Sunday, February 15, 2015

42-label Sine Qua Non tasting: The white wines

Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non (SQN) introduced his winemaking style and variety preferences in a 1994 4.5 barrel offering and, since that initial vintage, his wines have become some of the most sought after in the trade with managed access to limited production (approximately 3500 cases annually) and sky-high auction prices being the order of the day. Manfred's recent accident, and no definitive information as to his prognosis, has filled the wine world with a sense of dread and is further fueling the upward price pressure.  To honor the potency of the legacy that he and his wife Elaine have created, and to show solidarity with Manfred and his family during these trying times, organized and hosted a tasting of 42 SQN wines at Luma in Winter Park on January 31, 2015. The wines included in the tasting are shown below. In this post I will cover the white wines tasted.

2008 Kolibri
    2004 Poker Face Syrah
2006 Noble Man Chardonnay
2009 On the Lam
    2004 Into the Dark Grenache
2006 The Strawman Roussanne
2010 The Monkey
    2004 Ode to E Syrah
2007 To the Rescue Grenache
2011 The Moment
    2004 Ode to E Grenache
2008 Jinete Bajo Roussanne
2012 In the Abstract
    2005 Atlantis Fe 203 1A Syrah

2012 Pearl Clutcher
    2005 Atlantis Fe 203 2A Grenache

    2005 11th Nail in my Cranium Syrah

    2005 The Naked Truth Grenache

    2006 Raven Series Syrah

    2006 Raven Series Grenache

    2006 A Shot in the Dark Syrah

    2006 In the Crosshairs Grenache

    2007 Labels Syrah

    2007 Pictures Grenache

    2007 Dangerous Birds Syrah

    2007 Dangerous Birds Grenache

    2008 B-20 Syrah

    2008 The Line Grenache

    2008 The Duel Syrah

    2008 The Duel Grenache

    2009 Upside Down Grenache

    2009 The Thrill of Stamp Collecting Syrah

    2009 This is NOT an Exit Grenache

    2009 This is NOT an Exit Syrah

    2010 Five Shooter Grenache

    2010 Five Shooter Syrah

    2010 Stockholm Syndrome Grenache

    2010 Stockholm Syndrome Syrah

    2011 Dark Blossom Grenache

    2011 Dark Blossom Syrah

    2001 Midnight Oil Syrah

    2002 Just for the Love of it Syrah

Early SQN wines were produced from grapes sourced from Alban, Stolpman, Babcock, and Bien Nacido Vineyards, among others, but, as shown in the table below, with the passage of time, Krankl has developed his own fruit sources. Syrah and Chardonnay were still being sourced from White Hawk and Bien Nacido Vineyards with the latter also being the home to laboratory blocks of the main Rhone varieties.


11 Conf.
The Third              
Molly Aida


22 acres
6 acres

Santa Rita 
Hills AVA
Oak View 
Santa Ynez 
Tepusquet Canyon

2004, 2008




Syrah (10 
(8 acres)
(3 acres)
(1 acre)
(2.5 acres)
(2.5 acres)
(1 acre)
Petite Manseng
Touriga Nacional
Petit Sirah
Petit Sirah

4350 vines/acre

1.5 tons


We arrived at the tasting as scheduled and stood in awe of the number of wines arrayed before us on the tasting table. A total of 18 persons were participating with the whites and dessert wines set up more informally but the full range of reds had been poured for each position. There was a lot of work ahead. A lot of work had been ongoing since pouring began at 2:30 pm. It was now 6:00 pm.

The white wines were stationed on a table to the back and side of the main table and participants were poured the five wines sequentially.

2008 Kolibri, 2009 On the Lam, 2010 The Monkey, 2011 The
Moment, 2012 In the Abstract, and 2012 Pearl Clutcher (L to R)
Adam Chilvers of pouring one of the whites
Bev, Parlo, and Gigi Chilvers
Usual suspects
The fruit sources, blend components, and aging regimes for the whites tasted are illustrated in the chart below.

2008 Kolibri
2009 On 
the Lam
2010 The Monkey
2011 The Moment
2012 In the Abstract
2012 Pearl Clutcher
Fruit Source

  • Estate
  • Bought

  • 82%

  • 18% (Bien Nacido)

  • 11 Conf
  • Bien Nacido

  • 11 C + Cum 
  • Bien Nacido

- Bien Nacido
  • Roussanne
  • Viognier
  • Chardonnay
  • Petit Manseng

  • 69%

- 31%

  • 48%
  • 18%
  • 34%

  • 57%
  • 7%
  • 17%
  • 19%

  • 31%
  • 16%
  • 37%
  • 16%

- 100%
Aging Regime
  • New French
  • Used
  • Concrete eggs
  • Stainless steel

  • 25%
  • 75%
  • X

  • X
  • X
  • X

  • X

  • 27%
  • 48%
  • 25%

  • 92%
  • 8%
Aging Period

19 months
19 months

Conf = Confessions; Cum = Cumulus

Before turning to the tasting notes, let's examine some of the considerations associated with the wines. According to, the characteristics of the indicated varietals are as follows:
  • Marsanne
    • Distinguished by its high alcohol level and deep color
    • Light, dry short-living varietal produced in France; more body and character in new world settings
    • Does not usually age well
    • Addition of juice from Roussanne results in a more aromatic, delicate, and interesting wine
  • Viognier
    • Adds full body, spiciness, peach, apricot, honeysuckle
  • Chardonnay
    • Fruity bouquet of peaches and melon from warmer regions with more acidity and freshness on its fruit palate
  • Petit Manseng (Appellation America and
    • Best known for the production of sweet wines in its native France
    • Aromatic, with peach, citrus, cinnamon, and tropical fruit notes most notable
    • Great acid retention
And now on to the notes. It should be noted that these wines did not get the exposure to oxygen that the red wines did (and in many cases it seemed as though that would have helped).

2008 Kolibri -- Pungency on the nose along with coconut, marmalade, walnuts, roasted nuts, and almonds. Oily texture, weighty on the palate. Big. Rich. Heat. Spicy.
2009 On the Lam -- Aromatic. Sweet white flowers, nutty, herbs, thyme, and parsley. Weighty on the palate with hint of petrol. Spicy red pepper.
2010 The Monkey -- Nuts, spice, white flowers on the nose. Rich and oily on the palate. Slight phenolic note and saline character. Hearty savoriness.
2011 The Moment -- Juicy fruit, aromatic nose. On the palate burnt orange, rich, thick. A little more acid than I have encountered to date. Smoke and pepper.
2012 In the Abstract -- Tropical fruits, orange, creme brulee, walnut, pine, beer, green bark. Almost Burgundian on the nose. On the palate spice, nut, oily. Great texture. Long, oily finish.
2012 Pearl Clutcher -- Vanilla, spice, oiliness, smoke, pepper. On the palate smooth, velvet texture but with weight. Tobacco and nutty flavors on palate. Hurrah for acidity.

In all honesty I prefer my white wines light on their feet and with near-searing acidity. I like Assyrtiko and Roulot Meursault. These were not those wines but I would have liked to have revisited them two days later. I just thought I would throw that out there.

Next up? The reds of course.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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