This question is from a reader and former co-worker. Have you heard of Cameron Hughes?
The short answer was NO. But asking me a question about wine is like waving a red flag in the face of a bull, once the gauntlet has be thrown down, the search is on! Fortunate for me life is pretty easy with the internet.
In the simplest of terms Cameron Hughes is a “negociant”. For anyone not familiar with that word it’s a French term for a wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result under their own name or brand. And since I became aware of the wine world, it’s what I’ve wanted to grow up to be.
Historically the negociant has been the mover and shaker of the wine world. They buy everything from grapes to grape must in various states of completion. They buy finished wines in barrels or even vats. They blend the wines, they age the wine, they bottle the wine, they make a market for the wine. Sometimes they buy “shiners”, wine that is already in the bottle but no label and no place to go. The wine is sold under the negociants name.
In the past owners of vineyards and wine producers had no direct access to buyers. They didn’t have the enough product to sell or lacked the capital for wine making equipment like wine presses, fermentation tanks, barrels, or bottling lines. Not to mention wine making knowledge, and sales and marketing channels which could all be out of reach for a small family farmer.
Many negociants are also vineyard owners. Names you might recognize are Jadot, Duboeuf, Jaboulet, and Mirabeau. And these names are known for the areas they specialize in, for examples Duboeuf is know for Beaujolais, Jadot for Burgundy and Mirabeau for Provence. The largest negociant in the United States is Gary Agajanian.
Cameron grew up in a wine family. He dad was a wine salesperson. He and his wife Jessica Kogan started the business in 2001 after Cameron sold his own wine collection to raise capital, invested in surplus wines, blended them and sold them out of the back of his Volvo.
They sell wines from their own retail location and website, through other retails, my bottle came from Total Wine, and thorough wholesalers. They get wines for “top-tier” wineries whose identities are protected under confidentiality agreements. Which allow Cameron to sell a great bottle of wine for $30 and you might pay $100 for if you know where it was from. Frankly, I drink wine, not labels, so I don’t care.
How does it work? Like everything else in life; contacts, access, hard work, and good taste buds. Cameron has knowledge of people, places and wines, all around the world. Add lots of tastings, risk taking, blending and a non-disclosure agreement and bam, you’re in business. Result, amazing values!
Most of Cameron’s wines are released in the “Lot Series” these are one of a kind vines, when they are gone, they are gone. They also have four brands GreenLip, Hughes Wellman, Zin Your Face and CAM Collection. One of Cameron’s biggest customers is Costco.
Our wine is a CMA Cameron Hughes Chardonnay 2012. Now, first thing you need to know is I am a card carrying member of ABC, ANYTHING BUT CHARDONNAY. I’m not kidding. Chardonnay is my least favorite wine, but, this one was pretty good. As mentioned before I purchased from Total Wine for under $15, remember I’m an under $20 a bottle guy. Color was a really golden blond, might be showing a little age the wine being 2012. Aroma was a very pleasing honeysuckle hint of oil. Taste not buttery thank god! Flavor I got was stone, think mountain waterfall and lemon. Body was creamy. Nice finish.
To try other Cameron Hughes Wines it looks like I will have go to their website.