"Something that Cannot be done Without", is what Sine Qua Non has come to mean to its collectors and enthusiasts. It literally translates in Latin to "without which not." Recently, a group of collectors got together for a Sine Qua Non Retrospective. It took place in the cellar, downstairs at Luma on Park. The vintages spanned over a decade with 42 different bottlings. To call these wines rare is an understatement; they are so hard to find they are the mystical unicorn wines that no one can get their hands on. The production of the wines is extremely limited, their wines routinely receiving 98-100 point scores. The label art is different each year, designed by the winemaker/owner, Manfred Krankl. Krankl is considered a mad scientist of sorts, and the limited availability of his wines, along with the original art on the labels, have made it so the bottles themselves are just as valuable as the wine inside. In May, a bottle of the 1995 Queen of Hearts Rosé, sold on WineBid for $37,200. It is highly doubtful that the wine inside is any good anymore, even if the wine has been stored perfectly. Since only 25 cases of this wine were made, we may never know. By the way, if you sign up on the waiting list today, estimates are that you have a 20 year wait coming.
Instead of making New Year's Resolutions that won't last more than a few weeks, I thought it would more fun and interesting to make my New Year's Resolutions about drinking more wine!
Here are my Top 10 2015 Wine Resloutions:
- Drink More Bubbles. Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Cava, Prosecco... Drinking bubbles does not have to be reserved for special occasions; it's a special occasion when you pop the top! Right now I am in love with the producer Raventos i Blanc. They've been making wine since 1497. Their great, great, great grandfather, invented the word Cava. The family has had a devotion to the indigenous grapes from their region in Spain ever since. Amazing quality, vintage wine from Conca de Anoia – a very special place, and a approachable price, gets these bottles on my resolution list.
- Turn a friend into a Wino! I think we all have that friend who "doesn't like wine." It is my belief that these friends just haven't tried the right wine for them. Start them out with a light, fruity wine like a quality Riesling or un-oaked Chardonnay for whites; or a light red like Pinot Noir or Gamay (Cru Beaujolais). Then, move them up in baby steps to the big style wines, like Cabernet, Malbec and Syrah.
- Go to wine tastings. Attending wine tastings is a great way to meet other wine lovers, and also great for those friends who are new to wine (see #2 above). Wine tastings typically present wines from many different regions or a focused theme. This gives you the opportunity to learn about new wines and "test drive the car before you buy it."
- Start a Monthly Tasting Group with Friends. Starting a monthly tasting group is a lot of fun. In the wine industry we like to "blind taste" the wines, usually picking a theme. For example... ask your friends to bring a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from a wine region in a brown paper bag. Number the bags as they arrive, and have everyone taste them and write down where they think the wine comes from. You can also add vintage guesses as well. 2012 Argentina? 2008 South Africa? 2010 Napa Valley? Once everyone has tasted the wines, reveal them and see who got the most correct. Then discuss regions and look up vintage reports and see what the weather conditions were like, comparing how different weather conditions and soils affect the Cabernet varietal. It's really wine geeky, but we love it!
- Drink Pink. I am NOT talking about White Zinfandel either (although Turley Wine Cellars did start making a dry White Zinfandel that is actually quite good). Dry rose wines can be exceptional, especially in the summer. When it is too hot for red wine, dry rose is a refreshing choice. Dry rose pairs well with just about any type of food. Dry rose can range from more fruity styles, with hints of fresh raspberries and strawberries, to more intense styles, with dark cherry flavors and full of body.
- Drink Real Wine. "Real Wine", is made by real, caring people and not marketing companies who are only interested in their bottom line. Be wary of wines with catchy, sometimes childish labels (remember Yellow Tail?). Initially it may seem like a fun wine, but in most cases, you should judge the book by its cover. Know who the producer is and the methods they use to make the wine. If no one at the store can tell you, find a good, well respected, local wine shop.
- Explore New Varietals. There are many different grape varietals of wine in the world. Some are better known, however, there are many wineries that have found varietals that were thought extinct. For example, Maturana in Rioja, and Sauvignon Gris in Chile were both found in the back rows of old vineyards, hidden for years. In addition, Tempranillo Blanco is Tempranillo that just mutated itself into a white grape. It is fun to explore these wines and taste something that has been untouched for ages or completely new.
- Visit a Wine Producing region. If you can't make it to the Pacific North West, France, Spain, or any other wine producing region, check out a local winery. Every state in the USA has at least one, and although the wines may not be as good as the traditional wine making regions, the beauty is you get to have a winery experience that is original.
- Join a Wine Club. Wine Clubs are a good way to try new wines as well. There are many out there, but the best will give you facts, information and a lot of diversity. Every month is a surprise, how fun is that?
- Support Local Wine Shops. The benefits of "Shopping Small" are much greater than shopping at the large, big box, chain stores. You will find knowledgeable employees, higher quality wines, made by caring people.
After Thanksgiving and the crazy shopping days that followed, including Small Business Saturday, it got me thinking about what it means to Shop Small with regards to the retail wine business. It's just fermented grape juice in a glass bottle, right? Wrong! All wines are not made equal. The wine regions and winemaking processes all vary so widely, which can be confusing. So this poses the question: How do you know which wines are well made and which aren't?
The Farm-to-Table food movement has exploded, and I think the same principles apply to wine. If you want to know what farm your steak or carrot came from, wouldn't you want to know who makes the wine you are going to drink? If you only eat seasonal organic produce, don't you want to know where the wine comes from and what farming practices they use?
The wine business in Orlando has come a long way over the last 30 years and there are several people to thank for it. Since I am so closely connected to the different aspects of the wine business, I know first hand the time and work it takes to get a wine into your glass. I am always disappointed when I read a review of a restaurant - one that I know has put a lot of time and energy into their wine and beverage program – and the wine list isn't even mentioned. I feel that at the greatest restaurants, the wine and beverage program are what make them the full package, the ultimate experience. The first thing people order at a restaurant, after all, is a drink.
For all of you who read Scott's flog regularly, you know he is always fighting for Orlando to be recognized as a culinary destination. Some say the beaches and theme parks hold us back but ultimately I believe that without a wine culture people are actually willing and able to talk about, Orlando will never be viewed as a culinary destination. Wine and food have a long history of marriage, and with wine comes the idea of culture, prosperity and most importantly sharing. To truly understand the wine culture in Orlando, I feel it's important to recognize the people who started it, and those who are fighting for our town to have a stage in the market. This is all pretty common knowledge amongst us that have been in the wine business for a while but for many, I think that it may not be known who is the driving force behind what has and does happen in our wine scene.
Black Slate 2012 "La Vilella Alta"
Vi de la Vila - Priorat, Spain
A Sensational Effort: This Big, Bold Red is one of the most impressive, modern Priorat's made today, and still won't break the bank! Ready to drink or cellar for the next 10 years.
Ancient vines, extreme mountain climate, high altitude, slate speckled soils and hands off wine making combine to make a full throttle, memorable Grenache-based gem.
This wine is available at the Wine Barn, Winter Park.