2007 Sine Qua Non - Wine Advocate #190 - Aug 2010: The recently released 2007 Syrah Labels (89% Syrah, 7% Grenache, and 4% Viognier) comes from the 11 Confessions Estate Vineyard (57%), a small amount from the home estate vineyard in Oak View called Cumulus, and the rest from purchased fruit grown in the White Hawk Vineyard in Los Alamos and the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria. A sensational effort, it is performing even better out of bottle than it did from barrel. An opaque purple color is accompanied by beautiful notes of charcoal, acacia flowers, blueberries, blackberries, graphite, and subtle smoke. With great fruit, tremendous texture, and full-bodied power, it is locked and loaded. This cuvee should provide great drinking in addition to some provocative discussions 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.
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