I met Manfred Krankl, the man behind the highly sought-after Sine Qua Non wines, for the first time over dinner in Yountville in late January. It served as the first of many interviews with Krankl for the cover story of the June 15 issue of Wine Spectator.
He had been to a trade show in Sacramento before swinging through Napa to shop for wine bottles. He figures, if every wine is different, why shouldn't the bottle shape be as well? Made sense to me.
It ended up being a lively evening, with an engaging conversation. We drank wine and talked about wine and Krankl proved to be articulate, insightful, forthcoming, humorous and candid about just about any topic we touched on, from his style of wine, to critics of high alcohol, what constituted balance, and even my prying into his private financial matters. That is, questions about his winery, Sine Qua Non, and its financial health, which he said was fine. They had paid cash all along the way and had no partners.
He allowed that he loved Napa Valley; most wine people do because there is so much diversity and creativity among winemakers.
The next time we met, a week later, he picked me up at the Santa Barbara airport and we drove to Eleven Confessions, the Sta. Rita Hills vineyard he and his wife, Elaine, farm for about half of the grapes they use in their wines.
We walked the vineyard, with Krankl explaining the thinking behind the grapes and clones and spacing, showing a mastery of a wide range of grapegrowing subjects, a few of which he touches on in the video below. (You can see a larger version on our Wine Spectator Video Channel.)
But as we spent that day together and, then had dinner—Elaine, who is similarly candid and free-speaking, joined us—it dawned on me that Krankl would not have been able to pull off what he has at SQN—giving each and every wine a name, a unique piece of art he created—had he settled in Napa, and certainly not with Cabernet. I imagine vintners would have ridiculed him as an attention seeker or publicity hound. No, making wine where he does, in Ojai, in Southern California, on the outside and in a vacuum in his own inventive world, he was allowed what he called "an idiot's freedom" to be creative.
In more than 30 years of writing about and interviewing hundreds of winemakers around the world, Krankl proved to be the most fascinating, with an amazing capacity to absorb and process information, articulate what he wanted to accomplish with wine, and how, where, why and for whom. With a gush of enthusiasm, self-assurance and humor, he conveys his grasp of the essentials of wine—that it provides great complexity and pleasure and appeal to our intellect and senses.
Derek Olson — Chicago, IL — May 13, 2010 6:06pm ET
Greg Flanagan — Bethel CT — May 13, 2010 10:03pm ET
Plumpjack Winery — napa — May 14, 2010 1:01pm ET
Matt Scott — Honolulu HI — May 14, 2010 1:09pm ET
Sam Chen — The Golden State — May 14, 2010 1:38pm ET
David A Zajac — Akron, OH — May 17, 2010 8:33am ET
Scott Oneil — Denver, CO — May 17, 2010 4:32pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions