Cameron Hughes calls himself a négociant, a wine trader, which is a concept that, while rather common in Europe, is fairly rare here in the U.S. The idea is fairly simple: Cameron Hughes buys wine (in tank, barrel, or even bottle) at the best price he can negotiate, and then gets that wine to market under his own label.
According to his website, Cameron Hughes releases around 30 wines a year, and I recently received several of them to sample.
2015 Cameron Hughes Lot 539 Pinot Noir Oregon: Retail $13. I have said here countless times that I am more than a bit skeptical when I see a Pinot for less than $30, much less $25, $20, or in this case $15. Truth be told, I tasted this wine without any idea as to the price. I knew, though, based on Cameron’s approach that it would likely be comfortably under $25 and I thought at $20, this would be a steal. Once I saw it was $13? Wow. Good fruit, earth, acidity, and even some depth. The fact that Cameron can make this at this price makes me wonder how others can get away with charging much higher prices for inferior wines. Hmmmm. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 Cameron Hughes Lot 530 Red Wine: Retail $14. Syrah, Grenache. Initially, I must admit, I was not a fan as this was just far too fruity for my tastes—tons of fruit (albeit rich) up front with not much backing it up, but then I did what I almost always do. I put a cork in it and waited 24 hours. Different result. While the wine is still particularly fruity, there is decidedly less of it and accompanied by come secondary aromas (mocha, mint), a bit of depth, and a hint of tannin on the finish. Still, I would have liked to see a bit more spice (and even a little less fruit). Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Cameron Hughes Lot 557 Rosé Napa Valley: Retail $13. Cabernet Sauvignon based, saignée method. I searched for the blend, but could not uncover any of the varieties contained therein. Dark for a rosé. In fact, the hue is much closer to a red wine than it is to a Provençal rosé. It is more of a rosado or Rhône-style rosé, with rich red fruit—strawberry, cherry, even watermelon. On the palate, the fruit persists and while this wine is a bit rounder than I would like (it could use a bit more tartness), there are some great flavors and the price is right. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 Cameron Hughes Lot 556 Sauvignon Blanc Carneros Napa Valley: Retail $13. Under Stelvin. A pale yellow with the slightest of green tinges, this SB is incredibly aromatic with lemon rind, guava, and wet rock predominate. Truth be told, I am not a fan of the overly grassy, or worse, cat-pee styles of SB and luckily this is neither. Great fruit punctuated by wonderfully balanced acidity and an admirable finish render this wine a keeper. As in you should drink it. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 Cameron Hughes Lot 575 Red Blend Red Mountain Washington State: Retail $16. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah. Another blend where the ratio is not available, but this is nice and juicy with dark berry fruit on the nose with a bit of white pepper and a hint of chocolate. While the fruit is certainly the headliner on the palate, there is a bit of depth and complexity that makes one wonder how this can only be 16 bucks. I doubt that this will benefit from much more time in the cellar so I am planning to save this for tonight’s Sloppy Joes that are being prepared by my 14 year-old son. Well, at least I know I will enjoy the wine…. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Cameron Hughes Lot 533 Chardonnay Limestone Cowboy Santa Barbara County: Retail $13. Pale yellow with a green tinge in the glass with aromas of green apple, lemon curd, and white flower wafting over the rim. On the palate, plenty of fruit and an initial creaminess that eventually succumbs to a decided tartness. Bright and fresh, yet also creamy with a touch of minerality, this is a fine wine for the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd—not oaky, not every buttery, and plenty of acidity. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Cameron Hughes Lot 601 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley: Retail $32. Dark in the glass and on the nose with cassis, blackberry, black pepper, and a bit bit of spice. A bit sweet on the palate with oodles of fruit, that spice, and a bit of heat. Not a world changer, but perhaps a crowd pleaser. At this price? I was hoping for more. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2013 Cameron Hughes Lot 484 Meritage Napa Valley: Retail $19. In order to use the term “Meritage” on a bottle of wine in this country, the producer is required to be a member of the “Meritage Alliance” a group formed in 1988 to “promote handcrafted wines blended from the traditional ‘noble’ Bordeaux varieties.” Members of the Association take their Bordeaux blends seriously, which is certainly clear with this wine. Deep, rich fruit with a dash of pine forest, and a touch of tartness, this wine really delivers on all fronts. this might be my favorite of the Cameron Hughes line. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Cameron Hughes Lot 537 Old Vine Zinfandel Alexander Valley: Retail $13. Like a few other terms in the wine industry, there is no technical definition of “Old Vines.” It could really mean any where from 25 to 100 plus years. The Cameron Hughes website states that this wine is sourced from 60 year-old vines, and since that is a bit older than I (although only a bit), I am willing to grant this “Old Vine” status. The wine itself? Big fruit. Big. I find mostly dark berry fruit: black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, but also some black pepper and clove. On the palate, quite fruity with a bit of spice, but the fruit is really the driver here, as most would expect in a Zinfandel. And it works. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.