This post has been brought to you by Cameron Hughes Wine. All opinions expressed are my own. The following message is intended for those 21+. Please enjoy responsibly.
I was recently contacted by the representatives of Cameron Hughes Wine, asking if I’d be interested in sampling no less than a half dozen of their bottles – each from different locations around the world. Naturally, I was intrigued, in large part because of ‘what’ Cameron Hughes is, and ‘how’ they do what they do.
To start, Cameron Hughes is ‘not’ a winery, nor is it a vineyard. They’re wine traders with the simple mission of finding what they deem to be the best wines at the best prices, while keeping the identity of the wineries they deal with discreet.
So the question we’re answering today is very simple: Does Cameron Hughes offer delicious wines at an affordable price?
Let’s find out.
The Where – Lots of Regions
Six wines, each from a different region. While I’ve covered most of these regions in previous reviews, here’s a brief look at the ‘where’ behind each of today’s wines.
Lot 880 – Monterey County, New Mexico. Located in the picturesque landscapes of New Mexico, Monterey County has steadily gained recognition as an emerging and promising wine region. Embraced by the scenic beauty of the Southwest, the vineyards in Monterey County thrive in the area’s abundant sunshine, with cooling influences from the nearby Pacific Ocean ensuring a balanced grape ripening process. Known for its diverse microclimates, the region showcases an array of grape varieties, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon, each expressing the distinct characteristics imparted by the local terroir.
Lot 947 – Sonoma County, California. Nestled in the heart of Northern California's wine country, Sonoma boasts a wide variety of microclimates and soil types that combine to create an ideal canvas for cultivating a wide range of grape varieties – all at top quality. From the cool, fog-kissed slopes of the Russian River Valley to the sun-drenched hills of Sonoma Valley, this region has thoroughly distinguished itself by producing world-class Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The influence of the Pacific Ocean, combined with the varied topography, contributes to the beloved characteristics that distinguish Sonoma County wines.
Lot 918 – Clarksburg, California. Situated along the Sacramento River in California, Clarksburg is known for its maritime influence and fertile soils, particularly its deep, loamy clay, which together provide an excellent environment for growing a wide variety of grape cultivars. This appellation has gained recognition for its production of distinctive varietals, with Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah being notable examples. The cool breezes from the Sacramento Delta help maintain acidity in the grapes, resulting in wines that showcase a vibrant and balanced character. With a growing reputation for quality and a focus on sustainable farming practices, Clarksburg is carving a niche in the world of California wines, enticing both locals and enthusiasts seeking unique expressions of terroir.
Lot 925, California. Bit of a tough one, as the bottle only lists ‘California’ as it place of its origin. Encompassing the sun-drenched vineyards of Napa Valley to the coastal regions like Sonoma and Monterey, California's wine landscape boasts a variety of microclimates and terroirs. This state is home to a vast array of grape varieties, from the robust Cabernet Sauvignon and elegant Chardonnay of Napa to the renowned Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of Sonoma. The innovation and adaptability of California winemakers have allowed them to create wines that are consistently met with critical and consumer acclaim.
Lot 888, High Valley, Lake County, California. California’s, High Valley stands as a distinctive wine region known for winemakers who like to cultivate in the sky – or as close as they feasibly can get. No, seriously, it’s in the name – High Valley, which is home to an abundance of high-altitude vineyards. The altitude of these vineyards ranges from 1,600 to 3,000 feet above sea level, which graces the region with relatively cool climate and extended growing seasons. This elevation, combined with the area’s rich volcanic soils, makes for excellent grapes. The region produces a diverse range of grapes, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah. Wines from High Valley often showcase a remarkable balance of acidity, fruit expression, and structured tannins, reflecting the influence of the elevated vineyards and the pristine natural surroundings.
