Sine Qua Non: The Indispensable Cult-Favorite Winemaker


Sine Qua Non: The Indispensable Cult-Favorite Winemaker

Wine Team New York |

There really is no wine producer like Sine Qua Non. Named after a Latin phrase meaning “without which, nothing,” or “absolutely indispensable,” SQN wine gives each new bottle in each new vintage a new name, a new label and a new bottle shape – all of which reflects their unique approach to winemaking. SQN wine doesn’t have a set method, recipe or style for the wines they make. Rather, they see each year as a new experience and an opportunity to make a wine that reflects what nature has given.

SQN’s fearless creators, Manfred Krankl and his wife, Elaine, have a lofty but simple ambition: to create a wine that every wine lover will want. SQN achieved its cult status quickly. By 2008, just fourteen years after their founding in 1994, seven wines they produced had earned 100 points from Robert Parker. Sine Qua Non wine focuses primarily on Rhône varietals (alongside non-Rhône-origin grapes such as Petit Manseng and Petite Sirah) and grows their wines in some of the best vineyards in California’s Central Coast. Sunshine, top vineyard sites, mentorship from some of the best winemakers in the world and creative vision have become their hallmarks.

My own fascination with the Sine Qua Non winery began in 2010, during my years as a sommelier at Veritas in New York City, where I had the good fortune of working with one of the top collections showcasing this wine – the collection of Park B. Smith. At Veritas, I encountered several devout followers and even had the pleasure of meeting winemakers Elaine and Manfred Krankl. As I’ve tasted the SQN wines over the years - from Queen of Spades Syrah to Eleven Confessions Grenache and beyond - I’ve learned that each is as distinctive as their bottles and thought-provoking labels would suggest.

Perhaps that’s confusing to lovers of Burgundy and Bordeaux, who prefer to compare vintage to vintage to see a marked style and vintage change. To understand wines better, we frequently try to define them based on what is expected given a certain grape or region. Sine Qua Non’s only prerequisite and one true goal is pure enjoyment and their wines reflect that simple passion. From popular SQN red wines based on Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre to whites blending Roussanne, Viognier and Chardonnay, the warmth of California comes through, and you’ll often feel a bit of power and intensity on the palate. Yet the wines are balanced, even with their ripe flavor and richness. They invite you to take another sip.

Much like the Latin namesake suggests - Sine Qua Non winery has become an indispensable figure for wine collector. And as you explore the wines of Sine Qua Non at different stages in their development, whether in their youth or with age, you’ll find that they can be enjoyed now or kept in your cellar – whichever suits your pleasure.

- Alexandria Cubbage | Vice President, Head of Major Collections, Americas in Sotheby’s Wine Department.


Featured Wines