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Friday, March 5, 2021

Wine, Frankly: Big Juicy Reds

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Frank Pagliaro
Frank Pagliaro
Frank Pagliaro has been a Wilmington wine merchant since 1986 – Frank’s Union Wine Mart. He is the Team Host & Chief Wino of the FranksWine.com Marathon Team which gets fellow winos and runners together to train for a yearly Fall Marathon while raising money for children’s charities.
This is Cameron Hughes
He makes some ridiculously good wine!
Cameron Hughes

There is a glut of wine all over the world-an oversupply so significant that it’s compelled Australian winemakers to plow up their vineyards, forced French producers to turn wines into ethanol and brought wealthy Napa vintners if not to their knees then to their bankers in search of refinance. The reasons are various-new vineyard plantings by ambitious producers, increased productivity at a time of plummeting demand, winemakers who have overleveraged their brands.

Beckstoffer Vineyards

The bulk wine market-which encompasses everything from wine in the barrel to finished wines in unlabeled bottles, aka “shiners”-may absorb some of this excess but with prices as low as $1 a gallon, it’s not going to help winemakers raise very much money, let alone make them rich. Except in the case of Cameron Hughes.  He takes the $100 California Cabernets that have gone begging for buyers and sells the very same wines under his own labels for $25 a bottle and less. He packages them in generic-looking bottles with names like Lot 224 Syrah and 339 Field Blend… as I’m writing this a box of Lot 404 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon rolled through the door!

Mystery Wine

Cameron says that nondisclosure agreements with wineries prevent him from naming his sources, and each wine is accompanied by a “Cameron Confidential” hinting at its exalted-yet unnameable-origin that necessitated a number instead a name. “We sourced this wine from the vineyard of a famous Cabernet producer,” is the typical Cameron come-on for a $22 bottle. Another Cab was from “an $85-a-bottle program” in Napa’s Atlas Peak appellation.

Whether or not the Cameron Hughes business model is sustainable remains to be seen. The wine business goes in cycles, after all.  Cameron said he hopes to “get closer to the ground” and buy his own vineyards one day.(And to be part of the next glut cycle?)  In the meantime Cameron has managed to keep his mouth shut and produce some really good wines at prices that are almost too good to be true.

Sealed lips

Here’s a pair of Rhone-style wines that Fred and I recently tasted… without a doubt these are the two finest reds in their section at this price point.  I can say that for most of the Cameron Hughes’s Lot wines.

 

Cameron Hughes 2009 Lot 224 Syrah


Taste…

Lot 224 leaps forth with sensational floral aromas integrated with black fruit, licorice, roasted meat and cassis. This wine is finely built with underlying concentration and mouthwatering richness. With great old-world qualities and incredible acid, this wine represents great winemaking and the excellent terroir of High Valley.

Cameron Confidential…

Lot 224 2009 Syrah is sourced from the High Valley AVA of Lake County. The vineyards for this project start at 1800 feet and run up to 3,000 feet above sea level. It’s an incredibly remote property that has remarkable vineyards. They recently brought in a new winemaking team and a deservedly famous consultant to turn around the winemaking, they are turning out lush and inviting wines. Winemakers often espouse that they are just guardians of the terroir and their job is simply to stand back and let the wines make themselves – nonsense. Winemakers matter and Lot 224 proves it.

 Taste…

 

Cameron Hughes 2010 Lot 339 Field Blend 

 Lot 339 is fresh and aromatic with black fruits, peppers, cherries and red plum notes. Integrated tannins frame a chewy finish meshed with exotic spice notes.

Cameron Confidential…

Field Blends are the result of a certain way of propagating vineyards in early 20th century California Viticulture wherein various vines were planted in a vineyard and the underperformers had their heads lopped off to be replaced by budwood from the best performers.

Lot 339 combines Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre for a tasty California spin on these famous Rhone varietals. This wine is the best of the old-world and the new, the classic and the updated…Purity of essence if you will.

    
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