Holy cow--you've never smelled a wine like this. It's like dessert on the nose with huge notes of toasty vanilla oak, chocolate, cigar smoke, and molten licorice. The wine soars across your palate with immense complexity, mingling chocolate, earth, and licorice gumdrops. It's massively structured, intense and concentrated with big, grainy tannins that are perfectly melded to a mineral component, cigar smoke, toffee, and earthy fruit. The finish goes on and on for 2 to 3 minutes with excellent focus and concentration. Magnificent.
Blind Tasting with the wines of Cameron Hughes, and then some.
I was pleased to welcome a few friends into the Snooth lair yesterday for a blind tasting featuring the wines of Cameron Hughes. If you are a Snooth member you will be getting an email with an amazing deal on these wines later this week. If you're not a member you should sign up now.
These wines showed very well and the groups consensus matched mine fairly well so I'll spare you the extended discussion of the wine, offering up my opinion instead, but I will grace this page with photos of the participants. Many thanks to them. From left to right Michel Abood, Jorge Henriquez, Zachary Lang, and Peter Czyryca with your humble scribe's back, front and center.
The first wine up was the Cameron Hughes Lot 92 Margaret River Chardonnay which married some nice crisp fruit to spiced and slightly sweet toasty oak notes. A solid showing even though we blew through it on our way to the reds.
Jorge and Zach share a laugh
I served the reds in three blind flights of three wines each. For the first flight I chose to pit two of Cameron Hughes Spanish offerings against the 2006 Quivira Grenache from California. The first wine up was the Cameron Hughes Grenache Campo de Borja Lot 98 which was a big, simple fruit bomb that didn't find much love in this group of affirmed winegeeks. It is a fine wine for any festive occasion, bursting with sweet berry fruit in a soft package that is very accessable if not particualrly challenging.
This was contrasted against the Cameron Hughes Tempranillo Lot 93. If the Compo de Borja was a wine for people just getting into wine this Tempranillo is a wine for people who have arrived. Showing incredible power and concentration this was just a fantastic bottle of wine, interesting and bold if perhaps slightly atypical for a simple Crianza. In fact this drank much more like one the the more expensive new-age Riojas, only better. the fine structure of the wine balanced the deep fruit and left this wine lively and deep, a fine combination.
The final wine in this flight was the 2006 Quivira Grenache. This really was in a differnet register offering up youthful and crisp fruits but with the high alcohol, 15.9%, just a little too obvious on the nose.
Michel, thinking in French.
We moved from Spain to California with the next flight beginning with the 2006 Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel, which was fine if undistinguished.
The second wine in this flight was the Cameron Hughes Lot 86 Lodi Zinfandel 80 Year old Vines and I think it's fair to say that this wine impressed us all with it's balance, depth, and purity. While it may not have been varietal enough to convince everyone that it was a Zin during the blind portion of the tasting, it was an incredibly likable wine which I thought spoke more of it's old vines than anything else. The combination of those wooly tannins and finely balanced, perfectly ripe, juicy fruit was appealing and while this Zin shows a bit of restraint it is more than exuberant enough to put a smile on every Zin lover's face.
The final wine in the line-up was the 2005 Montevina Terra d'Oro Lodi Zinfandel. While this lacked the oomph of the Lot 86 it offered a respectable array of fruit and spice flavors in a very easy drinking package.
Peter, gesticulating in English
We remained in California with our final flight and it was fairly obvious to all that we had moved on to Cabernet and Bordeaux blends, especially when they peeked at the wines while I went to get another pitcher of water! We began with the Merlot dominated Cameron Hughes Lot 72 Napa Valley Meritage. Rich and soft with nuanced herbaceous and chile tones from the one third Cabernet in the blend this was elegant, easy and expressive, a fine wine for near-term consumption and one that would please a wide audience.
We followed this with a wine from Cieniga Valley, a new appellation for the entire group. The 2003 Pietra Santa Cabernet Sauvignon was a pleasant surprise offering up classic cool climate Cabernet notes with an intriguing mineral rich core of fruit. This was deceptively light apon opening and really filled out with sweet fruit through the course of the evening. A winery worth a look if you are searching for a distinctive California Cabernet from a new, and up and coming region.
Our final wine of this flight was the Cameron Hughes Lot 75 Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon. This is just a great bottle of Napa cabernet, coming from the cooler, southerly Oak Knoll District. While this took some time to open it showed excellent potential for positive development and with air this just blossomed, offering up rich, ripe fruit in a restained package with just a hint of austerity that kept this both easy to drink and a fine match for a broad array of dishes. I was impressed with the wine but now that I see it's only $13.00 a bottle I am blown away by the value this represents. I've had a lot of $13.00 bottles of California Cabernet over the past few years, too many some might say, and the truth is I have almost never been tempted to buy any. This Oak Knoll Cabernet easily competes with wines twice it's price. Find it, buy it, enjoy it,
Me, counting in Italian
Work is almost done!
Well that was our blind tasting, we then moved on to dinner at a local Cuban joint and started the drinking portion of our show. I won't bore you with the details of the evening but should you be interested I am including a list of wines we enjoyed last night. And if you want to be included in a future blind tasting please send me an Email at Gregory@Snooth.com. Let me know what you are interested in and I'll find a spot for you in an upcoming blind tasting panel!