Lot 950, Napa Valley, California. A wine region that needs no introduction, Napa is one of the world’s premier wine producers. Renowned for its diverse microclimates and fertile soils, Napa Valley has become synonymous with world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, although it also excels in cultivating a variety of grapes. The valley's terroir, Influenced by the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean and the warmth from the Vaca and Mayacamas mountain ranges, contributes to conditions that are hard to define anything short of ‘perfect’ for grape growing. Wineries in Napa Valley range from historic estates with a legacy dating back to the late 19th century to boutique producers.
Tasting and Aromatics – The Review
Lot 880: Introduces itself with notes of ripe pineapple and succulent peach off the top of the glass. Deeper into the glass, a caramel sweetness, interwoven with rich vanilla and oak notes manifest, creating a delightful and complex aromatic profile. On the palate, the fruit notes cover over quite nicely, with oak and caramel sweetness lingering the background. Overall, this chardonnay delivers a rich and delightful experience for those looking for a blend of sophistication and indulgence. At this price point, I’d be hard pressed to find fault.
Lot 942: This wine opens with a bouquet of lush berries, primarily ripe red cherries mixed with a touch of juicy blackberry, and just a hint of background raspberry tartness. Deeper into the glass, undertones reminiscent of tilled soil or a dew damp woodland. Towards the bottom of the glass, syrupy vanilla and something slightly pepper take shape. On the palate, the red and black fruits are at the fore, pleasantly complemented by the earth and vanilla notes from the bouquet. From start to finish, this wine was intensely enjoyable.
Lot 918: From the initial pour, this chenin blanc reveals a delightful medley of wild flowers, fresh cut grass, and something sweet that I’ll describe as peaches and cream. The palate is a layered and texture experience, featuring mixed tropic fruit. A true delight from start to finish.
Lot 925: The wine opens with lush berry notes, with hints of pepper and spice lingering in the background. Deeper into the glass, the aromatics mature with raspberry and ripe red fruit aromatics, with hints of coffee and chocolate adding depth and complexity. On the palate, the fruit notes carry over quite nicely to create a pleasantly structured wine with a silky texturing. A very pleasant wine from start to finish.
Lot 888: The wine opens with ripe cherry and blackberry notes, and mixed red and dark fruit essences. Deeper in the glass, notes of anise and plum take centerstage. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied, with crisp, bright acidity that gives the wine a pleasant vibrancy. The cherry and blackberry notes from the aromatics carry over quite nicely to the palate.
Lot 950: This cabernet sauvignon opens with bright floral and red fruit notes off the top of the glass. Deeper into the glass, the aromatics mature with notes of oak and coco framing dark fruit essences. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, carrying notes of blackberry and ripe red fruits, ending on a lasting finish. A very decent cabernet from start to finish.
What to Eat – The Pairings
For Lot 918, the following items would pair deliciously:
- Herb-Grilled Chicken Skewers: The fresh cut grass and layered tropical fruit notes can harmonize beautifully with the savory flavors of herb-grilled chicken skewers, perhaps threaded with fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.
- Peach and Prosciutto Bruschetta: The peaches and cream element of the wine would complement the sweetness of ripe peaches in the bruschetta, while the prosciutto will add a delicious savory note.
- Tropical Fruit Salad: Embrace the mixed tropical fruit character of the wine by pairing it with a refreshing tropical fruit salad, creating a medley of bright fruit flavors.
- Goat Cheese and Honey Crostini: The wild flowers and sweet nuances in the wine can contrast elegantly with the creamy goat cheese and honey on a crispy crostini.
As to Lot 888, I would suggest the following pairings:
- Grilled Lamb Chops: A plate of rich grilled lamb chops always pairs well with a decent Barbera wine. Grilled in butter and herbs, the anise and plum from the wine would work perfectly with this kind of pairing.
- Aged Gouda Cheese: The wine's vibrant acidity would contrast nicely with aged Gouda, perhaps paired with some crostini, dried fruit, olives, and a selection of charcuterie.
- Herb-Roasted Chicken: The bright acidity of the wine would cut right through the richness of an herb roasted chicken, complementing the bird beautifully.
