I've had many incredible wines from Sine Qua Non, Manfred Krankl’s eccentric label. He's made dozens of great wines and each one is different; hence each has its own name and a label designed by the master himself.
Most of the time, I truly enjoy his sensational wines. On a few occasions, though, I've been dumbfounded by SQN wines that didn't seem to have any varietal connection or direction. But sometimes winemakers make wines that step outside the boundaries, and Krankl is clearly a genius of sorts when it comes to making wines he likes to drink. And he has plenty of followers. His wines have achieved cult status, and the wines sell fast.
This past week I've tasted three 2006 SQN reds that have been extraordinary. One was at a dinner party, non-blind. The other two emerged from one of my blind tastings, and included the wine I'd had for dinner the night before.
Most of my SQN tastings have been courtesy of friends popping corks, and on a couple of occasions, readers have sent me bottles just to get my thoughts. We don't have many official reviews of SQN wines, because they've been hard for us to acquire.
Most of the SQN wines have been very ripe expressions of the grape, irrespective of the varietal. One wine, a blend of Marsanne, Chardonnay and perhaps Viognier, of course defied varietal definition. But I'll say this: most of the wines have been amazingly complex and distinctive. They're plush conversation pieces that are exciting to drink.
What struck me about the two wines I reviewed recently was how different they were in style – one opulent, the other ripe, but trimmer.
The 2006 SQN Grenache California Raven ($135) displays the SQN style I'm accustomed to. It’s deliciously complex, bold, rich and layered, with dark berry, plum, mocha and spicy nuances. It remains a big, opulent wine, but exquisitely balanced.
The 2006 SQN California Syrah California Raven ($135) is sleeker, with a delightful mix of big aromas and a gentler texture. It's got rich, bold blackberry jam, pepper, mineral and sage notes that are elegant and supple on the palate, ending with a chicory edge. Overnight, it continued to express more pepper and spice.
When I spoke with Krankl yesterday, he was boarding a plane and we briefly discussed the wines. One big change is that he is relying more and more on grapes from SQN’s vineyards for the blends. Previous bottlings of California Raven, for example, have used grapes from Santa Barbara's Bien Nacido and White Hawk vineyards. But now more of the grapes come from the Eleven Confessions Estate Vineyard in Santa Barbara’s Sta. Rita Hills.
With SQN, Krankl synthesizes the choice of great vineyards, creative winemaking and a quirky marketing genius. This mix of odds and ends of wines certainly wouldn’t work for everyone. But Krankl's found a seam in the market that is thrilled by his wines.
Do you count yourself among Krankl's fans, and what are your views about the wines?
James Suckling — — April 17, 2009 12:12pm ET
Chris A Elerick — Orlando, FL — April 17, 2009 12:17pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — April 17, 2009 12:27pm ET
Matt Scott — Honolulu HI — April 17, 2009 12:51pm ET
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — April 17, 2009 12:55pm ET
Jason Gullion — April 17, 2009 1:56pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — April 17, 2009 2:00pm ET
Larry Schaffer — central coast, ca — April 17, 2009 2:10pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — April 17, 2009 5:54pm ET
Totv — La Quinta, CA — April 17, 2009 6:34pm ET
David A Zajac — April 17, 2009 10:52pm ET
Robert Wert — Wilmette, Illinois — April 18, 2009 8:02am ET
Scott Oneil — UT — April 18, 2009 1:59pm ET
Jim Mccusker — Okemos, MI — April 18, 2009 3:59pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — April 19, 2009 12:10am ET
Don R Wagner — Illinois — April 19, 2009 11:03am ET
Jacob Terrell — Paso Robles, CA — April 23, 2009 12:25am ET
Manfred Krankl — Oak View, CA — April 27, 2009 6:32pm ET
Jacob Terrell — Paso Robles, CA — April 29, 2009 12:26pm ET
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