lot 200

Cameron Hughes Wines | A Revolutionary Wine Business Model

Wine bottlesThose of you that read my blog know that Cameron Hughes wines are nothing new to me.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Cameron Hughes label, do yourself a favor and read the recent Wall Street Journal article titled Taking advantage of the wine glut.

Cameron Hughes has undertaken an innovative business model, buying up the excess supply of high-end winery’s wine at a bargain basement price. The Cameron Hughes label is then slapped on the bottle and sold for a fraction of the price to retailers across the states. Hughes has taken advantage of the current over supply in California to build a reputation for quality, affordability, and entrepreneurial prowess.  The 2008 Cameron Hughes Lot 200 Napa Valley Cabernet really takes his business model to the next level.

Lot 200 Label

Lot 200, $200 Juice?

The fruit for this monster Napa Cab comes from three of Napa’s most prestigious sub appellations: Stag’s Leap, Rutherford and Oakville. On his website Cameron gives just a glimpse of who’s juice this maybe.  He had to sign a 3 page Non-Disclosure Agreement which left very little left to say except that the people he acquired this wine from do not sell a bottle of wine for under $200 and have multiple 100 point scores under their belts.  This wine was available for $27 on the Chwine.com website but sold out in a matter of weeks when Costco bought almost ALL of the 4,000 cases produced!

lot 182 label

Lot 182, 4 years in shiners

Another outstanding value is Lot 182 Atlas Peak Meritage.  As the story goes there was a mix up in this deal and the labels had already been printed when Cameron discovered that this Meritage was actually 90% Cabernet and could have been sold as an Atlas Peak Cab, but c’est la vie!  This wine was purchased in shiners and had been minding its own business in a cellar for 4 years before being released.  It is drinking really well right now, and I use it as my go to “pop and pour” wine.

The Cameron Hughes production model has been able to thrive in a time when California wines have suffered, becoming less fashionable during the shaky economic climate of the past couple years. California 2009 retail wine sales were down about 3%.  Have you tried any Cameron Hughes Wines or any American wine negociants?

More Reviews:

Lot 200

Lot 182

Cameron Hughes | Wine Tasting | Scottsdale Phoenix January 2011

Cameron Hughes ScottsdaleFree wine tastings can be a great way for wine companies to get exposure in the market place.  For Cameron Hughes Wine Company, however, the free wine tasting held in Scottsdale, Arizona last Thursday night,  was a way to say thanks to their customers.   The private, invite only event was a “customer appreciation” wine tasting held to say thanks to their loyal supporters and early adopters of the Cameron Hughes Wine concept. Cameron Hughes Wine Co-Founder Jessica Hughes flew out from San Francisco to personally thank the 100 or so VIP guests  who gathered at North Scottsdale’s Hodson Jewellery Gallery.  The evening featured 12 new releases from one of America’s most successful wine negociants, and even a few unreleased small lots.  Guests were also treated to the culinary creations of Hashana Baker from I Love it Gourmet.

Row of wine bottles

An impressive selection

The wine list was impressive, even by Cameron Hughes standards.  California was well represented, and in particular the sub appellations of Napa including Atlas Peak, Stag’s Leap, Oakville, Rutherford.  There were also wines from Alexander Valley, both sides of Carneros and there were also some interesting lots from Chile and Washington State. Here is a quick list of the Lots that were sampled: Lot 182, Lot 189, Lot 190, Lot 191, Lot 197, Lot 200, Lot 208, Lot 216, Lot 222, Lot 225, Lot 227

Wine labelI found Lot 182 particularly approachable, and I learned that this particular Lot is labeled as a Meritage, but is actually a blend of 90% Cabernet, 5% Cab Franc, and 5% Petite Verdot.  This wine is a 2005 vintage and has over 4 years in the bottle and it is drinking amazing right now.  With only 1,700 cases produced and selling for $15 a bottle this wine won’t be around for long. See my complete review of Lot 182 here.

wine labelI also found Lot 197, a 2008 Napa Valley Merlot to be quite interesting.  I am not normally a big Merlot drinker, but this Merlot was more like a big powerful and ripe Cabernet.  This lot has yet to be released and should sell out very quickly as only 518 cases are available.  I was talking with Jessica Hughes and I remarked that I was really enjoying Lot 197 and she said “Oh that is reeeeallly nice, it’s from…” and she just barely managed to cut herself short.  Everyone who knows the way Cameron Hughes Wines work, knows that the sources of the wines are a closely guarded and legally protected secret.  The wines are often purchased with lengthy Non Disclosure agreements to protect the brands that are selling pretty much the same juice for $100+ a bottle. See my complete review of Lot 197 here

Co Founder

Jessica Hughes

In my conversation with Jessica I also asked her about the dynamic between her and Cameron.  I asked her whether they were like two peas in a pod, or more like a Ying and a Yang.  She said the latter.  Jessica said that Cameron has an absolutely amazing palate and actually writes most of the wine descriptions himself,  Jessica on the other hand is a natural promoter.  This is evidenced by the fact that she mingled and chatted enthusiastically and non-stop with customers for close to 3 hours.

As the event wound down you could tell the guests were so enjoying themselves that they didn’t want to leave!  Most guests placed orders for multiple cases and I got thinking that this was actually an interesting way to set up a new channel of sales. Pouring chardonnay Cameron Hughes has been relying heavily on sales through Costco, but it can be quite difficult to sell when you are not allowed to taste, and don’t have time to interact on a personal level with your customers.  Cameron Hughes Wines plan to set up more of these types of private tastings across the country.   How do you get invited?  If you’ve bought a significant amount of wine from their website, you will most likely get an invite.

A short video of the event and Jessica speaking:

See more pictures from this event on my Facebook Page

Cameron Hughes Wine Homepage