SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS
By Dennis Schaefer
September 1, 2016 5:28 AM
I first became acquainted with Chris Keller way back in the last century. In the ’90s, Los Angeles was a hotbed of restaurant activity and he was deeply involved in the wine and food scene. As a wine writer and restaurant reviewer, I knew it was only a matter of time before our paths crossed. Incredibly wine knowledgeable and deft at wine and food pairings, Mr. Keller created many wine lists, continuing to do so to this day at places like chef Joe Miller’s Bar Pintxo in Santa Monica, one of my favorites.
And then it was only a matter of time before Mr. Keller got bit by the winemaking bug. Of course, he looked toward Santa Barbara County and, at first, tried his hand at making chardonnay and pinot noir. But later, after a trip to Spain, he found striking similarities between the terrains of Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Catalonia and the rolling hills of the Central Coast. Thus Emanuel Tres, named after his grandfather, uncle and brother, was born to produce (mostly) Spanish • style wines from locally grown grapes. It’s a niche that’s way less crowded than the pinot noir field, and a distinctive one at that. If you’re looking for something a little offbeat (for California) but very tasty, these Emanuel Tres bottlings will surprise you.
• Emanuel Tres Blanco, Santa Ynez Valley, Camp 4 Vineyard 2013 ($20): Technically, this blanco could be called grenache blanc, even though it has a small amount of viognier in the mix. It has a fresh and expressive nose, almost exotic, with apricot, yellow melon, persimmon and lightly brewed tea as well as a distinct and pleasant minerality. The flavors are of green apple, poached pear and fresh apple cider with supporting elements of brewed tea, gunpowder, cinnamon, nutmeg and jasmine. Did I mention that it’s almost exotic? But it’s still well within the flavor profile range of any California wine taster’s experience. Satisfyingly delicious, it will pair well with seafood • bring on the oysters!
• Emanuel Tres Viognier, Santa Ynez Valley, Camp 4 Vineyard 2014 ($23): This seems a little austere and foreboding on the nose. However, given time to warm up in the glass, it shows apricot and peach along minerality, wet stones and floral notes. That gives way to apricot, peach and nectarine skins on the palate, ripe but not sweet and with more incredible minerality. Not in the least blowsy like so many viogniers, this one is focused with pinpoint acidity to make the stone fruit flavors really pop in the mouth, all the way to the scintillating upbeat finish.
• Emanuel Tres Tinto, Santa Ynez Valley 2013 ($20): Made entirely from tempranillo (a mainstay red variety in Spain), this is one of the few California examples. Verdad, Martian and Longoria are among the few local wineries that have been attracted to the grape. This version has a meaty, gamey, earthy nose coupled with deep, dark berry fruit. Fashioned after the tempranillos from Ribera del Duero, it exudes a youthful personality while, at the same time, has gained some gravitas from its time spent developing in the bottle. Dark plum and blueberry are the dominant fruit flavors aided by hints of saddle leather, brewed black tea, clove and cardamom. The flavors have great immediacy on mouth entry but also display a dark and moody aspect on midpalate that give it length and depth. A keeper.
• Emanuel Tres Carignane, Santa Ynez Valley, Camp 4 Vineyard 2011 ($23): If the playbook on growing and vinifying tempranillo in California is scarce, then the road map for carignane is nonexistent. Even in the Old World, it’s used as a blending variety and rarely bottled on its own (though a great example is Domaine Lafage Tessellae Carignan Vieilles Vignes 2013). This one has aromas of strawberry and cranberry segueing into black fruits with tobacco leaf and a certain loamy earthiness. In the mouth, dark raspberry, candied violets, damson plum, cassis and melted asphalt on a hot day along with just enough of a touch of underbrush, garrigue and minerality to heighten and enhance the awareness of the clarity and depth of the fruit flavors. It’s juicy and jumpy but with depth charges of flavor and complexity that will draw you back in for another taste.
• Emanuel Tres “Tinto Roberto” Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, Larner Vineyard 2012 ($32): Named for Mr. Keller’s father, this syrah shows sweet, ripe fruit aromas from the get• go along with a pleasant and inviting savoriness. Racy dark fruit on the palate • blackberry, black plum and boysenberry • is well integrated with a sense of dry aged beef, olive tapenade, dried herbs, exotic spices and minerailty (of course!). But what keeps you coming back are the pristine flavors, clean and so expressive with the sweet ripeness of the fruit clearly spotlighted. Moderately bodied, with rich textural complexity and density, it displays a powerful elegance on midpalate and the finish.