Due Regazze Vineyards (JPB's Vines in Cameron Park, CA)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Part of the joy in writing this blog is learning from others responses. Although the audience is small, the general wine knowledge is pretty impressive. I've had a number of readers ask me if I have tried any of the Cameron Hughes wines and to be honest, I've never heard of him. However, as I've learned from my days working on the exchange floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, if you hear something from more than one person, its worth checking out! This month I'll review three reds and one white from Cameron Hughes. But first I need to give some background on why his story is unique.

What makes Cameron Hughes' wines diffrent are that he is not using his own grapes. He is what the French refer to as a “n├ęgociant”; a person who purchases wine grapes or juice from someone else, slaps his own label on it and calls it his own. The beauty of this model is much of the overhead and hassle is taken out of the wine producing equation and a quality wine can be made at a much more affordable price. That was the vision Hughes had when he started Cameron Hughes Wine with his partner Jessica Kogan.

Hughes purchases grapes from all over the world. In most cases he must sign a confidentiality agreement and not reveal where the grapes came from. What he can say is something to the effect of “this fruit was sourced from the same vineyard as a world- renowned name that sells for over $80 dollars a bottle”. Now that’s a marketing pitch!

Given that the last few years have been a struggle for many wine producers, the Hughes model has worked to perfection. The only risk is that he has no control over his sources and if times change, he may be forced to pay higher prices for his fruit or maybe not even get it at all. Another drawback is that the number of cases of a particular wine may be limited. Remember, most of the time he is buying grapes that a grower or winemaker believes he can’t sell, and in some cases, the seller is taking an economic loss selling his excess to Hughes. At any rate, the wines are available at Costco or from their website. I purchased mine off of the website and it was at my doorstep the next day. Overall, I was impressed with his product and the price. It’s worth taking a look at his website www.chwine.com for additional information.

Lot 103-2006 Meritage: 50% Cabernet, 35% Merlot, 15% Carmenere. 14.5% alcohol content. Priced at $18 dollars it wasn’t bad but it was my least favorite of the four I tasted. It did get better once it opened up but to quote my drinking partner and father; “I’ve had better wine at a cheaper price”.

Lot 125-2007 Carneros Pinot Noir: This was by far the most surprising find. To be fair, Pinot Noir to me is like tabasco sauce; I like it around the house but I don’t drink it all the time. This award winning wine offered good depth and balance. Once it opened up, I picked up hints of plum and strawberry along with a vanilla oak like finish. At $19.00 a bottle, lot 125 is a steal.

Lot 172-2007 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Cabernet: This double gold medal winner at the San Francisco International Wine Competition was simply delicious. At $22 bucks a bottle, it is a stand up triple. Alcohol level was 14.9 % and like the two wines above, decanting made a difference in the taste. Lot 172 is the classic Napa Cab; rich dark color, delicate, yet enough punch to get you excited. I picked up a touch of vanilla bean on the bouquet and ripe berry on the finish. Although 4000 cases were produced, it won’t last long.

Lot 159-2008 Santa Barbara Chardonnay: This wine offers good balance structure and is well worth the $14.00 price tag. Rich tropical fruit was noticed and although it was not overpowering, I did detect a creamy oak like flavor. Although it’s hard for me to get too excited about Chardonnay, I would say it’s a great everyday wine and good enough to bring to friend.

July 2010