Smart Bombs and Cellar Treasures: Cameron Hughes Lots 444 & 469

Smart Bombs of the Wine World

Twenty-some years ago we all watched astounded on CNN as a war halfway around the world displayed some shocking technology: The Smart Bomb. Our grandfathers dropped dumb bombs on each other, and it resulted in entire cities being destroyed when the actual target was a bridge, or a factory. The classic “kill a fly with a bazooka” scenario. Over time, physicists and engineers developed munitions that became smarter and smarter; heat-seeking, video-guided, laser-guided, etc. So that by 1990 we were watching bombs fall from tens of thousands of feet and go down chimneys.

Like many scientific discoveries, some of the best happen by accident. I think I may have stumbled upon the smart bomb of wines. I talk about Cameron Hughes‘s wines a lot. Mostly because they are by far, the best values in the wine buying world. Mr. Hughes is a negociant, not a wine maker per se, but a seller of other producers wines, excess inventory, distressed inventory, etc. He offers all sorts of wines that are generally excellent, but at frankly amazing prices. On average I’d say the typical CHWine offering is a $50 to $150 bottle (if it were in its original guise) being sold for $15 to $40. Cameron himself seems to have a sweet spot of expertise, and that is Napa Valley Bordeaux-style wines. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignons, but also into the Merlots, and Bordeaux style blends (what has come to be called Meritage). Cameron Hughes has a particular nose for both great deals, and great Napa valley wines. (He sells wines from all over the world, and I have had great results with all of them. I’m just saying his particular expertise and specialty is Napa Valley.)

So here is my sure-fire, four step, smart-bomb recipe for buying a great Napa Valley wine at a very low price:

    1. Find Cameron Hughes Wines. Either buy them direct from their website, at a retailer like Costco, or better yet, do like I do and join their wine club, which gets you additional discounts.
    2. Buy anything that they offer from Napa Valley made from Bordeaux grapes. In descending order: Cabernet Sauvignon, Meritage, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot (I haven’t seen any Napa Malbecs, Carmeneres, etc yet.)
    3. Cellar them well from two to five years. Mind you, I haven’t been able to amass a deep enough cellar stock to stretch them beyond that five year mark yet. So maybe even longer if you can.
    4. Drink!

I have yet to be disappointed, but so far I have found the accuracy of this trajectory to be well over 96%. These latest two, Lot 444 2013 Napa Valley Meritage, and the Lot 469 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon were amazingly good. Lot 444 is sold out, but they still have 469 available at around $32. My normal pattern is to taste my way through the club case shipments that come to me a few times a year, and then if there are any standouts buy a few more bottles to lay down for a few years, ideally in a spot not within easy grabbing range. These Napa Valley wines that Mr. Hughes selects ALL seem to benefit from some cellar aging. They develop to be some of the best I drink out of that region, and once you reflect back on what you paid? It makes you feel like a genius.

Even if it is accidental.