"You might want to start with the whites" -Bigdog
|Gang of Pour.com|
Sine Qua Non Tasting
By George Heritier
There was a small,
informal gathering at Chateau califusa planned for the night before the
big do at Montelena. Jon
Cook (above) aka Bigdog had a spread of wines from Sine
Qua Non he wanted to share, and that was the focal point of
the evening. Bree threw a
leg of lamb on the grill with plenty of fixins to go along with it, and
viola, we had a party!
In attendance were Bigdog,
George Palmer, Mary Adams, Larry and Mary Meehan,
Russell Briggs, Ken Rosenfeld, Richard Leland, Lisa
Doenecke, Bree, Kim and this taster.
Hacienda Monasterio Ribera del Duero, $30, 13.5% alc.: George
Palmer brought this impressive dark garnet along, and for the
first few of us, it was our aperitif!
It exhibits deep dark plum/blackberry character with significant
tannins and good acidity; intense and concentrated, this is serious
stuff. Give it at least
five years to mellow.
Bree pulled some fine
Chardonnay from his cellar to really get things going, and I wasted no
time going right for the Kistler.
Kistler Sonoma Coast Cuvee Cathleen, 14% alc.: This medium
straw is showing beautiful complexities as it matures, featuring
matchstick/asparagus/canned peas/pineapple and hints of butterscotch on
the nose, gaining more rich pineapple/pear on the palate.
Richard noted “butterscotch/crème brulee,” while Bree
marveled at the “incredible mouthfeel.”
The oak isn’t at all overdone, there’s just enough acidity to
keep it lively and it has a nice long finish.
This is the second ’94 Kistler Chardonnay we’ve tasted in a
month courtesy of califusa, and both have been absolutely wonderful.
That goofy George Palmer said, “It only has one fault;
it’s California Chardonnay.”
Rochioli Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 13.9% alc.: Pale
to medium straw, this shows big oak (but not too much) /pear/tropical
fruit/green melon flavors and aromas.
It’s rich and intense, and like the Kistler, has just enough
acidity to keep it lively. Russell
found it to be “a bit over the top,” and George mentioned
“a bit of a metallic finish.”
Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay Camp Meeting Ridge, 14.3% alc.: Pale gold with toasty sweet oak/tropical fruit/hint of
asparagus aromatics that follow through on the palate,
this shows the most acidity of these three.
The fruit is somewhat restrained and not as overt as the Rochioli,
with nice balance.
I liked all three of
these, as each had its own distinctive qualities and charms, but I’d
have to pick the Kistler as my favorite for its mature complexities and
marvelous depth. At that
point, we were ready to move on to the Sine Qua Non lineup, and someone
asked Bigdog if they should be consumed in any particular order.
His deadpan reply was, “You might want to start with the
Sine Qua Non Omadhaum & Poltroon Alban Vineyard, 60%
Rousanne, 40% Chardonnay, 15.2% alc.: The name of this medium straw is
German for Chicken Manure and Feathers, but it tastes and smells more
like matchsticks and pears to me, with a good jolt of oak to boot.
Rich and concentrated with low acidity, there’s nothing
chickenshit about this big white; Russell says it’s “gaining
some elegance,” and he’s had it before, so he should know.
Sine Qua Non Twisted and Bent, 60% Rousanne, 40% Chardonnay
Alban Vineyard, 14% alc.: George and Russell said that
the oak in this medium straw is toning down too, but it’s still more
obvious than in the Omadhaum & Poltroon; Larry couldn’t get
past what he referred to as a “charred” quality.
It isn’t exactly sweet or toasty, just huge.
Unctuous, with nice floral notes and serious intensity, it shows excellent
acidity, rich pear/melon flavors and aromas, and what Doggie described
as “seaweed on the nose.” This has all the stuffing to improve for some time.
Jon told me that all
four of the reds are Syrahs, although some have small amounts of
Sine Qua Non Queen of Spades: We couldn’t find an alcohol
level on the label but we drank this inky garnet anyway and it received
a wide range of impressions. Ken
wasn’t wrong when he called the nose “grilled meat and burnt
rubber,” and Mary A. added, “barnyard; very Bridgestone.”
This has tannins that are mostly resolved, good acidity, ripe
plum/ multi-berry/coffee flavors with a hint of herb and a long finish.
Russell commented that “it wasn’t coming together in
some way,” and Ken added “a little disjointed; interesting,
but not quite successful.” Bree
called it “beautiful,” and Doggie, Larry and I tended to agree, but
I didn’t get a later taste to see if it fell apart, as some observed.
Sine Qua Non The Other Hand, 13.5% alc.: Someone used the
descriptor “stones and mineral” on this dark garnet, and it fit;
like the Queen, it doesn’t show any excessive oak.
Flavors and aromas feature dark plum/berry character with hints
of tar and garrigue. A
lovely wine, this garnered such comments as “more sophisticated and
less blowsy” than the Queen (Richard) and “gardenias, garrigue and
Sine Qua Non Against the Wall, 14.5% alc.: These bottles are
heavy; Samson could have fought off a host of Philistines with one! This dark garnet shows hints of tar over the dark plum
bouquet with oaked hints in the background.
With plenty of rich plum/dark berry on the palate, it isn’t too
tannic and zips right along with good acidity and a nice finish.
Once again, the oak isn’t at all overdone in this excellent
Sine Qua Non Imposter McCoy, 14.9% alc.: Finally, this dark
garnet showed some substantial oak, with a bright, slightly “yeasty”
nose that reminded me a little of Flowers.
The nose was all plum/blackberry/rhubarb, with the bright berry
dominating the flavors. Still
a young wine, this is impressive now, and should only get better and
better. Kim's favorite of
I was a SQN virgin
until this occasion; even Kim had a glass or two from this producer
before. But after tasting
through this impressive lineup, I’m a fan, especially of the reds.
Many thanks to
Doglington for his generosity in sharing the wares of this esoteric
fortune smiled upon us when Richard's friend Lisa
arrived with "leftovers" from wine.com's BV tasting from
earlier in the day. – Larry