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Sine Qua Non The Moment 2011
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Sine Qua Non has its own winemaking facility in Ventura, California not far from the Santa Barbara vineyards where the fruit is sourced from. In the last few years Manfred and his wife, Elaine, have begun creating their own vineyards dedicated to Rhone varietals. Their winemaking philosophy is to work in very small batches, gravity flow, natural yeasts (unless a fermentation problem is anticipated), long lees aging for the whites and repeated racking for the reds to open them up. This is a modified explanation of a very dedicated and artistic approach to winemaking. The wines are simultaneously very rich and elegant, superbly balanced and thoroughly harmonious with food, never overwhelming.
Responsible for the vast majority of American wine production, if California were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest wine-producing nation. The state’s diverse terrain and microclimates allow for an incredibly wide-ranging selection of wine styles, and unlike tradition-bound Europe, experimentation is more than welcome here. Wineries range from boutique to massive corporations, and price and quality are equally varied—plenty of inexpensive bulk wine is made in the Central Coast area, while Napa is responsible for some of the world’s most prestigious and expensive “cult” wines.
Just about every style of wine you can imagine is made in California, from bone dry to unctuously sweet, still to sparkling, light and fresh to rich and full-bodied. Each AVA and sub-AVA has its own distinct personality. In the Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other Bordeaux varieties dominate, as well as Sauvignon Blanc. Sonoma County is best known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel. The Central Coast has carved out a niche with Rhône blends based on Grenache and Syrah, while Mendocino has found success with Alsatian varieties such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer. With all the diversity that California has to offer, it is certain that any wine lover will find something to get excited about.
Full-bodied and flavorful, Rhône white blends are made in France’s Rhone Valley and beyond, proving most successful in Spain, Australia, South America, and California’s Central Coast. They are made from a combination of two or more of the white varieties permitted in the Rhône, potentially including Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier.
In the Glass
Each variety brings something different to the table. Round, textural Grenache Blanc contributes green apple and white stone fruit flavors; weighty Marsanne adds structure and delicate honeysuckle aromas; russet-colored Roussanne lends intriguing herbal, tea-like notes, and Viognier provides an oily texture and an elegant floral perfume. The flavor of the final wine will depend on the chosen components of the blend and their respective proportions.
Since Rhône white blends tend to be fairly full-bodied, they can be quite versatile food pairing wines and can work with light to medium rich meals that might normally be matched with reds. Meatier fish dishes with bold seasoning like grilled swordfish with caper butter or baked, herb-crusted mahi mahi are natural allies for these flavorful wines. Other ideal dishes include roast pork in mustard sauce, poached lobster with beurre blanc, or a rich and savory vegetable quiche. `
In the Northern Rhône, blends of Marsanne and Roussanne are most common, in the appellations of St.-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, and St-Péray (in Condrieu and Château-Grillet, whites are made from Viognier only). The Southern Rhône, on the other hand, has much more variety, with many more permitted grapes including Bourboulenc, Clairette, Picpoul Blanc, and Ugni Blanc.