Is Manfred Krankl a genius? No. Is he super cool, and does he make excellent wines? Yes. Is he an artist and winemaker? Yes. Yes.
I had lunch a couple of days ago in Los Angeles with Manfred, who makes Sine Qua Non wines, and I was inspired not only by his wine that we drank – 2003 Sine Qua Non Li’l E – but his philosophy of life and winemaking. It’s hard to generalize, but Manfred makes wines that he wants to drink and then sells them to people he wants to drink them. I get the feeling that he applies the same sort of straightforwardness to his life in general. Some might call it honesty.
Basically, whatever Manfred doesn’t drink with his family and friends, he sells. And the wines – as many of you know – sell out very quickly. It’s almost all by mailing list. I heard that somebody paid $20,000 in a charity auction to be on his mailing list. Even those lucky souls on his mailing list only get a handful of wines a year.
Manfred is a true artist, not only in the traditional sense but philosophical as well. He does what he sees fit. And lives his life and makes wine they way he wishes. “I don’t have time for some people,” he said. “If I meet someone I don’t like, I just lose their number.”
He goes against the grain in a lot of things in the wine world. For example, the Austrian designs all of his labels himself as well as selects the bottles and all the other packaging. And, “it changes every year because each wine is different.” The names of his wines change every year as well, for the same reason.
It sort of makes your head spin trying to remember which wine is which and in what year. And it’s just as hard to remember what they are made of. But it doesn’t seem to matter. Manfred said that in the beginning people in the wine trade thought he was foolish by changing his packaging every year. What about brand building, blah, blah, blah? Well, he said with a hearty laugh, “Now the same people think I am a marketing genius!"
Manfred, until recently, bought all of his grapes to make his wines, which usually number in the few hundred cases for each variety. He can make a dozen or so wines in a given vintage. But he mentioned that, this fall, he would be releasing his first estate-produced wines, which he is very excited about. The grapes are all grown near his home in Ojai. Consumers will be able to distinguish them from his normal wines by a special bottle with "Sine Qua Non" etched in the glass. The vintage is 2003.
If they are anything like the 2003 Sine Quo Non Li’l E we drank, I would beg or steal to get some, if you can’t buy them. The Li’l E, which is pure Grenache, was a rich and multi-layered red with wonderful aromas and flavors of ripe strawberries, the small ones that you find in the forest. It was full bodied, with silky tannins and a long flavorful finish. Even though it was approaching 15 percent alcohol, it was fresh and balanced on the palate. I considered this wine to be of classic quality.
The wine reminded me of young vintages of Rayas that I tasted in the 1980s, which was arguably the golden age for the property. I told Manfred this and he agreed. In fact, Manfred had visited the property numerous times when the late Jacques Renard was there.
I could talk to Manfred for hours, not to mention drink his wines. Last week I had a bottle of his 2004 Rejuventors, which was a blend of Roussane and Chardonnay, and would give a top vintage of Chateauneuf’s Beaucastel pure Roussane a run for its money. This was another classic-quality wine.
Manfred’s got a frank vision of the world, and wine, that I like. And his wines are right in line with that vision.
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — February 7, 2007 6:06pm ET
Harvey Kornicks — Vero Beach,Florida — February 7, 2007 6:22pm ET
Totv — La Quinta, CA — February 7, 2007 6:59pm ET
Arshavir Kouladjian — Los Angeles, California — February 7, 2007 7:38pm ET
Sao Anash — Santa Barbara — February 7, 2007 7:59pm ET
Jason Thompson — Foster City, CA — February 7, 2007 9:49pm ET
Tom Miller — Vestavia Hills, AL — February 7, 2007 10:54pm ET
Peter Chang — Hong Kong — February 8, 2007 1:15am ET
David A Zajac — February 8, 2007 8:23am ET
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