Even though the wine world is still very much in the new COVID normal, with very little travel and tasting rooms trying to figure out how to welcome guests safely and sensibly, I seem to be as busy as ever. Over the past few weeks, I have had a number of online tastings and each day brings several packages from my brown-clad friend of tastings to come.
Last week (or was it the week before?) I had one such tasting, a Zoom call with Cameron Hughes, previously of his eponymous label, now with his new brand, de Négoce. After the last tasting with Cameron, I promptly bought some wines from him, something I stated yesterday that I rarely do (and I am holding to that assertion as the wines that I bought from de Négoce I had not previously tasted–a technicality, yes).
The concept is rather straightforward. Cameron buys wine on the bulk market, wine produced by other wineries which they choose not to bottle themselves usually due to over-supply. Cameron then takes this bulk juice and bottles it himself, and then offers it to his mailing list as futures (one pays for the wine up-front, then waits about 6-8 weeks for delivery).
There are a couple of catches, however. For the most part, the wines are only available by the case and Cameron is legally bound to never reveal the source of the wine (i.e., one never really knows which winery sold him the bulk wine).
After this latest tasting, I sat down with my buddy Gabe Sasso for my fourth edition of his One Bottle Each.
2019 de Négoce OG N.55 Rosé, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $15. Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Grenache from Paso Robles. True Rosé. Cameron Hughes has a long story which I shall not recount here. Short version: this is a rosé that he purchased in bulk from a producer in Paso that was looking to move some juice. Yowza. While it seems that Cameron’s main focus is on Napa/Sonoma Cabernet, this rosé is fantastic. Pale salmon pink in the glass with lovely red fruit (strawberry, cherry) and minerality. Nice. The palate is subtle, even close to subdued with ample fruit, a brilliant acidity, and a formidable finish. Nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 de Négoce Cabernet Sauvignon OG N.25, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $15. Relative retail (according to Cameron Hughes) $50. B.A.B. Dark in the glass with decided green pepper (pyrazine) on the nose–I love that green pepper aspect. The palate is bright, tart, and cheery with plenty of earth, pepper, and verve. Yowza. Surprisingly reserved–far from a fruit bomb here–this wine needs food. This is decidedly Old World, which threw me for a loop, a fun, delicious loop. Excellent. 92 Points.
Here are the rest of the wines that Gabe and I tasted through with Cameron Hughes:
2019 de Négoce Chardonnay OG N.23, Carneros District, CA: Retail $12. Another selection from Cameron Hughes which he purports to be well below his estimated value of $40. Big fruit, big oak, big bottle. Really big bottle. Light in color, oaky on the nose with touches of vanilla and citrus. While this stops short of “cougar juice” it is certainly on the “big” side of Chardonnay. Fruit, tartness (although not prominent) and minerality. It’s all there, and it’s quite good. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 de Négoce Pinot Noir OG N.48, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $13. Suggested retail? $40. Another bulk wine transformed into something greater by Cameron Hughes. I bought a case of this several months ago and while I have been pleasantly surprised by those wines, this set of wines afforded a chance to revisit. Light on its feet, with a delicate breeze on the nose. The palate is equally divided as there are several wine markers: bright cherry, earth, verve. Of the six wines I tasted, this might just be my fave. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 de Négoce Cabernet Sauvignon OG N.68, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $18. Red fruit and mocha dominate the nose of this medium-dark colored wine. There are also bits of black pepper, jalapeño, and cumin. Go figure. The palate is much of the same with spice, fruit, and tartness that carries all the way through to the finish. While this is not the “best” De Négoce wine that I have sampled, it is certainly up there with the *best* wines I have sampled from Cameron Hughes. Wait a few (3-5) years and I feel this wine will really hit its stride. Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 de Négoce Cabernet Sauvignon OG N.54, Sonoma Mountain, CA: Retail $18. “Suggested” retail $58. Another home-run from Cameron Hughes with this rich, detail-oriented wine, rich with color, flavor, and verve. Inky dark in the glass with boysenberry, blackberry, and spice on the nose. The palate is notably shy at the onset with traces of fruit and hints of acidity. Eventually, it opens up into a lovely wine with concentrated fruit, deep fruit flavors, and a lengthy finish. Whoa. I could drink this all day long and 37 times on Sunday. Excellent. 92 Points.