Sine Qua Non, Syrah, Grenache, Whites and Mr, K!


Sine Qua Non is contender for one of the most unique winery programs in the world. Founded in 1994, by Manfred Krankl, within a few years, they began making the benchmark wines for Rhone wine varietals produced in California. In some years, other wineries might produce a better Syrah or Grenache than Sine Qua Non, but there is no competition when it comes to consistency.
Once past consistency, there is no winery on earth that competes with Manfred and Elaine Krankl for creativity.  For 17 years, they have produced unique wines in every vintage. Not only do the wines have different blends year after year, but each has a unique name, label and bottle shape. The wine and the bottles are hand crafted works of art.  Every picture tells a story.
When Krankl first started Sine Qua Non, the wines were produced from a variety of sources, including the famed Alban vineyards. Today, with almost 30 acres under vine, they are slowly moving to producing wine from their own vineyards.  Much of their plantings are located in Santa Rita as well as in Ventura county.
Sine Qua Non is a wine many Rhone wine fans claim is an essential element in their cellar. Some collectors say is indispensable. This makes sense when you consider that Sine Qua Non is an archaic, Latin legal term which  is loosely translated into an essential action, condition, or ingredient, that without which, something cannot be.
Sine Qua Non produces wines from white and red Rhone wine varietals  that are typically grown in Chateauneuf du Pape and Cote Rotie.  While most Sine Qua Non Syrah Syrah and Grenache bottling’s see 18-24 months in oak, Krankl began a program of making some wines that see extended aging in new oak. This is similar to what Guigal does with their legendary Cote Rotie wines, La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque. Those see between 36 and over 40 months in new oak.
Some Sine Qua Non Pinot Noir was included in the tasting. Krankl discontinued their Pinot program with the aptly named “Over and Out.”
The style of Sine Qua Non at its best is, rich, full bodied, ripe, concentrated, mouth filling,  decadent and opulent.

Sine Qua Non White Wines

Kolibri – With a deep gold hue, the honeysuckle, floral, peach, vanilla and petrol nose opens to a full bodied, robust, sweet, spicy, cantaloupe and petrol flavored wine. This is a blend of 69% Roussanne and 31% Viognier. This wine is not for everyone, but if you like a full throttle style of white Rhone, it could be up your alley. 94 Pts

Petition – Produced from a blend of Viognier, Roussanne, and 30% Chardonnay from two vineyard sources, Alban and Eleven Confessions, the full bodied wine offers a powerful melange of fresh peach, hot stones, spice, earth and petrol flavors. 91

Body and Soul offers a boat load of spice, honey, bees wax, cinnamon and citrus aromas and flavors in this big, fat, juicy, concentrated wine. 92 Pts

Sine Qua Non Pinot Noir

Ox – Earth, spice, dark cherry, truffle scents make up the perfume. Medium bodied with some heat, the wine ends with a spicy, black cherry and cola sensation. The wine is slightly past full maturity and needs to be drunk up sooner than later. 90 Pts

Hollerin’ M – This is filled with ripe black cherry, spice, jammy berries and smoke aromas. Powerful, concentratedl and packed with ripe fruit, the wine finishes with a long sensation of jammy, red berries. This is not Burgundy, and it’s not trying to be Burgundy. But it’s a tasty Pinot Noir in the prime of its life. 94 Pts

Over and Out – The aptly named wine earned its moniker because it represented the final vintage of Pinot Noir produced by Manfred and Elaine Krankl. The perfume is filled with ripe black raspberries, cola, strawberry jam and earthy scents. The wine feels a little hot in the mouth before finishing with jammy berries and cola flavors. 91 Pts

Sine Qua Non Syrah and Grenache

Midnight Oil – Blueberry, blackberry, coffee, smoke, licorice and black cherry scents pop from the glass. This huge, mouth filling, powerful, plush textured wine is concentrated with layers of fat, juicy, ripe, jammy blackberries, blueberry and chocolate flavors. 96 Pts

Labels – A pungent perfume of black and blue fruit, earth, cappuccino, spice and caramel greet your nose. Full bodied, dense and rich, this powerful, fat, intense wine requires a few years before it fully opens. 95 Pts

Atlantis – This bottle was not a fair representation of what the wine has to offer. Decanted over 10 hours, the wine lost most of its aromatics and freshness. Like salt, you can always add more in later, but too much salt or air cannot be fixed. Few wines require 10 hours of air.

