October 1, 2014

Bringing Passion and Fun to Winemaking

Let’s face it: the making and consuming of wine is serious business. Especially when we’re talking about rare cult wines priced into the $400s per bottle that are only available through an exclusive mailing list.

But we don’t want to confuse serious with pretentious. At Sine Qua Non, a winery based in Ventura, Calif., winemakers (and husband and wife) Manfred and Elaine Krankl do not come off as stereotypical snooty oenophiles. The self-effacing vintners, who remain intensely hands-on in the production of their wines, bring a lot of fun into the whole process. Just witness the very labels of their wine.

To wit: The label of their 2002 Just for the Love of It syrah includes the quote "…never for money." And The Inaugural defines itself in penciled handwriting: "a wine made without compromise and with deep, individual emotion." But don’t let the cheeky labels fool you—both of these bottles scored 100 points in Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate and will be auctioned at this month’s Naples Winter Wine Festival.

In creating their names and labels, which include Manfred’s original artwork, Elaine says there is no standard process; it is "always playful and mostly to entertain ourselves," she says. "Sometimes it is a dedication of sorts to someone or something … and often a sort of love letter to me." Such as the white wine blend whisperin E.

The Krankls developed their love of wine when Manfred was a partner in La Brea Bakery and Campanile in Los Angeles, where he was also the restaurant’s wine buyer—and where he met Elaine. A backyard winemaking hobby in the early 1990s eventually turned into what is today a winery that produces some of the most highly acclaimed and sought-after wines in the country. From their Ventura facility, they purchase fruit mostly from local vineyards and blend it into their remarkable varieties. The Krankls are currently building their own vineyard at their home ranch, and this year, Sine Qua Non is releasing its first all estate-grown wines, including The Inaugural syrah.

"I believe we make our wines to suit ourselves first and foremost, and are interested in producing wines that not only just taste good, but have character and individuality," Elaine says. "I think people pick up on that, and it speaks to them."

But don’t let anyone tell you what to drink, she advises. "Taste as many different wines as possible … take your time to develop your own palate. Only time can really refine your taste," she says.

At this year’s wine fest, the Krankls will offer five wines at the Friday night dinner of Carol and Tom Lund and Barbara and Bob Crown.

"The fact that 100 percent of the money raised [at the wine festival] goes to the kids is especially attractive to us," Elaine says. In a characteristic light-hearted spirit she adds, "On a more self-serving note, it makes for an absolutely delightful and, of course, hedonistic weekend."

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