Manfred Krankl isn’t afraid to break the rules when it comes to producing some of California’s most highly prized Syrahs and Grenaches. He eschews tradition at his winery, Sine Qua Non, instead blazing his own path to success. “He approaches wine like he drives,” said senior editor James Laube, introducing the winemaker. “Open throttle, testing every curve and straightaway.”
This was Krankl’s first time presenting at the Wine Experience, giving attendees a rare opportunity to taste one of his wines, the Sine Qua Non Syrah California Raven Series 2006 (95 points, $135), since most of his bottlings are small lots sold only through a mailing list. Scanning the room, he commented that it was “easily the largest Sine Qua Non tasting ever held.”
Krankl reminisced that his path to wine started while he was living in Austria. He was an altar boy while growing up, and one of his duties was to bring wine to the priest for Mass. To make sure the priest only got the best wine, he joked, he would privately sample a bit. “I think it made me fall in love with wine at an early age,” he said.
That interest grew after Krankl and two partners opened Campanile in Los Angeles. As wine buyer, he “commissioned” vintners to make wines for the restaurant and eventually tried his hand at winemaking. The first wines did so well that he left to open his own winery.
Krankl’s philosophy for his wines includes keeping grape yields low and using organic methods in the winery’s three vineyards, located in Santa Rita Hills, Ojai and Los Alamos. He wasn’t shy about his views on other methods, such as picking grapes at lower ripeness levels. “Not in my book,” he declared. “I like perfectly ripe fruit.”
Despite his sometimes unconventional views, Krankl recognizes that it takes hard work to create a lasting legacy. Now that one of his children has joined the winery, he said, “Even though we don’t have much of a history quite yet, maybe we are at the beginning of something special and something, that at some point, will have historical significance as well.”
For more on Manfred Krankl, read James Laube’s profile of the vintner in the June 15, 2010, issue.