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Notes from a special dinner - Saturday, October 21, 2006, at Pinot Provence Restaurant in Costa Mesa, CA. Our party of thirty got together for an eagerly awaited series of mini-verticals - if you can call them that - of Sine Qua Non wines, made by Elaine and Manfred Krankl. These wines arevery low production and sold by mailing list only, or to restaurants - though some do find their way into the market via transactions from their mailing list customers. So, you want to get on the mailing list? Well, there's a waiting list for that - and I'm afraid it's a long wait.

My Favorites

2001 On Your Toes
2003 Lil' E

1997 Imposter McCoy
1998 E-Raised
2002 Just For The Love of It
2003 Papa
2001 Ventriloquist
2003 Sublime Isolation

2003 Omega

2000 In Flagrante
2001 Midnight Oil

2002 Hollerin' M
1999 Marauder

2000 a Capella
2000 Nobleman
2000 The Hussey
2001 No. 6
2001 Albino
2000 Strawman
2002 Strawman

Speaking of the mailing list, the very purpose of this event was something completely different. It was founded on the suggestion of Jay Selman that those who are on the mailing list, share some of their wines with those who are merely on the waiting list. All that was asked, was that those not contributing wines to the event were to organize similar events for other mailing lists. What a great concept - paying it forward!

Back to the event - and it was quite a night. Many thanks to Jeff Nowak, Dave Nerland, Mattias Jannson, Bruce Leiserowitz, Ryan Curry, Greg Wright, Alan Wolfe, and of course Jay Selman, without whom none of this would be happening. Gentlemen, I am in awe of your collective generousity. And, a special thanks to Jeff Nowak for his fantastic pouring regimen! I couldn't imagine that anything could be organized so efficiently. It was truly amazing -- each of us had a packet containing tasting note cards and stemware tags for each one of the wines. All we had to do was slip a tag onto a stem and wait for Jeff and a few others to come around and give us our pour, that they'd carefully measure into a nifty measuring cup. We'd finish a flight, swap out tags for the next flight, and voila, around came the gang with the next group of wines. What teamwork!

Overall impressions: first, these wines were all excellent to outstanding in quality, and as with siblings, they were each different and likeable on their own merits. I did tend to favor the Syrahs in my favorites of the night, but truth be told, one of the whites, one of the Pinots, and both Grenaches were right up there too. Oh, and the '96 Tattinger Champage worked wonderfully as a starter.

Tasting Notes

Pre-flight - served with dungeness crab in ponzu gelee

1996 Tattinger Champagne (magnum)
Beautiful toasty aromas and flavors, with juicy acidity and seemingly perfect balance. Delicious!

1st flight - proprietary white wines served with dungeness crab in ponzu gelee

2000 The Hussey - poured from magnum, this 100% Roussanne from a 60/40 combination of Alban and Stolpman vnyds. Lightly buttery nose with notes of lime, clover, honey and nice hit of ginger. Somewhat waxy in mouthfeel and delicate initially, with a lightly sweet, nice midpalate and very long finish. My second favorite of the flight.

2001 Albino - somewhat more lime than the Hussey, this blend of Chardonnay, Roussanne, and Viognier was also more honeyed and floral than the Hussey. Initially fuller in mouthfeel, with a nice delicate mid and latter palate. (Chard from Stolpman, rest from Alban.) Had a nice smokey quality throughout. Somewhat less crisp than the rest of the flight, this didn't stand up to the food as well as the others. A nicer wine on its own, and a hell of a tall bottle, too!

2003 Sublime Isolation - the table consensus favorite of the flight, this very similar blend to the Albino seemed more full bodied on the palate and smokier, with some clover and a bit of ginger in the nose. (Biggest difference between the two was that the Chard here was sourced from Bien Nacido.) It also got better and better - even with the short time in glass (~20 min), and was the most balanced of the three. This could have been named the "Persuader," given the heft of the bottle.

2nd flight - Pinot Noir served with roasted John Dory and lobster mushroom risotto

2000 a capella - this started the Pinot Noir flight - all sourced from Shea Vnyd in Oregon, though some of us saved a couple of whites to try with the fish. Nose of wild strawberry, with a bit of black cherry and raspberry. Surprising acid balance (kind of like a Hirsch), with lots of spicy wild strawberry and the barest hint of citrus. Not particularly earthy - as one might think of Oregon, largely IMO due to complete destemming. Aside from that, I found this wine almost more ...'er...Burgundian in it's floral scent and balance. Also, arguably the most attractive package on the table.

2001 No. 6 - Lightly sweet nose with lots of black cherry and spice. Nicely balanced, plenty of fruit, somewhat understated and delicate, with a nice - if soft, fade on the back end.

2002 Hollerin' M - wider and more expansive in mouthfeel, this seemed very complete, with a lovely balance, and nice spicy black cherry fruit. With food, however, the balance seemed to tip more toward big New World thickness on the palate - not necessarily a bad thing, but I felt the wine shined better on its own.

