Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wine of the Week: Sine Qua Non 2005 Mr. K The Strawman

Usually for my Wine of the Week column, I prefer to feature wines that are of the more cost-friendly variety, but this week I'm compelled to violate this preference.

The reason?

Because I've just tasted one of the most incredible wines of my lifetime: Sine Qua Non's legendary 2005 Mr. K The Strawman.

However, this story doesn't begin on Christmas Eve, when The Wine Lover popped the bottle, and I took my first sip of the liquid gold.  Rather it began years ago when I first read about cult winery, Sine Qua Non, shortly after moving to Los Angeles.  Maybe it was their decidedly eccentric names for their wines, or the fact that many consider their Grenache to be the finest in the New World, or the fact that they make their wines in a garage in Ventura, but whatever the reason, I fell in love with the idea of this winery right away.

I say idea because until this Christmas Eve, I had never actually partaken of their wine.  Sure, we've been wait-listed to join their mailing list for years, receiving our biannual we regret to inform you that we don't have any of our precious wine for you consolation postcards (you other wait-listers know what I'm talking about), and sure, I've admired their wines on restaurant wine lists, priced far higher than I have ability to pay, and in wine stores on occasion, also priced far higher than I have ability to pay, but I've never had the opportunity to sample their fermented grapey beverages.

That is, until The Wine Lover's 60th birthday rolled around this June (click here to see the photo gallery of the wines we drank in celebration).  To put it mildly, my father is impossible to buy gifts for, and even more impossible to surprise.  This left Kuzak and me in a conundrum.  What to gift him for this landmark day?  After much research, Kuzak located a half bottle of the Sine Qua Non 2005 Mr. K the Strawman, rated the coveted 100 points by Robert Parker.  It would be a kingly birthday gift, one that I'll admit was at least a little bit self-serving.  It's true that I hoped to sample a taste for myself when the time came to drink the bottle.

That day finally rolled around this Christmas Eve, with both Kuzak and I back in Floyd for the holidays, once again in close proximity to The Wine Lover's cellar.  After a spectacular meal, if I do say so myself, of Homemade Goat Cheese Ravioli with bruleed delicata squash, red kale and walnut oil, and an main course of a deconstructed lobster chowder with saffron and bacon, we cleared the table and prepared ourselves for our first taste of Sine Qua Non.

To quote Robert Parker, this wine made from 100% Marsanne grapes from the Beckman Vineyard, has "remarkably low alcohol (7.5%), a whopping 392 grams of residual sugar per liter, and exceptional acidity (6.4 grams of acid per liter)."  The color of the liquid is an intensely deep gold, and the nose is spectacular beyond belief, but only hints at the majesty that lies within the glass.  From the first sip, I instantly understood the reason for the rave reviews - this wine was complex beyond belief, with harmonious notes and deep layers of flavor, and an excruciatingly long finish of caramel and burnt sugar.  It was a complete revelation in a glass, and a wine I will never forget.  I can still summon up the ghostly taste in my mouth as I write this now.

Without question this is the finest sweet wine that has ever hit my tongue, and maybe that will ever hit my tongue.  Parker calls it, "one of the most singular sweet wines I have ever tasted, and goes on to write, "this one is as complex and intense as any sweet wine made in the world."

Is there anything left to say?

Sine Qua Non lives up to the hype, and then some.  I hope you all deign to taste this wine one day.  Now, if only Kuzak and I could off the darned wait list, we might finally get to try their Grenache!

Here's to hoping!


I'm not going to lie - this wine is hard to come by and quite pricey!  But if you are a true wine lover, like my father, this is the perfect way to commemorate a special day.  For the sake of this post, I was able to locate a half bottle from JJ Buckley Fine Wines for $224.99.  I know that seems high, but for the quality, it's a bargain compared to what people are paying for Bordeaux and Burgundy these days.  For this wine, I'd suggest looking at auctions, too.


Winery Information:

Sine Qua Non
Ventura County, CA

Well, divas, they don't have a website. To get on the waiting list (rumored to have more than 4000 people on it, including Kuzak, and wait times exceeding 5 years), you can phone (805) 649-8901 for instructions.

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