Written by Alexandria Rae Cubbage, 6 Oct, 2020
In the luxurious wine shop, Hedonism, in London’s Mayfair district, my favourite room is the Sine Qua Non room. It’s a beautiful room devoted to showcasing the artistic attributes and nuances of these bottles. There really is no wine collection like that of Sine Qua Non (“SQN”) – each new bottle in each new vintage receives a new name, a new label and a new bottle shape. If you are a lover of art and wine, Sine Qua Non is a wine you’ll want to try. And its cult status was achieved quickly as from 1994 when SQN first began until 2008, already seven of the wines had earned 100 points from Robert Parker. So, we decided to put a dinner together, so you too can experience the magic and brilliance of SQN. Come join us for a rare snapshot of the creative winemaking talents of Elaine and Manfred Krankl, the founders of SQN.
The story of Sine Qua Non begins with the arrival of Manfred Krankl from his homeland of Austria to Los Angeles in the early 1980s. In 1989 he helped open a high-profile restaurant called Campanile where he was the wine director and managing partner. And that’s where he and his wife Elaine met; they worked there together. Next door they had a small space where they were able to sell the restaurant’s breads and named this spot La Brea Bakery; it became a national success. In 1994, with their shared passion for wine and money from the restaurant and bakery venture, Elaine and Manfred founded Sine Qua Non. They began by purchasing grapes from trusted winery owners and friends with a similar passion for Rhône varietals, like John Alban. And initially they made their wine in Alban Vineyards’ cellars. By 1997, they were able to set up a winery in Ventura, California in an industrial warehouse space. Eventually, they were able to buy some of their own vineyards, and now they own the following four vineyards in California: Eleven Confessions Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills near Buellton, The Third Twin Vineyard near Los Alamos, Molly Aïda Vineyard in Tepusquet Canyon near Santa Maria and their home vineyard Cumulus located in Oak View near Ojai. And in 2012, they built a new winemaking facility at their home in Oak View, California.
Through the course of this dinner, we will taste wines that are not only creative blends but also showcase different winemaking methods. For example, we will have a white blend that’s 57% Roussanne, 19% Petite Manseng, 17% Chardonnay and 7% Viognier, mostly from estate fruit, that spent 16 months in a combination of concrete, new and used barrels, and stainless steel. The other white, Résisté is a blend of 45% Roussanne, 26% Chardonnay, 14% Petite Manseng, 10% Viognier and 5% Marsanne that spent 19 months in 46% new French oak and the balance in concrete eggs and used barrels. The lone rosé in the line up Manfred and Elaine released to their wine list customers for one cent after they watched their 1995 Queen of Hearts Rosé set record prices at auction. And An Eight Track Rosé is a blend of 85% Grenache, 10% Mouvèdre and 5% Syrah. The SQN rosés are deep and serious wines, more like drinking a Pinot Noir than a rosé.
Then, for the reds we will try two Pinot Noirs – one from the famous Shea Vineyard in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and one from Santa Rita Hills, California. And the wines for the evening will include not only Syrah and Grenache from SQN but also from their sister project Next of Kyn (the first vintage was 2007). This wine is made in small quantities and most of the fruit comes from their estate vineyard Cumulus. It was their first completely owned estate vineyard and was planted in 2004 to Syrah, Grenache and Roussane. These three grapes make up the blend of the 2009 Next of Kyn. In 2008, they added Petite Sirah, Mouvèdre and Touriga Nacional, so those grapes are also part of the blend in the 2010 Next of Kyn.
All of the wines for this dinner were acquired by a private wine collector who was on the wine list of SQN for years; it’s the only way to get these wines and it’s next to impossible to get on the list. The only other way is to pay the high prices they fetch on the secondary market – if you can find a collector willing to part with them. So, do take this opportunity to enjoy these cult California masterpieces from Sine Qua Non. Perhaps, you will find a few you need for your collection.
Wines to be served:
2011 Sine Qua Non The Moment White Blend
2013 Sine Qua Non Résisté
2013 Sine Qua Non And An Eight Track Rose
2004 Sine Qua Non Covert Fingers Pinot Noir
2002 Sine Qua Non Hollerin’ M Pinot Noir
2010 Sine Qua Non Cumulus Vineyard ‘Next of Kyn’
2009 Sine Qua Non Cumulus Vineyard ‘Next of Kyn’
2010 Sine Qua Non Five Shooter Grenache
2009 Sine Qua Non Estonoesuna Salida (This Is Not An Exit) Grenache
2009 Sine Qua Non This Is Not An Exit Syrah
2007 Sine Qua Non Labels Syrah
2005 Sine Qua Non Atlantis Fe203 Syrah 1A