Cameron Hughes Wines

by Jacob

One of the perils of ordering or buying wine from a winery you have not had before is not knowing exactly what to expect or whether you are going to like it.  To help solve that problem, a new business has been started that allows you to sample wine, in the comfort of your home, without committing to a full bottle.  Started in 2009,

“offers wine lovers an innovative new way to discover, taste and acquire wine that expands and enriches the wine-drinking experience.  Our service lets you taste wines before you buy via sample-sized bottles delivered directly to your home.”

Each box contains six 50ml bottles.  Boxes are available either from individual wineries or by types of wine (i.e., Napa Cabs).

Recently, a sample box of six Cameron Hughes wines showed up for sampling.  While not currently listed on the website, the six sample bottles from Cameron Hughes included one white and five reds.  The six wines were:

Lot 151 – 2009 Columbia Valley (WA) Riesling/Chenin Blanc
Lot 161 – 2007 Sonoma County Meritage
Lot 172 – 2007 Napa Valley Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon
Lot 175 – 2007 Napa Valley Merlot
Lot 176 – 2008 Los Carneros Pinot Noir
Lot 179 – 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet/Syrah

Overall, the sample box is an interesting concept, the 50ml bottles are necessarily small, which makes really tasting the wine difficult.  By the time you finish any given sample you really want more to determine if you really enjoyed the wine.  The sample box is, however, good for just getting a feel for a type of wine or a specific wineries offerings.  Of the six samples, these are the three I enjoyed the most and would consider buying whole bottles.

Lot 161 – 2007 Sonoma County Meritage ($16; 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot)
Dark red in glass with hints of cherry and spice.  Tastes of red pit fruit and spice with some tannins on the back of the palate (15.3%).  (Rating ****)

Lot 172 – 2007 Napa Valley Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon ($22)
Dark red in the glass with hints of ripe fruit on the nose.  Young tannic wine with berries on the palate that will probably drink better in years to come (14.9%).  (Rating ***1/2)

Lot 179 – 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet/Syrah ($16)
Dark red in the glass with light fruity nose.  Ripe berry and black cherry flavors with mild tannins (14.5%).  (Rating ***1/2).


Elk Run Vineyard

by Jacob

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Elk Run Vineyard in Mt. Airy, Maryland.  The drive out was beautiful. Having lived in the Washington suburbs for many years, it always strikes me how short the drive is from urban and suburban neighborhoods to farm land.  This was no exception.  Located about 45 minutes from Washington, DC Elk Run is a 30 year old winery that makes a number of different wines, sourced mostly from Maryland grapes.

The tasting room is located directly next to one of Elk Run’s two estate vineyards (Liberty Tavern Vineyard, the other Cold Friday Vineyard is across the street).  They grow most of their own grapes, purchasing only some Viogner and Malbec from California.  The staff is wonderful. The day I visited (and I suspect most days), family members of the owners were working.  They are incredibly knowledgeable not only about their wines, but about the area, and the challenges of growing grapes and producing wine in the Maryland climate.

The tasting program consisted of two options. For $5 you can taste 6 wines chosen by Elk Run and for $8, you can can taste 6 wines of your choice. I chose to do the $5 tasting and sampled the following wines (note that each wine does not have its own page. I have provided links by wine type, scroll down to find their description):

2009 Liberty Tavern Vineyard Chardonnay ($24) – A light and well balanced chardonnay that does not have the over oaked flavors so common in California, barrel-aged chardonnays.  (Rating ****)

2008 Cold Friday Vineyard Merlot ($22) – This a jammy wine that unlike many merlots is light on tannins.  Drinkable similar to many California Cabernet Sauvignons.  (Rating ***1/2)

2008 Gold Friday Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($26) – This is a young Cab with big tannins and concentrated berry flavors. Traditionally, East coast vineyards struggle with Cab grapes.  It will be interesting to see how this wine ages.  (Rating ***1/2)

2008 Riesling ($16) – My favorite wine of the tasting (and the only one that I bought).  A good example of an East Coast Riesling with light sweetness surrounding light fruit flavors and a floral bouquet on the nose.  (Rating ****1/2)

Annapolis Sunset ($9) – Sweet Rose wine made from Vigonier and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Have hints of grapefruit on the palate.

