Sine Qua Non

Owner(s) Elaine Krankl, Manfred Krankl
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Sine Qua Non

This tiny garage winery is one of California's true cult wineries. Established in 1994 in Ventura, California by Austrian emigrant and ex-restaurateur Manfred Krankl and his wife Elaine, the wines have attracted raves from the wine press and the mailing list filled up long ago with hundreds of names on the waiting list. Krankl acquired an interest in California wine while living in Los Angeles.

The winery's name literally translates from the Latin as "without which one cannot," and is pronounced "sineh kwa non." The wines are quite unique with a different name assigned to each vintage, displaying unusual label artwork created by Krankl himself, and offered in wildly different bottle shapes. In 2015, Krankl published a limited edition book, The Art of Sine Qua Non, that chronicled the story of his life through the wines and their labels, most of which are reproduced in the book.

Krankl made eight vintages of Pinot Noir from Shea Vineyard in Oregon, and the last two vintages in 2004 and 2005 from grapes sourced in the Sta. Rita Hills. He discontinued his Pinot Noir program to concentrate on Rhone varietals. Petite Syrah, and dessert wines with the plan to eventually source all wines from estate-grown grapes. Production in 2009 was about 3,500 cases annually.

The three winemakers who shaped Krankl's style were John Alban, Burt Williams and Helen Turley.

The winery is not open to the public. There is a very informative interview of Manfred Krankl posted on Grape Radio. Your best bet for obtaining the wines is the secondary market but be prepared to open your wallet. Are they worth it? Well, the Sine Qua Non Pinot Noirs I have had (I have tasted every vintage of Pinot Noir at least once) were distinctive and made for a compelling drinking experience. The Pinot Noirs were ripe, opulent and fleshy with great depth of flavor. 805-649-8901

Reviewed Wines

2005 Sine Qua Non Over & Out Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.2% alc., $230. · Nothing shy about this wine. The prodigious fruit is veering on the edge of super ripeness with a touch of prune peeking out. Despite the high alcohol, everything is well-proportioned. The most striking feature of this wine is the finish offering a spectacular peacock tail of raspberry and cherry fruit. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »

2004 Sine Qua Non Covert Fingers Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., $ (current retail price from $245 to $450). · The powerful black raspberry and blackberry perfume practically knocks you over. Huge, jammy, powerful black fruits that are very flashy. Rather linear and lacking nuances, but oh what a ride. Well integrated tannins, smooth texturally, and sporting a long, chewy aftertaste with a hint of black coffee. A hedonist’s delight. Reviewed August 19, 2008 ARTICLE »

2004 Sine Qua Non Covert Fingers Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., $275. Also reviewed in Volume 7, Issue 1. The two Sine Qua Non Pinot Noirs from the Sta. Rita Hills show riper flavors and lower acidity. · A powerful melange of ripe black fruits attacks the mouth upon entry. Very dense and showy with an appealing softness. Nicely balanced. Not for the faint of heart. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »

2003 Sine Qua Non Omega Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir

15.5% alc., $230. Corked - Boo-Hoo. · The fruit is noticeably reduced but there are still tasty black cherry and plum flavors. We tried the Saran Wrap trick attempting to recover the wine but were unsuccessful. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »

2002 Sine Qua Non Hollerin’ M Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

15.4% alc.. · A fruit-driven, pumped up, California Nuevo style Pinot Noir. Plenty of lip-smacking plush red and dark fruits. The alcohol is well-hidden. Like it or not, it is certainly distinctive. Reviewed March 27, 2007 ARTICLE »

2002 Sine Qua Non Hollern’ M Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

15.4% alc., $ (current price from $345 to $499). · I have had this wine on three other occasions over the past few years and it has never failed to impress me. A haunting nose of exotic dark berries with oak, musk, earth, charcoal, minerals and a little heat. Brassy dark velvety fruit that is rich, flamboyant and sumptuous. The tannins are suede-like and the wine caresses the tongue like a fur coat. My only complaint is that you can’t drink much of it at one sitting. Reviewed August 19, 2008 ARTICLE »

2002 Sine Qua Non Hollerin M Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir

15.4% alc., $350. Also reviewed in Volume 7, Issue 1. This is one of the greatest Sine Qua Non Pinot Noirs and the highest rated Oregon Pinot Noir ever. · The nose speaks of the soil and wild dark berries with a touch of alcohol. In the mouth there is sumptuous dark fruit highlighted by earth, tobacco and mocha that fills the mouth. A velvety texture and a long, scented aftertaste will satisfy any hedonist. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »

2001 Sine Qua Non No. 6 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $220. The grapes in this vintage were large and flavors were not particularly concentrated. The wine was not highly rated upon release. · A very fruity and fresh Pinot that draws you in with showy dark stone fruits and underlying earthiness. The tannins are silky and the overall impression is that of a very decent, but not extraordinary wine. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »

2000 Sine Qua Non a’Capella Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $200. Consistently good weather during this vintage. · I have tasted this wine on several occasions and it has always charmed me. Complex aromas of dark red fruits, mushrooms, coffee, minerals and hi-tone spice. A seamless wine that is just starting on the downhill slope. Drink up. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »

1999 Sine Qua Non Ox Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $190. A prolonged vintage with harvest extending into November. There was very little maturity and color change in early September and the vintage was saved by heat in October. · A substantial and fruity wine with great intensity. Still young and sporting noticeable tannins. Plush earth-dusted black cherry flavors with a woodsy and forest floor finish. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »

1998 Sine Qua Non Veiled Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $220. A warm vintage, just short of 2003 in seasonal heat. · Very fresh and aromatic sporting darker fruits and complimentary spice. Thoroughly enjoyable to all who tasted it. Impressive for its longevity. Reviewed September 15, 2008 ARTICLE »

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