winemakers.
WS97
Sine Qua Non (SQN) Eleven Confessions Ode to E Grenache and Syrah 2004 2-Pack OWC 1.5L
Tasting Notes

  • 2004 Sine Qua Non - Wine Advocate # 177 June 2008: The 2004 Ode to E Eleven Confessions Vineyard Grenache (which was scheduled to be bottled just after my visit) is a 248-case cuvee aged in 41% new oak. It has a strong chance of meriting a three digit score when bottled. An amazing wine, it boasts an inky/ruby/purple color in addition to a glorious aromatic profile of pen ink, licorice, sweet black cherries, and black currants. With exceptional density, purity, nuance, and delicacy, it is a blend of 88% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 2% Viognier, the latter component providing uplift as well as a mindboggling degree of complexity. It is an incredible example of Grenache that should drink beautifully for 10-15+ years. I don't know whether its 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 worlds 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 worlds 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 operations 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 Guigals 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 dor 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.
RP100/RP99
Sine Qua Non (SQN) Eleven Confessions Patine Granche 2011 750mL
Tasting Notes

  • Coming all from Manfred's Eleven Confessions Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills and a blend of 77% Grenache, 22% Syrah and 1% Viognier (fermented with 25% whole clusters), the 2011 Grenache Patine spent a full 33 months in almost all neutral oak, with just 11% being new. It offers perfumed and spice-laced notes of white pepper, black raspberry, blackberry and ground herbs that flow to a full-bodied, elegant, nicely concentrated 2011 that has nicely integrated acidity, no hard edges and a terrific finish. It's certainly one of the fresher, more elegant Grenaches from Manfred, yet it still has rocking levels of fruit. Give it 2-3 years of cellaring and enjoy bottles over the following decade. There are few greater success stories in wine than that of Sine Qua Non’s Manfred Krankl. Austrian-born and showing up penniless in Los Angeles in 1980, he went on to create one of the greatest wine estates in the world today by sheer talent and work ethic. Despite being involved in a horrific motorcycle accident in September of 2014, he’s recovering admirably and was in great spirits during my visit. Looking at his latest releases, the 2011 extended-aged cuvees all show the cooler nature of the vintage, yet had phenomenal levels concentration and firm, tannic spines. I’m not sure they’re a step up over the earlier 2011 releases, but they’re without a doubt some of the top wines in the vintage. The 2012s are big, ripe and voluptuous wines more in the style of 2009s, yet perhaps with slightly less exuberance. The real shocker was the quality of the Next Of Kyn releases. These come all from his estate vineyard located around the winery in Oak View. I was blown away by both the ’11 and ’12, with the ’12 being the greatest wine yet from the estate.
RP97
Sine Qua Non (SQN) Icarus 1999 1.5L (Only 24 Produced)
RP93+

Sine Qua Non (SQN) Icarus 1999 1.5L (Only 24 Produced)

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Sine Qua Non (SQN) In Flagrante 2000 3.0L OWC ( Rare)
RP96

Sine Qua Non (SQN) In Flagrante 2000 3.0L OWC ( Rare)

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Sine Qua Non (SQN) Labels Syrah 2007 750mL (Cracked Wax Capsule)
RP98+

Sine Qua Non (SQN) Labels Syrah 2007 750mL (Cracked Wax Capsule)

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Sine Qua Non (SQN) Midnight Oil (2) /Ventriloquist (1) 3-Pack OWC 2001 1.5L
RP96

Sine Qua Non (SQN) Midnight Oil (2) /Ventriloquist (1) 3-Pack OWC 2001 1.5L

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Sine Qua Non (SQN) Mr K Strawman Vin de Pauille 2002 375mL
Tasting Notes

  • 2002 SQN Mr. K The Strawman - Wine Advocate # 159 - Jun 2005: The virtually perfect 2002 Mr. K. The Strawman boasts astounding statistics. Aged 30 months in barrel, with only 7.2% alcohol, it carries 482 grams per liter of residual sugar (half the wine), and 7.8 grams per liter of acidity. It is simply off the charts. Sexy, eye-popping, palate-staining stuff, it is like liquefied honey with extraordinary complexity, aromatics yet freshness and delineation. I simply do not understand how this wine was made given the technical numbers and its amazing sugar. It is neither heavy nor cloying, and is a remarkable tour de force created by two Austrian geniuses. The worlds most profound wines are always made by the same kind of people ... artists, craftspeople, revolutionaries, and traditionalists who have one overwhelming trait in common ... they are irrefutably dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, and their hearts, souls, and enormous talents are reflected in wines of singular personality and achievement. There are never any compromises, so it is no surprise that what takes place in these cellars is the transformation of a commonplace beverage into a form of drinkable art Manfred Krankl and his charming wife, Elaine (referred to by Krankl as E), are on a roll given what has emerged from their funky warehouse/garage winery located in what looks like a discarded Hollywood set from the movie Mad Max. Finding a bottle or two of Sine Qua Non is no easy task since virtually all these wines are sold to longtime mailing list clients as well as the countrys finest upscale restaurants. However, some relief is in sight as Krankl is beginning to get fruit from his own Eleven Confessions Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. Moreover, he planted another vineyard in Ventura County on a bald outcropping that should produce some fascinating Rhone varietals. The upcoming releases all reveal Krankls magic touch, and like some of the finest wineries working with Rhone varietals, Manfred Krankl is a creative blender, recognizing that blends generally result in more nuances and flavor complexity than a single varietal cuvee.
RP98
Sine Qua Non (SQN) Raven Grenache 2006 750mL (Cracked Wax Capsule)
RP98

Sine Qua Non (SQN) Raven Grenache 2006 750mL (Cracked Wax Capsule)

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Sine Qua Non (SQN) Raven Syrah 2006 750mL (Cracked Wax Capsule)
RP96

Sine Qua Non (SQN) Raven Syrah 2006 750mL (Cracked Wax Capsule)

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Sine Qua Non (SQN) Red Handed / The Other Hand 1995 2-Pack OWC 3.0L (Only 6 Etched Sets Produced)
AG93/AG92+

Sine Qua Non (SQN) Red Handed / The Other Hand 1995 2-Pack OWC 3.0L (Only 6 Etched Sets Produced)

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Sine Qua Non (SQN) The Ox / Tarantella 1999 2-Pack OWC 1.5L
RP95

Sine Qua Non (SQN) The Ox / Tarantella 1999 2-Pack OWC 1.5L

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