2005 Rutherford Cabernet
At this time, probably the most approachable of the next three Cabs Lots 34 to 36. This elegant beast offers aromas of chocolate-covered cherries, vanilla, and dusty earth. On the palate, rich, brooding flavors of blackberries and cherries followed by tobacco leaves and cedar. This full-bodied Cabernet is notably rich and concentrated and will easily benefit from decanting or cellar aging as it spent some time aging on 100% new French oak. Structured and polished with firm tannins. Young and tight for the time being, so decanting is definitely in order (as it is with most of our wines). The first year of a Cabernet's life in bottle comes and goes in waves before settling in for more consistent, long-term aging. The patient will be rewarded.
Style: Full, Bold
Appellation: Rutherford District, Napa 100%
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon 100%
Alcohol by volume: 13.8%
Tuesday, May 08 2007
How do you find the perfect wine for your wedding? Cameron chats with the host about great wines from Arizona and some 101 tips on how to find the right wine for your event. A quick review of blends and the Bordeaux inspired Meritage and discussion of how Cameron Hughes Wine sources wine. Best wine for an event is sparkling, always a safe choice. Finally a quick discussion on new packaging trends and why screwcaps are ok!
Wednesday, Jun 20 2007
June is all about big celebrations: graduation, Father's Day, weddings. What this means for many of us is that we are hosting, and attending, more than our usual share of fancy dinners. This month, lots of us are trying to figure out how to stretch our food and wine budgets to accommodate special meals with grandparents, visiting relatives, dads, grads, brides, grooms, and in-laws. (photo by Ian Britton of FreeFoto.com) What you need is a little help from Cameron Hughes and your local Costco. With them on your side, you can serve each guest 3 glasses of wine (one sparkling, one white, and one red) for $44--total. Yes, these will be normal size glasses, not a huge beaker full of wine like the picture to the right. If you want to serve your guests more generous pours, buy two bottles of each. At $88 dollars for 6 bottles, it's a steal. I received these bottles as samples from the winery, but I would (and did ) happily pay retail for them after I went through the samples. This was my first Cameron Hughes experience. Trust me, it won't be my last. People can get a bit sniffy about Cameron Hughes wine, and make comparisons between them and Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck." I've had both. There is no comparison. These are wines with much more complexity and finesse. The reason? Like a European negociant, Hughes buys his grapes in lots from top-notch growers who have a surplus, and then in most cases he bottles wines made just from that lot to preserve their unique characteristics and distinctive flavors. Before dinner, serve your guests the NV Cameron Hughes Lot 25 ($21). Packaged in a classy bottle with platinum wrappings, it's labeled NV for technical reasons having to do with dosage, even though the vast majority of this wine came from grapes picked in 1998. The wine's age gives it wonderful richness of color and and a biscuity taste, as well as a refined texture from its tiny bubbles. Flavors of apple and a round nuttiness made this a hair shy of brut, in my opinion, but this was perfect for me since I like a sparkling wine that has some soft edges to it. Made from equal parts of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes picked in the Carneros AVA, this is a nice step up if you're used to drinking the standard non-vintage $20 sparklers. And it's good with cheese, guacamole, shrimp cocktail--a very versatile food wine. Try serving a first course of asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto, or a leafy green salad with sherry vinaigrette and warm goat cheese rounds. The 2006 Cameron Hughes Lot 26 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($11; $8.99 at my local Costco) would be a perfect partner for either of these dishes. I like sauvignon blancs fermented in stainless steel like this one, and I really love the relatively low 12.8% alc./vol. It was a textbook example of a Marlborough sauvignon blanc, with a pale, translucent color and tangy aromas of cut grass and citrus rind. The flavors are predominantly white grapefruit with a bit of lemon, but the grass notes are reintroduced in the juicy finish. This makes it a perfect summer sipper and for about $9 a bottle, it is no wonder that every time I go to the local Costco there are fewer and fewer cases to be had. For the main event, many of us will head straight for the beef. Steaks, roasts, and London Broils are favorites at fancy dinners. Of course, this kind of main course demands a rich and complex wine, like the 2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 29 Lake County Meritage ($11; $8.99 at my local Costco). Poured into a decanter and tasted blind, most drinkers would think it was a young cru bourgeois from Bordeaux. Made in a restrained Old World style, the blend contains cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc. This