Poker Face – Boom! That’s what happens with the perfume the moment the wine leaps from the bottle. Espresso, blackberry, caramel, jam, chocolate, spice and blueberries fill the air. This thick, luxurious, full bodied, opulent wine coats your mouth and palate with velvety textured fruit. This wine is huge, but everything is in balance. The wine finishes with a pallet full of palate staining black and blue fruit. 99 Pts

Lil E  –  Named after Elaine Krankl opens with fresh coffee, blueberry pie, oak, and jammy black raspberries. Fat, rich and round, this mature, plump wine ends with a melange of ripe, black and red fruits 93 Pts

Heels over Head is the rarest Sine Qua Non wine after the Queen of Spades. The wine was a semi joint venture between Manfred Krankl and Dan Phillips of the Grateful Palate. Phillips purchased a barrel and raised it in 100% new American oak without the assistance of Krankel. Under 300 bottles were produced. The wine was sold to customers of The Grateful Palate.

If you’re a pickle fan, this wine is for you. It smells like an oak barrel of fresh, chocolate covered pickles. The wine is drying out and ends with a sour finish. There are wines to drink, wines to buy and wines to sell. At a value of over $1,000, this is a wine to sell!

This is funny! The last time I tasted this wine was about 6 years ago. I was positive I would never have the chance to taste it again. After posting this note, I just saw my score from 6 years ago. It was exactly the same! Great minds think alike… 80 Pts

Sine Qua Non Dessert wine

2002 Mr. K Strawman – This opens with an intense, sweet perfume filled with fresh picked apricots, brown sugar, honey, roasted peanuts and orangesicle Thick, dense and stuffed with as much sweet fruit as possible, it was too much of a good thing for me. With the texture of syrup feels fat and lazy on your palate. More acidity would have given it better lift. Fans of Essencia from Tokaji will love this wine more than I did. 90 Pts

Wine is made for sharing. All of us were grateful for the efforts of everyone at the dinner for sharing their Sine Qua Non bottlings.  OK, the little dog might not of had as much fun as we did. On the other hand, you never know.


  1. Hi Jeff, just did a double blind tasting with a local group of Washington State winemakers and had the ’01 Sine Qua Non Midnight Oil for first time and it was beat out by a ’06 Mark Ryan Wild Eyed Syrah from Red Mountain, Wa. I know totally different wines and not a fair comparison(Old world vs new world styles), but I went back and re-tasted the SQN and it has a unique complexity that I can see how folks might like it for that quality, but in all honesty it’s really not that great of a wine for all the hype. Also had the 2000 SQN In Flagrante in a comparative flight as well, and once again, it just didn’t live up to the hype. I’m not a hatter of cult wines, but when you do blind tastings it shows the wines for what they are,sometimes not that good ? As I stated at the beginning, it’s the first time I have had any of Manfred’s wines, so may not have been the right venue to fully appreciate the wines for what they are and it’s just my palate. My two cents. Thanks !! Max

  2. Jamet : 1999 and 2001.

    I of course enjoyed La Turque 1989 and 1995.

    And a wonderful Hermitage Delas Bessards 1990 last week near Chablis (I recommand the restaurant le pot d’étain, and its huge wine list).

    I like Côte-Rotie Clusel-Roch too, and many others (the genuine empyreumatic freshness of syrah).

    Côte-Rôtie Vernay Maison rouge 2004 (less oak, at least), Barge 2007 (Plessy, Combard, Côte Brune).

    • Laurent… We are on the same page. 89 La Turque and 90 Bessards are wonderul expressions of Northern Rhone wines. I have a few bottles left of each wine. I am also a fan of Clusel Roch. Their Grandes Places is sublime. But it’s hard to find, as they make so little wine. I have one bottle of 1990 remaining. If you’re ever out this way, I’d be happy tio share it with you.

  3. Laurent… In Hermitage, I love Chave and the Chapoutier single vineyard wines. I am very happy Jaboulet La Chapelle is once again making great wine.

    In Cote Rotie, of course all the Guigal Single Vineyards. Rostaing Cote Blonde, Delas, Gerin, Ogier, Bonnenfond, Jamet and a few others capture my interest.

    Do you have favorite Northern Rhone vintages?

  4. Jeff,

    Friends travelling and international merchants.

    Other greats australian syrahs :
    Shirvington 2002
    Kilikanoon Attunga : “1865” 2005 and also Parable 2005
    Kalleske Johann Georg 2006
    Ben Glaetzer Amon-Ra 2002
    Torbreck Run Rig 1998
    Penfolds Grange 1986 (some doubts about the 1997)

    Disappointment with the famous Hill of Grace 97 (Henschke) and Astralis 1999 (Clarendon Hills).

    • Laurent… I seem to enjoy the expression of wine made from Syrah that’s grown in Cote Rotie and Hermitage the best. I’ve had most of the top wines from Australia, and I do not find the same level of complexity or elegance that I experience from France or California.

    • Hi Gwen

      Thanks for coming over and posting a comment. Sine Qua Non makes one of the world’s great wines. Sadly, because they produce so little wine, unless you are on the mailing list, they can be expensive. If you look around, when the wines are first released, they can be found for about the release price. On the other hand, I’m jealous. I don’t have the T-shirt!

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