With the Lot 925 consider these pairings:
- Dark Chocolate Dessert: The mature aromatics of raspberry and red fruit, along with hints of coffee and chocolate, make this wine an excellent match for a rich dark chocolate dessert, whether it be rich brownies, a flourless chocolate cake, or simply dark chocolates.
- Creamy Brie Cheese: The silky texture of the wine will contrast beautifully with the creamy richness of Brie, while the berry notes will provide a refreshing balance.
- Wild Mushroom Risotto: The structure and depth in the wine make it an ideal companion for the earthy flavors of a well-prepared wild mushroom risotto.
- Peppercorn Steak: The peppery undertones in the wine will resonate with the bold flavors of a peppercorn-crusted steak, creating a robust and satisfying pairing.
With the Lot 880 consider the following:
- Grilled Lobster: The rich and succulent lobster would perfectly complement the ripe pineapple and peach notes in the Chardonnay. Grilling adds a delightful smokiness that pairs well with the oak and caramel sweetness.
- Shrimp Scampi: The buttery and garlic-infused flavors of shrimp scampi enhance the overall buttery and complex profile of the Chardonnay, making it a harmonious pairing that brings out the best in both.
- Creamy Pasta Dishes (e.g., Fettuccine Alfredo): Creamy pasta dishes mirror the creamy and delightful experience of the Chardonnay. The rich flavors of Alfredo sauce complement the oak and caramel sweetness in the wine.
- Roasted Chicken: The classic pairing of roasted chicken with Chardonnay works exceptionally well. The fruit notes in the wine complement the savory, roasted flavors of the chicken, creating a balanced and satisfying combination.
With Lot 942, I would suggest:
- Balsamic Glazed Duck Breast: The ripe red cherries and juicy blackberry notes in the wine would harmonize perfectly with the flavors of a succulent duck roasted with a balsamic glaze. In addition, the earthy undertones would complement the richness of the meat, and the wine’s slight pepper notes would work to enhance the overall experience. Delicious.
- Wild Mushroom Risotto: The earthy nuances of tilled soil in the wine make it an excellent companion for a wild mushroom risotto. The combination creates a deep, earthy flavor profile that is both comforting and sophisticated.
- Peppercorn-Crusted Filet Mignon: The hint of pepper in the wine makes it a great match for a peppercorn-crusted filet mignon. The wine's fruitiness complements the richness of the beef, and the vanilla notes add a layer of complexity.
- Raspberry Chocolate Tart: Capitalize on the hint of raspberry tartness in the wine by pairing it with a raspberry chocolate tart. The wine's fruity profile will resonate with the dessert, creating a delightful and indulgent combination.
- Camembert and Fig Jam: Enjoy the wine with a combination of creamy Camembert cheese and fig jam. The red and black fruit flavors will complement the sweetness of the fig jam, while the earthy undertones add depth to the pairing.
Finally, for Lot 950, I would suggest these pairings:
- Grilled Steak: A by-the-book pairing. Grilled steaks, particularly those grilled in butter with rosemary and thyme, and fresh ground pepper, are a delicious pairing.
- Red Sauces: Spicy marinara, or thick red Bolognese, tossed with pasta and served alongside crusty bread, are always a delicious pairing with cabernet.
- Hardy Stews: Rich, warming beef stew, or a traditional beef bourguignon, would complement this wine deliciously.
- Creamy Camembert Cheese and Fig Jam: The red and black fruit flavors complement the sweetness of the fig jam, while the earthy undertones in the wine add depth to the pairing.
- Charcuterie: Consider a lush charcuterie board arranged with a variety of cured meat, crostini, sharp cheese, and mixed dried fruit as a delightful appetizer pairing.
And that’s our review. The answer to the question “Does Cameron Hughes offer delicious wines at a great price?” is “yes, yes they do.” For reference, the most expensive wine on today’s list was about $35 USD. The quality Cameron Hughes is offering at that value is indeed hard to beat.