The 2006 Syrah Raven Series (93% Syrah, 5% Grenache, and 2% Viognier) is primarily from the Eleven Confessions Vineyard with small quantities from the Bien Nacido and White Hawk vineyards. It will be bottled after spending 22 months in oak casks. Aromas of sweet black and blue fruits, forest floor, lead pencil shavings, and spring flowers emerge from this remarkably elegant Syrah. With great fruit intensity, a stunning texture, and an opulent mouthfeel, this is a gentle, gracious, large-scaled wine displaying extraordinary finesse and elegance for its size. It will drink beautifully for 12-15+ years.
I don’t know whether it’s catching on or not, but there is a school of nonsense going around that somehow low yields are overrated. Of course, farmers who treat their vineyards like industrial plants, and wineries who do not control vineyards, or have accountants running the bottom line, are the usual suspects making this specious argument. From my perspective, thirty years of experience have always suggested that vineyards with the lowest yields tend to produce the most interesting wines. Sine Qua Non has emerged as one of the world’s greatest wineries over the last decade, and low yields are part of the reason. Yields for their white wine varietals have gone from .91 tons per acre in 2003, to their most generous yield of 1.86 tons per acre in 2005. Their red varietal yields have increased from a scary, financially disastrous .32 tons per acre for the 2003 Grenache, to a whopping 2.11 tons per acre in 2005. In 2007, yields averaged 1.28 tons per acre for the white varietals, 1.31 tons per acre for Grenache, and 1.52 tons per acre for Syrah. (I did not taste the 2007 SQN wines, but other Central Coast 2007s I did taste suggest this will be a great vintage for this region.) When tasting wines such as Sine Qua Non, these statistics mean something because the Grenache is the finest in the New World, the Syrah begs to be compared with the greatest of France, California, and Australia, and the white wine blends assembled by Manfred Krankl are as sumptuous and complex as the world’s finest Chardonnays, even though there is little Chardonnay included in recent vintages, and there will be none in future releases. The ultimate “garage” winery, this operation’s back alley warehouse looks like a set scene from the movie Mad Max, but inside are the elixirs of dreams. Despite Krankl’s already lofty reputation, he continues to fine tune and build more nuances and complexity into his wines without sacrificing their intrinsic exuberance, purity, intensity, and individuality. I am increasingly convinced that no one in Australia, America, South America, or anywhere else in the New World makes a finer, more complex and compelling Grenache than Manfred Krankl. He is now producing two Grenache cuvees, an experimental, highly successful, long barrel-aged (40-43 months) effort, and a Grenache that is aged in oak for nearly two years prior to bottling.There are also two renditions of Syrah, a long-aged offering that is essentially an hommage to Marcel Guigal’s single vineyard Cote Roties (the SQN Syrahs are aged 42 months in 100% new French oak), and a Syrah that is bottled after 21-22 months in oak. These cuvees are rarely 100% Syrah as Krankl frequently adds in some co-fermented Viognier as well as Grenache. There are four sweet wines being made, but, unfortunately, the Mr. K. series will end because of the premature and tragic death of the renowned Alois (Luis) Kracher, the genius behind so many extraordinary sweet wines from Austria, and a partner with Krankl. In a year filled with some extraordinary tastings (2005 Bordeaux, 2007 Southern Rhones to come), this tasting at the so-called “garage d’or” on the back streets of Ventura stands along side the wine-tasting/dinner at the Great Wall of China as one of the two wine-tasting events of the year.