Cameron Hughes is a wine négociant who started his eponymous enterprise in 2001, buying excess, bulk wine from well-known California wineries, bottling it and selling it at Costco and other discount locations. This business model works well when there’s surplus wine. And now there’s an ocean of it, thanks to COVID 19, the changing tastes of younger consumers, and the decreased consumption of older ones. California’s first-growth wineries can’t sell all their expensive wine, but they don’t want to reduce prices either, so the only alternative is to sell their wine in bulk to negociants like Cameron Hughes. This means consumers get to buy first rate wine at cut rate prices. We evaluate several of Cameron Hughes’ bottlings below.
Buying great wine at low prices is a good deal for consumers. But, as Milton Friedman once said, there is no such thing as a free lunch. While Cameron Hughes’ wines are excellent value, consumers know little about their provenance aside from the region where they are grown. And the lots are small, so consumers wishing to purchase more may find the lot is sold out. Also, the wines are seldom professionally reviewed since neither the producer nor the winemaker can be identified. Fortunately, you can use our reviews to help select the wines to purchase.
Cameron Hughes 2017 Chardonnay Lot 675 Santa Barbara County ($14) 91 Golden straw color. A soft, waxy bouquet offers yellow stone fruit, ripe pears and honeycomb. Packed with flavor and good balancing acidity, this single vineyard Chardonnay has a creamy texture and flavors of mango, peach and acacia. One of the few deeply flavored California Chardonnays not overwhelmed by toasty oak. Sourced from the top vineyard of the Santa Maria Valley. Bien Nacido? Outstanding value! Chardonnay of this quality would easily sell for 3-4 times this price.
Cameron Hughes 2018 Chardonnay Lot 706 Napa Valley ($16) 91 Showing a lovely, soft floral perfume on the nose, this is a Chardonnay that’s especially well balanced for the price. There’s good lemony acidity on the round, mellow palate complementing melon, apple, and lemon curd flavors. This is a big, mouth filling wine that would go well with roast chicken or creamy pasta dishes. 13.5% alc.
Cameron Hughes 2018 Chardonnay Lot 718 Russian River Valley ($18) 90 This is a nicely balanced Chardonnay with good freshness and balance. There’s the bright, lemony acidity that’s common to the Russian River and light oaking that lends a roundness to the wine. Sourced from an important grower of Chardonnay in the Russian River Valley. 13.5% alc.
Cameron Hughes 2016 White Blend Santa Barbara County ($14) 90 Medium yellow straw hue. This white Rhone blend offers an appealing profile of white peach and melon with a hint of clementine. It’s full in the mouth with refreshing lemony acidity and flavors that linger on the finish. A nicely crafted wine and well worth the price! A blend of 49% Roussanne, 27% Viognier and 24% Marsanne. Alc 14.3%
Cameron Hughes 2017 Pinot Noir Lot 678 Willamette Valley 89 This is an easy drinking, surprisingly light Oregon Pinot Noir. It reveals red cherry and spice aromas and flavors with a medium weight palate and long finish.
Cameron Hughes 2017 Pinot Noir Lot 703 Anderson Valley ($15) 91 Medium red ruby. A very attractive Pinot Noir from Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley AVA, the Lot 703 is medium weight with spicy red and dark red cherry and pomegranate fruit. The finish is long and beautiful. A surprisingly elegant wine at this price.
Cameron Hughes 2018 Pinot Noir Lot 704 Carneros Napa Valley ($16) 92 Dark red. The bouquet and flavor profile of this wine sourced from the Napa end of Carneros evokes dark red cherry, red berries and a hint of underbrush. It’s easy drinking with a soft attack and suave palate, but there’s good depth of flavor, lovely balance, and amazing complexity for a wine this inexpensive. Buy a case!
Cameron Hughes 2017 Zinfandel Lot 705 Dry Creek Valley ($18) 90 Medium ruby red. The label on this bottle says 15.9% alcohol, about as high as one can find in red table wine. Yet this wine holds its alcohol well. There are aromas of red plum and dried cherry. The palate follows suit with good density of flavor and bright acidity that complements the dried fruit character and uplifts the wine. There’s a touch of heat on the finish, but, overall, very good and exceptional value. From one of California’s prime Zinfandel growing areas. 15.9% alc.
Cameron Hughes 2018 Zinfandel Lot 725 Russian River Valley ($17) 90 This is another great value Zinfandel from Cameron Hughes. The Russian River Valley is home to some of the world’s oldest Zinfandel vines. Increasingly, they’re being ripped out in favor of Pinot Noir. This wine is classic Russian River Valley Zinfandel—beautifully fragrant and richly flavored of ripe plums, red raspberry, and spice. Rich but dry on the palate, this is the wine to have this summer with grilled meats. 15.5% alc.