wine had abundant tannins, but it drank very well after 30 minutes in the decanter, and even better later. It was dark plum in color, with aromas of pencil lead, herbs, blackberry, and currant. As the wine bloomed, there were flavors of eucalyptus, more herbs, plum, and blackberry. I suspect this will age into a beauty. Sadly, Lot 29 is already sold out at the winery, but it may be available to you locally--there are still a few cases at my Costco in the LA area, and I ran out yesterday and bought 3 more bottles to stick in the cellar. If you can't find it, you might want to snap up one of their other new releases, like the 2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 34 Rutherford Cabernet ($14; $11.99 at my local Costco and now also cooling its heels in my cellar). All three wines represented excellent QPR, with their textbook varietal characteristics, yummy flavor profiles, and low cost. These wines tasted special, and sitting back and sipping a distinctive 9-year-old sparkling wine with my guests that retails for around $20 makes me happy. And if you're reading this blog, it will probably make you happy, too. We are the people for whom Cameron Hughes makes wines: consumers who know enough to know they don't want oak chip tea bags in their chardonnay, but don't necessarily want to pay $30 or more for a bottle to drink with dinner. If you missed your chance to get Lot 29, be sure that you don't miss any future releases by signing up for their email newsletters. I seem never to be in my Costco when the Cameron Hughes Wines arrive--and they do go quickly--but the newsletters tell you specifically which Costcos are receiving which wines, and they let you know those that are available on the website for you non-Costco types. I've got a few more bottles to share with you over the next few weeks (including a Chardonnay and a Syrah-Mourvedre blend), so stay tuned for more Cameron Hughes reviews.
Wednesday, Jun 27 2007
CAMERON HUGHES NEWS Fans of Cameron Hughes wines know that many of them offer extremely good value. Hughes buys small lots of high-end wine that the wineries aren't using, blends them, bottles them and labels each with a lot number. The wines are sold through the company's Web site, www.chwine.com, and at Costco. Three new Napa Valley cabernets are either at Costco stores already or will show up in the next few weeks. All are $14 through the Web site (and available now) but will sell for about $12 at Costco. The 2005 Lot 34 Cabernet Sauvignon is from Rutherford. It was my favorite of the three, offering dark cherry and black currant flavors, accented by notes of olive and sage. The 2005 Lot 35, from Yountville, is a medium-weight wine with black cherry fruit and some savory nuances. The 2005 Lot 36 returns to Rutherford; it displays plump black cherry, a slight herbal note and good balance. All are great values. The Cameron Hughes wines tend to sell out quickly at Costco, but they're available longer on the Web site. To sign up for e-mail notifications about Costco availability, go to www.chwine.com.
Monday, Jul 02 2007
Following are my notes on Cameron Hughes latest releases, available online from chwine.com or your local Costco. 1998 Lot 25 Sparkling White Wine, Carneros, California Notes: If you are a fan of sparkling wines, you are sure to find this 8 year old bottle to be a great bargain. Lots of stone fruit flavors greet your nose and intertwine with touches of yeast and vanilla. A nice finish with good balance, this 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is sure to impress. Grab a few bottles of this before it sells out. This is an excellent effort and a great value that could probably fetch 3 times the price. Score: 94 pts 2006 Lot 26 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ Notes: This is a fantastic effort, with a ton of tropical fruit notes, great acidity, and a clean crisp finish. It possesses Passion Fruit, Mango, and Citrus aromas, as well as floral notes and spice on the palate. A refreshing wine, this effort can stand up to similar bottles from the region selling for twice the price. Sealed with a Stelvin Screwcap, bravo! Score: 90 pts 2005 Lot 31 Syrah Sonoma Mountain, California Notes: This blend of 89% Syrah and 11% Mourvedre is the finest Syrah Iâve had from Cameron to date. Grown in the cooler climate Sonoma Mountain region, this wine maintains subtle nuances while possessing good concentration. Dark purple in color, the aroma reveals earth, mushroom, currant, and blackberry. This wine has a nice mouth feel, with soft tannins and a great finish. Score: 94 pts 2005 Lot 34 Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford District - Napa, California Notes: This somewhat cloying bottle opens up after a bit of decanting, but still remains a bit tight. Hints of vanilla, toast, leather, and blackberry greet the nose, and translate onto the palate. Not too Tannic, but with good structure, this offering be a bit more drinkable after 6 months to a year, and for 2-3 years after that. Score: 90 pts
Friday, Jul 06 2007
