This wine is my introduction to Cameron Hughes, a California-based negociant. The concept of a negociant is common in Europe, not so much in the United States. Launched by Cameron Hughes and Jessica Kogan a little more than a decade ago, the group seeks out and buys small to medium lots of wine that its tasters judge to be worthy and then bottles them under the Cameron Hughes label. Cameron Hughes does not grow the grapes nor make the wine; it buys wine that has not found a home and sells it for a higher price under its own label. In some cases, the wine comes from a prestigious producer who doesn't want to absorb the bad PR of closing out excess wine at bargain basement prices. At least, that is the impression Cameron Hughes would like to convey. And it worked for me.
According to C-H, Lot 266 was being sold as "North Coast Pinot Noir" by a large producer, even though half of the grapes came from the Carneros appellation in Napa County and half from Carneros in Sonoma County. In other words, it's Carneros Pinot, which is worth $25 to $35 a bottle rather than North Coast Pinot which is worth only about half that much. As a terroirist, that's the kind of information that gets my juices flowing.
How about the wine itself? Medium lightr. Beautiful aromas of flowers, herbs, fresh berries and spice. Subtle but intense and lovely. The smooth Pinot texture is there. Black fruits, cinnamon and, for better or worse, none of the earthy qualities often found in red Burgundy. Lingers. Lovely.
Lot 266 is definitely New World and cool climate--a face of Pinot Noir that is quite appealing to me. Ripe but not overly sweet. Delicate but not insipid. The subtlty is apparent: it matched up perfectly with grilled salmon but got lost when paired with black bean chili. This lot is sold out at C-H but available at D&W Markets in Kalamazoo for $14.99. I plan to go back for more; hopefully it will still be there for the next 15% off sale.