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100 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
The recently released 2004 Poker Face (96% Syrah, 2.5% Mourvedre, and 1.5% Viognier) comes from the Eleven Confessions, White Hawk, Alban, Bien Nacido, and Alta Mesa vineyards. Boasting classic blackberry, creme de cassis, charcoal, acacia flower, and subtle background toasty oak notes, it possesses a fabulous texture, beautiful richness and purity, and a finish that lasts nearly a minute. It is a wine of enormous richness, multiple dimensions, and unreal purity. Although approachable, it benefits from several hours of decanting, and should evolve for 15 or more years. To reiterate, it is a challenge to analyze these wines. I know they are distinctive, and I think I am beginning to understand why they are so much greater than just about every other Syrah or Grenache-based wine in California. In short, it is talent and incredibly meticulous hard work. No one works as hard or is as maniacal about a vineyard’s viticulture and winemaking as Manfred Krankl. Take that, add in exceptional talent, humility, top-notch vineyards, and I believe I understand the fundamentals of why these wines are so special. (8/ 2007)
Poker Face - Sine Qua Non
Sine Qua Non is a small winery which was established back in 1994 by Manfred and Elaine Krankl. Manfred Krankl, the managing partner at Campanile restaurant, feels strongly that each year, each vintage, is a completely unique wine and therefore he gives each wine a unique name. Sine Qua Non is quite well known for its wines names, label artwork and heavy, irregularly shaped bottles. Manfred also creates the artwork for each new label himself, changes the vineyard sources and varies composition with each bottling. These wines are really one of a kind. Due to the tiny quantities produced and the recent 98-100 Parker points for many of their wines, Sine Qua Non is now categorically regarded as a "California Cult" wine producer.
The winery's name Sine Qua Non is Latin for "absolutely indispensible", or literally "without which not".
The Krankl's first serious commercial undertaking was a Syrah called Black and Blue, which was produced in 1992 at the Havens winery in Napa. It was followed by an assortment of oddly named wines – Queen of Spades, Red Handed, The Other Hand, The Bride, and more recently Twisted and Bent, Imposter McCoy and Veiled. All the wines have a distinctive, funky label, that are all reproductions of Manfred's artwork.
In 1997 the Krankls got their own winemaking facilities, and their goal now is to own a vineyard and grow grapes, as all their wines up untill now have been produced from purchased grapes. Almost all the grapes have come from the Santa Barbara region, except the Pinot Noir, which groe in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
The Poker Face wine is made from predominantely Syrah with a dash of Grenache.
Early bud break led to one of the earliest harvests in memory
In 2004, bud break occurred earlier than many vintners could remember, and the trend carried forward throughout the growing season. Heat spikes happened in June and at scattered intervals throughout the summer season. Grapes completed veraison early and ripeness with well-developed sugars in all varieties was realized early. Growers held on as acid balance eventually caught up. Temperatures were steady into one of the earliest harvests in Napa Valley. Grape quality was very good with a crop that was smaller than average.