Bringing Great Wine to the Masses: A Chat With Cameron Hughes By Brad Prescott A lot has been written about climate change and its effect on the wine industry. As someone who purchases wine from myriad wineries and regions, what impact are you experiencing? We are experiencing none yet. Right now, CA vintages seem to be well supplied with very high quality. In the long term, our model is very well positioned to be innoculated from the vagaries of global warming. We source globally and sell the widest possible variety of wines all under one label. If one area becomes unsuitable for production, we just source from the next. To lessen the impact of our operations, we have partnered with CarbonFund.org to purchase carbon offsets to cover the production and movement of not only our wines, but to offset the carbon footprint of our office and employees as well. Our office is located in the heart of SFâs SOMA district and is 100 yards from where I live. We have only one person who commutes to our office and we use natural cooling and super efficient bulbs to light our office. Lastly, what does the future have in store for Cameron Hughes Wine? We are rapidly becoming a one stop for a global portfolio of super and ultra premium wine. Our next two years will be dedicated to fleshing out our sourcing capabilities. Currently, we have bought or have in various stages of production wines from Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Germany. I hit VinExpo in June and should have the world covered by the time I leave! The remaining wines, or blending components, that didnât fit into their final blends are then placed on the bulk market and marketed to other wineries and negociants like myself. We will select and blend only super-premium like quality lots and we never âblend to extendâ? as many other negociants do because we are not concerned about making a particular blend last a whole year. As well, we donât mark up our smaller lot pricing to create artificial scarcity because we have continuous and seemingly endless supply (at least for now). Other wines we buy in âshinersâ? or bottles with no labels on them and then have our own labels affixed. Wineries often bottle these wines up (to make their balance sheets look better for lenders â wine is far more valuable in the bottle as it is in bulk form) but never put labels on them so they have the flexibility to sell the wine under their label or sell the wines to guys like me. In Europe and Australia shiners are a far larger market than in the US. Some wines are made for us by growers, especially when the spot market for grapes is as weak as it is now. When choosing wine for your latest lot, what criteria do you use to filter out the good wine from the bad? It has to be good and it has to be stable. That said, at the end of the day the final blend has to have excellent structure and balance. I always say any wine with good structure and balance will be a good wine. The great thing about being a negociant is you have literally thousands of wine to choose from to achieve that end. From a sales perspective, if it's great wine and it's marketable (such as cabernet or chardonnay) Iâll buy whatever I can get my hands on. Lesser known wines, say Clare Valley Riesling for example, I am historically more cautious towards regarding quantities; however, we have done a good job of creating the kind of trust it takes to sell a couple thousand cases of just about anything. How do you plan your lots? Right now I cannot keep up with Costcoâs demand so we are buying whatever great juice we can get our hands on. We recently completed the purchase of over 60,000 cases of various Napa appellation cabernets including Rutherford, Yountville, Diamond Mountain and Spring Mountain (the bulk of which are in the first two sub-districts). To further fulfill our needs, we are branching out into the international buying scene and buying wines from Argentina, Australia (including some 75 yr and 100yr old vine Barossa shirazâs), New Zealand, Spain, Italy, France and Germany. As well, there is some thought to seasonality, particularly with the New Zealand SBâs and Spanish Roseâs. other than that, we are buying whatever great juice we can get our hands on from Spanish reds to German whites. Describe some lots that you would love to produce but, for whatever reason, haven't released yet? So far, we have been able to identify from every region exactly what we were looking for two times over. That is, there is so much out there to choose from its like shooting fish in a barrel. The global oversupply of wine has created a situation where never before has there been so much good wine at such reasonable prices. Of all the lots you have produced, describe the one you most wanted to keep all for yourself. My favorites have been the Lot 13 2004 Dry Creek Cabernet, Lot 24 2005 Sonoma Syrah, and Lot 25 1998 Carneros Sparkling wine. Up coming, I cannot wait to sell our Lot 34 Rutherford Cab, our Lot 37 Rose from Campo de Borja in Spain, and finally, what I think will be our best wine to date, the Lot 38 2005 Barossa Shiraz from 100 year old vines. Absolutely stunning wine, I couldnât believe it was available for purchase. Your business model merges a passion for great wine with a rigid understanding of the economics that drive the wine