Several Years ago, I lived in Ventura, CA. While living there, I knew about Sine Qua Non by reputation and difficulty to get ones hands on. I was hard-pressed to find anyone that had even tried these wines. I knew this winery was close to my house (try less than 2 miles away)but I could never find it (the winery or the wines). Once in a while, I would run across a bottle, but the cost was always prohibitive (hard to justify almost $300 for a Central Coast Roussanne). All the while, no one in the wine biz seemed to know the proprietor Manfred Krankl, but a visit to erobertparker would make your head spin. 99, 100, 98 points consistently? I wouldn't go as far as to call this my white whale, but there was something about it that I never was at peace about. All of the connections and relationships I had built couldn't bring me any closer to meeting Manfred or trying his wines, outside of shelling out too many Benny Franks.
Fast forward to 2004, I move back to my hometown in Toledo, Ohio and land a job with Langdon Shiverick Imports, and guess what's in the portfolio. I had to relocate over 2000 miles away to find the one wine that was made geographically closer to me than any in my life. Walt Wirth, who runs Ohio, landed SQN a few years back after trying for years to get Manfred's wines- actually, a fantastic story in itself. So, I have now tasted these wines 3 times in the last 6 months. Each release is affectionately, individually named. Krankl prefers Syrah, Grenache and Pinot. He often sources Central Coast Fruit. So how does he do it? Well, apparently they are proprietary winemaker secrets, although, I know for a fact, it's all natural with no additives of any kind. I have some theories, but I'm not about to divulge them either. Walt tells me Manfred is like a mad scientist and Willy Wonka rolled into one. Walt also says that Manfred is intensely loyal and hard-working, and he's one of Walt's favorite people, period.
Last week, We had a chance to check out the newest release, the 2003 "Papa" Syrah. The label is enough to bring a tear to your eye. When describing this wine, I sort of realize why this wine lives up to the hype as few wines ever do. First, the aromatics are profound- I got Milk Chocolate, with a cacophony of fresh berry fruit aromas. A little pipe tobacco, baking spice, and lavender. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. there is so much depth and complexity on the nose that I feel like I could keep going, but I don't want to continue using that part of my brain anymore. I just want to take it in. The nose sings and never relents, and then you taste it. I expected a monster, and overextracted fruit bomb, but instead, I was greeted with an elegance of texture and integration of a million flavors, all in harmony with chocolate leading the rhythm section.
I concede that given the specialness (is that a word?) of this bottle, I may have paid more attention than I would ordinarily, but the quality and originality of this wine is undeniable. Next, I need to try to sneak in to his factory, hope he doesn't have any oompa loompas.