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.
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