Sweet Katherine ($18) – A dessert wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Full bodies with typical qualities of dessert or late harvest wines.  Very sweet with big berry and chocolate flavors.


Frescobaldi Remole 2008

by Jacob

Sangiovese is one of my favorite grapes. Traditionally from Tuscany in Italy, Sangiovese is a robust grape that can be used to make wines similar in body to California Cabernets, Bordeaux, and Spanish Tempranillo. While Sangiovese is now grown in almost every wine producing country, it’s home is Italy and the Italians do an excellent job of using Sangiovese at multiple price points. When a sample of a Tuscan from Frescobaldi arrived, it seemed like a good time to revisit an old friend.

The 2008 Frescobaldi Remole is a typical Tuscan blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. A light ruby or garnet color in the class, it has scents of plum and berries on the nose. At first taste, it is not an expressive wine, but it opens up with flavors of black cherry with a hint of pepper when paired with food. Higher in tannis than many other wines at its price point (retail price $10), it is best consumed with food (Rating ***1/2).

Click here to see if an online retailer can sell you a bottle. For further details on Frescobaldi, surf to


Celler Pinol Ludovicus D.O. Terra Alta 2008

This Spanish red wine is a mix of Grenache (35%), Tempranillo (30%), Syrah (25%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%).  We picked it up at Pearson’s in Washington, DC for $12.99, though as part of a mixed case we got a 25%, knocking it down to under $10.

The label looks a lot like the one to the left, though the one of the bottle we tasted noted it was the 2008 vintage, and it was made from grapes from “D.O. Terra Alta.” This latter bit of text refers to an area of land in the furthest northeast of Spain (think Catalunya). For further details on the producer and where the grapes grew, see pages 3, 93, and 95 of this PDF from Ole Imports.

We enjoyed this red wine. It was very fruit forward, and also showed notes of black pepper, cedar and vanilla.  A robust wine, for sure, and one that would go very well with meat and charred vegetables. (Rating ****)

You can learn more by surfing to Ole Imports.


Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2008


We found this red wine at Safeway for about $9.

It proved to be a nice surprise, showing currants, plums, and a little earth.

Alone, it was a bit much, as it has a detectable alcohol ester. (The bottle says it is 14.5%, which is potent!)

But, paired with cheese and roasted vegetables, it was quite tasty. (Rating ***1/4)

Read more about it at


Frederick Cellars Heritage Red


by Jacob

As I have mentioned in my review on Linganore Winecellers Terrapin White, I am a big supporter of Maryland wines. When I have a chance to visit the wineries in my home state and taste their products, I am continually impressed by some of the wines that are produced. This might not be as good as California, New York, Oregon or Washington, but they are getting better with each vintage.

Frederick Cellars in Frederick, Maryland is an urban winery located a few block from the downtown historic district. Because of their location, the vineyards that they draw most of their grapes from are located in other parts of Maryland.  In general, their red wines are much stronger than their whites.  One of the best they produce is the Heritage Red.  Typical of many European wines, Frederick Cellars uses multiple types of grapes all grown in the same Annapolis, Maryland vineyard, Harness Creek Vineyard. A former tobacco farm from the colonial days, Merlot (40%), Cabernet Franc (40%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), and Syrah (7%) make a delicious blend.

After visiting the winery in November 2009, I bought a half bottle (325ml) that I opened the other day.  Garnet in color in the glass, the wine has a smooth mouthfeel with hints of ripe berries and a mild spice.  It would pair well, I think, with pizza or pasta and also goes well with dark chocolate.  (Rating ***)