Friday, June 25, 2021

Cameron Hughes New Releases: Lot 825 Napa Valley White Meritage and Lot 811 Lodi Zinfandel

Meritage isn’t for red wine lovers only! We uncork a rare and delicious white Meritage.

Meritage Is America’s Blend

We’ve written frequently about Meritage, stellar blends crafted solely from specific "noble" Bordeaux grape varieties and considered to be the very best wines of the vintage. It’s modeled after Bordeaux, where wine blending is an artform that has resulted in some of the world’s greatest wines.

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Truth be told, when we think about Meritage, luscious red grapes are on our mind. Things took a twist as we sampled two of the latest releases from Cameron Hughes.

Lot 825 2020 Napa Valley White Meritage

Red Meritage is made from the classic six Bordeaux grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Carmenere, and Malbec) – all juicy delicious grapes. The more rare white Meritage is made from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and perhaps some Muscadelle du Bordolais.

To test drive this wine, our chef (my wife, that is!) prepared Grilled Caraway Salmon with dill sauce and grilled veggies. As we sipped this wine, I prepared for the tingly jolt of trademark acidity that usually accompanies Sauvignon Blanc. The shock was never delivered.

Instead we were sipping on a most elegant wine that struck the perfect balance between the rounded, less-acidic notes of the Semillon and the tangy flavors of the Sauvignon Blanc. These two grapes are a classic Bordeaux pairing and the Napa Valley winemaker, who previously worked in Bordeaux, created a wine with true finesse.

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Lime, grapefruit, and wet river rocks, are present on the nose. The silken texture draws you in to enjoy the flavors of white blossoms, lychee, and citrus. As opposed to sharp edges, the wine is round and soothing with a slight beeswax tone.

The blend is 70% Semillon and 30% Semillon. The alcohol is quite low at 12.9%, making it an amiable partner for a variety of dinner entrees. This is one of the most delicious white wines we’ve had in the last six months. The price is only $16, what we consider an amazing price.

Cameron Hughes is a négociant, a wine trader, who doesn’t have a winery, but instead buys lots from wineries (with the names remaining anonymous) and bottles them under his own label. The only clue we have for the original winery is that it is one of the” most critically acclaimed and awarded wineries in Rutherford.” We have an idea about the identity of the winery – and if we’re right, this is a must-buy bottle.

Lot 811 2019 Lodi Zinfandel

Yes, we did gush about the white Meritage, but we can’t overlook this succulent wine from Lodi. By now you should know that Lodi is the Zinfandel epicenter of the world. It is a grape of many expressions, and this one is quite tasty.

To accompany the Zin, I fired up the grill to prepare my famous (in my mind!) mici. Mici are Romanian street food, essentially a small slider that is as popular there as hamburgers are in the US. They are made with a mix of pork, beef, and lamb, plus an array of spices that had me emptying out the cupboard searching every square inch for little used bottles.

Zin can be big and bouncy, or more reserved and refined. This one is of the former variety.  On the initial approach, there is a smokiness and black pepper, but big fruit is the name of the game here. Blackberry jam with raisin notes fills the palate and is wrapped in loose tannins that don’t interfere with the smooth ride.

This bottle checks in at 14.9% ABV, but there is nary a harsh, hot note. Instead it glides in with a satiny finish, showing off with some vanilla high notes.

A Zinfandel that is light on your wallet, it comes from a pioneering Lodi farm family and costs a mere $13. It was spot-on with my mici, which were nice and garlicky and served on pretzel buns with brown German mustard.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.

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