Community Tasting Notes (average 90 pts. in 6 notes)
Tasted by bahiadave on 2/9/2009: this is very good. actually tastes like a bordeuex.
Tasted by neurovino on 1/25/2009 & rated 90 points: Not sure it this wine was a little more settled than last time or if my expectations adjusted downward from the last bottle, but I enjoyed it more. Others commented on it positively, too.
Tasted by neurovino on 1/8/2009 & rated 89 points: Opened up quite a bit about 3 hours after I popped the cork. Not sure if that was due to warmer temp, oxygen, or both. I liked it more at that point.
Tasted by Oski98 on 12/30/2008 & rated 91 points: Opened and poured a glass with the remainder distributed to a decanter (room temp 67 F). The juice offers a deep ruby color, with a rose rim. Interesting nose. I'm getting a bit of spice, maybe some raspberry components, and upon further reflection, hints of the smoke suggested by CH. Lot 93 is definitely pleasant with no overpowering alcohol smell, which more often than not appears to be present in CH offerings (this Tempranillo weighs in at 13.5%; I may be wrong, but I have the impression that CH wines often are in the 14.0%+ area). I am a bit disappointed with the flavor and finish relative to other reviews . . . and decide to let this open up a bit . . . "Disappointed" is a bit much, but so was CHâs use of the words "massively structured" (kudos to neurovino for pointing out CH "hyperbole"). That threw me, an admitted novice, off a bit. I would say that all the suggested flavors (chocolates, leather, smoke, earthy fruit) are present, but in a much more subtle capacity. That said, this wine is wonderfully complex and interesting and I look forward to evaluating it's evolution (though I'm not sure it would hold up until 2024 . . . how about 2014?). I will be buying more since my math suggests this is a great value even at $21.
Tasted by matterhorn78 on 12/24/2008 & rated 90 points:
Tasted by neurovino on 12/5/2008: Definitely a modern style Spanish tempranillo. Nose is sweeter than the actual taste with hints of cheesecake. Flavor: Ample oak, chewy tobacco, spice and earthy flavors. I would agree with the CH website of toffee, too. The finish has a hint of dill. Reasonable finish length (15-20 seconds), but not even close to the typical Cameron Hughes hyperbole, in this case 2-3 minutes. That's ridiculous. But, still a very nice wine and worth the price.
Cameron Hughes - Wine of the Week
There's almost nothing I like better in the world than finding a good deal, and when it's a good deal on wine? I'm in heaven. That's why I'm excited to post about Cameron Hughes Wine today, because not only is the wine an incredible value, but it's sourced from all over the world, so you'll never get bored.
The wine distribution world is complex and sometimes irritating. You read about a good bottle, only to find out it's unavailable in your area or sold out altogether or produced in such small quantities that you can't possibly lay your hands on any. I'm sympathetic to all of these complaints. When I was first getting into wine, I remember ripping out a magazine article on recommended Chardonnays and taking it to my wine store. The clerk just laughed. "You won't find magazine wines in here, honey," he said. "You have no idea how complicated it is."
Well, now I do know how complicated it is, and because I know, I love nothing better than coming across a fantastic, incredible-for-the-money wine that's also widely distributed. And believe me, that's a rare combination.
So when I heard about Cameron Hughes, I was intrigued. Cameron Hughes the person is what's called a negociant--a French term that means he buys wine from wineries and sells it under his own label. The business advantage is that Hughes can get good-quality wine that's oversupplied, won't sell, or whatever (not because of quality but market conditions), buy it at a low cost, and sell it to customers at a low cost.
Now here's the thing: Cameron Hughes wines are all labeled with lot numbers--for example, Lot 82 is a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon--and they generally are made in small quantities because of the aforementioned business model, so you may try one you love and never get to drink it again. But here's the good news: Based on my tastings, I think I can safely say that Cameron Hughes is an excellent label. (That's not to say you'll love every single varietal, but that it's probably going to be good quality for the money so it's worth it to try, and to keep trying the new offerings.)
More good news: Cameron Hughes is available at major stores like Costco, Sam's Club, Cost Plus World Market, and Safeway. You can even search for CH wine in your area; the website has a wine locator.
Of the three I tasted my hands-down favorite was the Lot 89 Sierra Foothills Syrah ($11). My tasting notes said, "Wow! Fruity bouquet; mid-palate is bright with firm tannins. Dark and chocolatey finish. Truly an outstanding Syrah for the price." The Lot 93 Rioja Tempranillo ($21) was also so delicious that my husband and I raced for the last glass. But I don't want to talk either up too much, because the wines are made in such small lots that these might even be sold out already. Just take away this message: if you're looking for great value wine that taste like twice the price, definitely check out Cameron Hughes.
Cameron Hughes Wine receives multiple awards from the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition
2006 Cameron Hughes Zinfandel Ancient Vines Lot 88
Amador County - Cameron Hughes Wine
Great complex, spicy nose with a little raspberry and raisin flavors. Concentrated but balanced.
The Flying Winemaker Zinfandel, Silver
Lot 93 Rioja Tempranillo, Bronze
Lot 101 Chardonnay, Bronze
Lot 110 Los Carneros Pinot Noir, Bronze