Sunday, January 3, 2010

Seduced by 2001 Sine-Qua-Non

Manfred Krankl is a magician. Few winemakers in the world are able to stuff as much flavors in a bottle of wine, and still make it taste delicious and even elegant. His preference is cooler sites in foremost Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo (Alban Vineyard in Edna Valley has always been an important source of grapes), but today his wines are almost all estate grown. Selection of grapes is a crucial key, and I actually believe Manfred when he tells me that he looks at every single grape before throwing them in the fermentation bin.
A few days of cold soak, small fermentation vessels, all natural yeast, manual pigeage and high fermentation temperatures are part of the practices, but Manfred claims there is no such thing as a recipe. Every single batch is a specific wine, and every single barrel live its own life until the very crucial blending session, almost two years after harvest. “I don’t want to be too intellectual about my winemaking”, he says, but still he is one of the most intellectual and philosophical winemakers on this planet.
Today Sine-Qua-Non is predominantly a Grenache and Syrah winery (small amounts of whites, and a few barrels of sweets wines are made every year), and production hits around 3 000 cases per year.

2001 Ventriloquist / 95 p
The 2001 vintage of the Sine-Qua-Non grenache bottling consists of 95 per cent Grenache and five per cent Syrah. As always, the two grapes are vinified separately, and both the grapes and each vineyard lot are kept apart in French oak barrels (50 per cent brand new) until time for final blend. At first, the nose was a bit closed, and it took almost 30-40 minutes before anything happened. As expected, the fruit is rich and dense with sweet and ripe flavors of baked plums, cherries and raspberries, and also the signature licorice notes of Grenache comes forward on the palate, especially in the long, silky and great aftertaste. Since Grenache doesn’t give long lasting wines, you can expect this wine to show some secondary flavors, but the wine is still surprisingly youthful and even fresh. The sweetness and tannins from the oak, seems to have disappeared, but the silky texture of the oak treatment is still there. It is a wonderful wine with a seductive and lingering aftertaste, and I do recommend a good half hour in a decanter before enjoying it. Drink it 2010-2016.

2001 Midnight Oil / 96 p
Over the years, I have enjoyed many bottles of this great syrah, and it keeps on evolving in an amazing way. It’s a pure Syrah from the great, relatively cool Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley, and it has been stored in French oak barrels, two thirds brand new, for 24 months, and as with all wines from Sine-Qua-Non, the wine was bottled unfiled and unfiltered. Today the wine still shows a wide range of its primary aromas, dark berries such as blackberries, but also with some spiciness (primarily black pepper, but also some licorice and tar), and a slightly toasty note from the barrels. It’s young and quite firm, and really need some time in the decanter before opening up, and this is also the way do handle the wine to get all the quality flavors out of the wine. Tannins are still firm, but as expected from the to the smallest details concept Manfred Krankl follows, the tannins are ripe and offers a great structure that is needed in a wine with this concentration. Drink it 2010-2021.

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