Sine Qua Non is one of California's most famous wine producers. Based just north of Los Angeles in Ventura County, and with most of its vineyards in Santa Barbara, it eschews the usual image of top California wine as being only from Napa Valley. That is not the only thing eschewed at Sine Qua Non – the same wine is rarely made more than once, turning the idea of the American icon wine on its head.
The cult winery specializes in Rhône grape varieties, with most of the red wines based on Syrah and Grenache. White wines are typically based on Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier and are also modelled after Rhône wines. While most of Sine Qua Non's vineyards are located in Santa Barbara, the home vineyard (and the winery) is located in Oak View. Many of the wines are labeled under the more generic California and Central Coast AVAs, rather than the specific AVAs the vineyards are located in, giving more freedom when it comes to blending.
Sine Qua Non's first vintage was 1994, as Austrian-born winemaker Manfred Krankl released three barrels of Syrah as "Queen of Spades" with a label he had designed himself. Previously, Krankl had made wines with other winemakers – including the "Black and Blue" wine with Havens Cellars and several wines with John Alban of Alban Vineyards. After releasing Queen of Spades, Krankl sent a bottle to Robert Parker, who promptly gave the wine 95 points – then the highest he'd given any American wine based on a Rhône variety