While I’d certainly heard of Cameron Hughes Wine (“CHW”), I’d never personally had any. I’d seen the virtue of the wines extolled by many in the wine trade, particularly those focused on more budget-friendly wines. And when it was sold in Costco (no longer anymore) I’d see folks buying it up left and right. Yet still I never had any.
I’d occasionally get emails inviting me to try some of the wines and generally declined them.1 But then I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker that gave me one of those Oprah ‘aha’ moments. Personally, I love telling the story behind the wines I drink. I love hearing about families that are passionate about crafting wines, about farmers tending to vineyards, and sitting down with a winemaker face to face to clink glasses and hear it all first hand. I can read about climate and geography and soils and trellising systems until the cows come home and never lose interest. That’s MY draw to wine.
What I wasn’t open to is the fact that this is not everyone’s draw to wine. My work colleague, who we’ll call “CT” was like, “Kat, I don’t care about all that. It just doesn’t matter to me. I just want good wine and I don’t want to pay a lot for it.” My comeback, “but don’t you want to know about the family that crafted the wine and how they tended their lands, and all that good stuff?” CT was like “no. And I don’t do organics either. I just don’t care about that stuff.” Hmmm, OK. Definitely gave me something to think about. I filed that conversation away as I knew it would become relevant at some point down the road.
So when I received another email from the folks at CHW, that conversation came back to me. After doing some initial investigation as I usually do before accepting anything, I knew I would accept these wines. CT helped me to see that we all come at wine from different angles. And isn’t that what it’s all about? I’m not a Millennial but I’ve read countless times they want a deeper connection with the products they consume. So for those folks, knowing more about the story of their wine may hold more importance. CT is not a Millennial and doesn’t necessarily crave that same connection with the things (at least the wines) that she consumes. And that’s OK too. I’ve always said there is a wine for everyone. Well these are quintessential CT wines!
Cameron Hughes Wine was founded with a simple mission – to offer great wines at affordable prices to everyone. They don’t own any vineyards, nor do they own a winery. They are négociants (wine merchants) that go out and source the best wines and negotiate amazing prices for their customers.2 Recognizing long ago that even the best producers have excess wine that they need to unload, their business consists of buying the excess wine whether in barrel or already bottled and selling under their own label as small “lots.” All of their deals are made on the DL to protect the source winery who is going to undoubtedly sell the wine at a higher price. They also cut out the middleman (no distributor or retailer markups along the way) and sell everything direct to the consumer. So this means that consumers are able to get a Napa Cab for a fraction of the cost.
2017 Lot 687 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, CA ($15)
Anderson Valley is one of those regions that snuck up on me. Whenever I looked at a map of northern California, I usually didn’t get any further north than Napa and Sonoma. Now I know to go a little further north on into Mendocino County to Anderson Valley. I was initially wowed by the elegant Chardonnay from this cool-climate region, but my appreciation for the Pinot Noir soon followed.
Crystal clear in the glass with color intensity somewhere between pale and medium. I was surprised by how light it appeared in the glass. Sipping it revealed a beautiful, elegant wine. More spice and oak upon entry but a few minutes in the glass and it provided ripe red cherry and vanilla spice with silky tannins and juicy acidity. I loved the balance between the ripe fruit and acidity. For realz, I couldn’t believe this was a $15 Pinot! I’ve had a few in this price point and none of them were of this quality. Wow! And it was even better on day 2! If I didn’t taste all sorts of wines and actually repeated faves, I’d buy a case of this in a heartbeat.
2017 Lot 678 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR ($16)
It’s been years since I visited the Willamette Valley and even though we’ve drank most of the wines we bought from there, I continue to buy these Pinots as I find them to be incredibly food-friendly wines. In fact, we always open at least one Willamette Pinot for Thanksgiving each year – the year’s ultimate meal. With an original price tag of $40, this biodynamically crafted Pinot consists of mostly estate fruit. Little earthy funk on the nose revealed tart bing cherry, earth, a hint of cedar along with lean acidity. Somewhere in the middle of Cali Pinot and Burgundy as expected from Oregon Pinot. This was a well done effort all around and another solid Pinot from CHW. Cue the Thanksgiving turkey.