business. Describe how this plays into the value add you provide to the consumer? As I said before, wine does not cost a lot to make. As well, when you pay $30 for a cabernet, it's not that the winery is ripping you off, itâs just that the wine business is remarkably inefficient. I would go as far to say that the wine business is, effectively, a broken business model particularly insofar as it is strangled by archaic laws and distribution mechanisms. Innovation is tremendously difficult. The $30 cab would cost far less were there not so many hands that have to touch it on the way to the retailerâs store. How did your experiences at the Wine Group and as an importer of wine help prepare you for running your own label? The Wine Group is the leanest and meanest wine company out there. They sell millions of cases of wine per salesperson. They do it by providing the best wine in the box or bottle at the best price. This results in brands that pulled through by consumers versus brands that are pushed through by advertising and distribution muscle. When it comes to delivering value you have got to stay lean and mean. As an importer I learned how much is actually costs to make wine. Here in the states the wine companies put up a sort of Chinese wall between production and sales so that the salespeople donât have an idea of what the product costs to manufacture. If they found out they would constantly be asking for more discounts to help them hit their numbers. Now, it's not that the wineries are ripping you off, it's just that the wine business is tremendously inefficient with multiple hands coming into contact with a bottle of wine before it hits the consumer. By simplifying the model and selling direct or semi-direct (through a clearing wholesaler), we are able to pass on significant savings in the area of 66% over what it would cost to buy the same wine under another label. You are 6 years into it and sales are growing hand over fist. Looking back, what would you do differently if you knew then what you know today? Nothing, you must suffer for your art. Where can consumers buy your wine? On our website or through Costco. The best way to track new releases and Costco distributions is to sign up for our email âalert listâ? at www.chwine.com. We will not sell your email address or spam you. Is the Costco distribution nationwide or in select locales? We are currently in CA, AZ, TX, IL, FL, NC, SC, AL and will soon be in WA, OR, MI, MN, IN, VA, MA and others. What is the most disturbing trend you see in the wine industry today? Distributors paying off state legislators to act against the best interests of their constituents by banning the direct shipment of wine to consumers. Think Illinois. Conversely, what is the most encouraging trend you see? Courageous state legislators standing up to those interests and doing the right thing by allowing direct shipment to consumers. Think Florida, at least for nowâ¦ A lot has been written about climate change and its effect on the wine industry. As someone who purchases wine from myriad wineries and regions, what impact are you experiencing? We are experiencing none yet. Right now, CA vintages seem to be well supplied with very high quality. In the long term, our model is very well positioned to be innoculated from the vagaries of global warming. We source globally and sell the widest possible variety of wines all under one label. If one area becomes unsuitable for production, we just source from the next. To lessen the impact of our operations, we have partnered with CarbonFund.org to purchase carbon offsets to cover the production and movement of not only our wines, but to offset the carbon footprint of our office and employees as well. Our office is located in the heart of SFâs SOMA district and is 100 yards from where I live. We have only one person who commutes to our office and we use natural cooling and super efficient bulbs to light our office. Lastly, what does the future have in store for Cameron Hughes Wine? We are rapidly becoming a one stop for a global portfolio of super and ultra premium wine. Our next two years will be dedicated to fleshing out our sourcing capabilities. Currently, we have bought or have in various stages of production wines from Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Germany. I hit VinExpo in June and should have the world covered by the time I leave!
Wednesday, Jul 11 2007
Five questions with Cameron Hughes of Cameron Hughes Wine If youâre into wine, Cameron Hughes is a name that will most likely be well known to you at this point. For the uninitiated, Cameron Hughes is what is known in the industry as a wine negociant, only with a twist. Cameron Hughes focuses on buying small available âlotsâ of premium wine, doing a bit of blending and then selling the wine directly to his retailers. What does this mean for the consumer? Premium wines without the traditional premium price tag. We tracked down Mr. Cameron Hughes himself and asked him a few questionsâread on to learn more about his companyâs business model, the upcoming release of Lot 33, a Spring Mountain Cabernet, the companyâs plans to add more chains to its distribution model and moreâ¦