2003 Omega - poured from magnum, this represented the highest % of new oak (90%) of the four, and for my $$ made it the more complete of the flight. Lots of sweet black cherry and a touch of licorice, this was very juicy and luscious in mouthfeel, and seemed the most balanced.

3rd flight - Grenache served with duck breast with a cranberry jus

2001 Ventriloquist - this 82/18 Grenache/Syrah blend was big and brawny with lots of dark fruit and complexity. Very approachable, with a nice balance and long lingering finish. Almost Albanesque in it power, I'm sure the 18% Syrah buffed this wine out nicely. Big AND beautiful.

2003 Lil' E - poured from magnum, this wine had a dense nose of raspberry and wild cherry, and was a killer example of the variety which just continued to get better and better with time. With 78% Grenache (over half of which came from Manfred's estate vnyd) and 12% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah, this seemed like really complete package. The addition of the Mourvedre seemed to add a tenor to the bass note of the Syrah, and seemed to amplify the Grenache in the blend. Well, that's my logic, and I'm sticking to it. Wow!

4th flight - Syrahs served with Kobe beef, root vegetables, and truffle oil-scented jus

1997 Imposter McCoy - okay, moving along to Syrah, we'd broken the 8 wines into two flights - simply separated by vintage. Gorgeous nose of smoked meats, Kirsch liqueur, and spiced blackberry. Full and balanced on the palate, seamless fruit, with a nice grip of acids on the back end. With 5% Grenache, this was my favorite of the flight, and another wow!

1998 E-Raised - the 2.5% of Viognier seemed to lift the nose on this Syrah, giving it a hint of sweet floral quality, along with a glove leather quality. Meaty in mouthfeel, with a nice hint of vanilla to spice of the black fruit. Great balance, and paired nicely with the Kobe beef.

1999 Marauder - this 100% Syrah from Alban, Bien Nacido and Stolpman vnyds got all new oak (as did the E-Raised), contributing to the nice smokiness throughout. Very concentrated in nose and mouth, but it also seemed a bit monolithic as well. Could have just been the bottle, but time didn't coax any more out of the wine over the next 1/2 hour.

2000 In Flagrante - back to a blend for this vintage (Syrah, with 10% Grenache and 2% Viognier), and a reduction of new oak (72%). My 2nd favorite of the flight, this was terrific smelling and sipping, and did better on its own - rather than with the food. Again, I think the other varietals lifted the nose of this wine. Rich and tasty mouthfeel, with lots of black fruit throughout, and something of a red licorice touch toward the long finish.

5th flight - Syrahs served with the same dish as above

2001 Midnight Oil - similar to the In Flagrante blend, but heavier to the Syrah side (96%), this was brighter and spicier throughout. Seemingly less riper in style than the rest of the flight, this was very nicely balanced and stands out from the others as more European in profile - well, to me anyway.

2001 On Your Toes - this was a wine everyone had been waiting for. Seldom seen (there were just 67 cases made), anticipation was high - and it did not disappoint! 100% Syrah from Alban, Stolpman and White Hawk vnyds, the nose was filled with dense black fruit, asphalt, and anise. The mouthfeel was amazing, as the wine kept picking up weight from mid-palate through the huge finish, eschewing sweetness until the very end. The table consensus favorite of the flight - and maybe the night! Killer!

2002 Just for the love of it - everyone's favorite acronym - JFTLOI, this was another eagerly awaited wine. Arguably the jammiest of the flight, this wine seemed more a mix of black and red fruit, and had a really nice hint of orange marmalade throughout. The minor amounts of Grenache and Viognier (2% each) might have influenced things here, but I think it was more the fact that 5 different Central Coast vnyds were sourced, giving the wine a nice smooth refined nose and texture. JSOIFA - just sit on it for awhile!

2003 Papa - no less than 6 vnyds were sourced for this wine, including the Eleven Confession estate. Young and monolithic at first, this wine continued to improve in the glass, and had most of us saying "wow" after about 10 minutes. Seemingly a perfect blend of fruit (7% Grenache, 1% Mourvedre), the wine had a beautiful pepper scent, also undeniable on the palate. Mixed dark fruits, lots of spice, smooth textures, and picking up steam with more air time. My 2nd favorite of the flight. Suh-weeeet!

6th flight - desert wines served with honey and vanilla panna cotta and warm vanilla Madeline

2000 The Straw Man - harvested at 23.8 brix and air dried until pressing. Fat and rich (sounds like a pejorative, except where dessert wine is concerned) and utterly tasty. Soft sweet finish.

2002 The Straw Man - harvested at 24.0 brix and air dried until pressing (57 days in this case). Similar to the '00, but more balanced on the palate with nice acids throughout, and stronger finish.

2000 The Noble Man - well, I'll go out on a limb here and say that for a Chardonnay, this was remarkably Sauternes-like. Lovely sweetness, with great acidity and balance. Lots of stone fruit aromas and flavors, and just...well...noble!


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