2016 Lot 660 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, WA ($25)
If you’ve read this blog or followed any of my social media, you know that I’m just ridiculously in love with the wines from Red Mountain. I was first exposed to Red Mountain wines on a trip to Woodinville and have been singing the region’s praises ever since. As Washington’s smallest, and one of the warmest AVAs, Red Mountain is known for its fruit that produces bold, dense, structured wines and is some of the most sought-after fruit in the state. Think Col Solare and Quilceda Creek. So it was a no-brainer for me to choose this one as one of the wines I wanted to try.
According to CH, the wine was “made with all the bells and whistles and aged with approximately 50% new French oak.” They go on to provide that “Lot 660 is the Reserve Cabernet offering and flagship cuvee of the same pioneering winery” that produced one of their other award winning wines. So what did I think? It was a solid wine and definitely in the realm of the Red Mountain rich deliciousness I was expecting. Bold black cherry, black plum preserves, vanilla, baking spice with velvety, well integrated tannins. This wine would certainly appeal to a wide variety of folks and is an amazing value at $25 for this caliber of wine.
2017 Lot 681 Languedoc Red Blend ($13)
This red blend from France’s Languedoc is their first French Lot release in over five years. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, it is sourced from within the Minervois AOC. As Minervois, and the greater Languedoc area are better known for red wines consisting of Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, I was indeed surprised to see this particular combo.
I drank this side by side with the Red Mountain Cabernet thinking there may be some similarities. Nope. Dark burgundy in the glass, almost black courtesy of the Petit Verdot. Intriguing nose with meaty, smoky, and graphite aromas. This was like a chameleon giving me all sorts of notes. Green herbs, slate, mineral, black fruit, figs, and even citrus. It initially toed the line between old and new world but with the savory notes taking over, it went decidedly more old world. And I have to say that with all the complexity, it was fun to drink.
2016 Lot 638 Petit Verdot, Yakima Valley, WA ($15)
The final selection I tried was another wine from Washington State. I’ve enjoyed dark, inky Petit Verdot over the years, but my love of this variety really developed when I visited northern Virginia (link) and bought almost every version I tasted. Virginia was one of the few places where I encountered a lot of varietal (bottled on its own outside of a blend) Petit Verdot. But apparently, Washington winemakers have a growing interest in making varietal Petit Verdot rather than simply blending as part of their Bordeaux-style blends. Well let’s do it. This particular wine, which sells in excess of $40 by its original producer, is a single-vineyard designate Petit Verdot from one of the most respected vineyards in the Yakima Valley and is sourced from a small, boutique Red Mountain producer. Brooding black fruit and dense, grippy tannins along with herbs and spice. It’s big, bold, and not for the faint of heart. If you love bold, dark wines such as Tannat and Mourvèdre, give this one a whirl. And bring some smoky, grilled beef or lamb to go with it.
Overall, I’d have to say I was pleasantly surprised by all, and quite impressed by some, of the wines I tried. I certainly understand why the Cameron Hughes wines have such a devoted following. Good juice at amazing prices is certainly an easy decision. What literally started as “Lot 1” over a decade ago is now into the 700s! So they are definitely doing something right. And sort of like deals you find at Costco, you have to scoop them up when you see them because they may not be there when you look again. When they’re gone, they’re gone and then its off to the next “Lot.” Which is why, even though I have wine commitment issues, I may have to get a mixed case of a few of these. All Cameron Hughes wines are available exclusively on their website. Cheers y’all.
- The Corkscrew Concierge’s mailbox gets some interesting pitches to say the least. I’ve been approached about dog fashion shows, new baby carriers (Thing 2 is 7!), socks, yoga, ice cream, speakers, energy drinks, grills, and on and on.
- Négociants have long been an integral part of the Bourgogne region in France.