A while back, I was out of town & I stopped by World Market during a wine sale. They had a brand of wine that we don’t see on the shelves around my home town. It was simply called:
Cameron Hughes Lot 279 Napa Valley
Never heard of this before. Never heard of Cameron Hughes. But I’m a big fan of Napa reds (good ones) so I figured for $12, how can I lose. If it’s bad, I toss it. If it’s good, win! So I came home and a few days later, opened the wine with dinner. We were absolutely floored at the quality. It was a silky, full mouth-feel wine. Rich tasting…I’d decanted it and I’m glad I did. Initially it smelled very unbalanced (heavy alcohol) but just a half-hour in the decanter and this wine was competing with my very expensive bottles. I had to go look up Cameron Hughes after that because obviously I was missing something. Discovered this wine is 100% Stags Leap district wine. (If I’d known that, I’d have even been more skeptical originally…who sells Stags Leap for $20 or less unless it’s bad, right?) I’ve bought a lot of wine and never had anything under $50 (more like $70-$90) that tasted this amazing. (I did go back and buy a case. Until this point, I’d only liked one wine enough to do that.)
That’s when the “négociant” style wine retailer came to my attention. Apparently they purchase orphan lots directly from high end wineries/vineyards as well as (in the case of Cameron Hughes) purchasing grapes and making their own wines. Then they sell them directly online or in some cases, retail outlets like Costco or World Market etc. It seemed quite brilliant to me and I wondered if there were more options at CH that would knock my socks off.
I can honestly say that I’ve purchased/tasted many of the current offerings since then (and I believe this one may still be available at retailers…Market of Choice tells me they can get it, though it’s higher priced than World Market) and have been completely converted. I cannot buy locally the quality of wine, at the price they offer. I was really surprised to find out that many times they run specials (15-30% off) and sometimes free shipping. While I’m not as fond of some of the blends, Zins or whites as their Napa offerings and some of the imports, I find them decent values. But, the true bargains are the higher end Napa and Import wines that are priced lower (1/3 usually and when the sales hit, sometimes 1/4 the retail price) and taste above their price points. Even Costco (which is another place to get good wine at a good price) hasn’t been able to compare.
That’s why I decided to start my reviews with this particular wine from this particular retailer. It taught me my first real wine purchasing lesson…don’t take the critics word as law…”more like guidelines” 😉 Really good wine can be had for an incredible price.