Two Cameron Hughes wines we like now

The two vintage years of 2012 and 2013 in California have been excellent both in terms of quality and quantity. Negociants like Cameron Hughes have benefited because growers have more grapes to sell and wineries have extra juice, more than they can normally handle in their cellars. Thus, the consumer benefits and these two Cameron Hughes wines are outstanding.

Two Cameron Hughes wines we like now

Lot 431 Dry Creek 2012 Old Vine Zin

Costco and other stores for $12


This is a very tasty Zinfandel and a beautiful example of a brambly black fruit Zin, rich and full bodied. Dry Creek Valley is one of the great growing regions for Zinfandel. There are many old vine Zin vineyards there, but my guess is this one may have come from the Teldeschi Vineyards on the east bench of the Dry Creek Valley. Wherever it is from, if you are a Zinfandel fan, you must try this one. It is so balanced and not over the top. 89 Points

Lot 445 Chardonnay 2013 Arroyo Seco

Costco – $8.99

Balanced Chardonnay from Cameron Hughes

Balanced Chardonnay from Cameron Hughes

Janelle and I both like this Chardonnay because it has something that each of us enjoys in a Chardonnay. I like the more tropical fruit of the stainless steel variety of Chardonnay, while Janelle likes more of the oak and butter. This one is right in between, so we can both enjoy this wine with our dinner. Chicken, Halibut, and grilled shrimp will go nicely. I watched the Cameron Hughes video on his tasting of this wine, and his description was completely different from what we tasted. Cameron Hughes says this is a big buttery, oaky Chardonnay. No way in our opinion. The video is below. Try this wine if you like Chardonnay. The price at Costco is outrageously good. 88 Points.

Ford Coppola Director’s Cut Chardonnay

chardonnayBevMo has their Five Cent sale on and Janelle, a fan of Chardonnay more on the oaky and buttery side, purchased two of the Francis Ford Coppola Director’s Cut Chardonnay. The price for two bottles averages out to $10 a bottle. Janelle and I both agree that this Chardonnay is generic in style, with not much to distinguish itself. It falls flat in the finish. We were both expecting more from this 2013 Sonoma Chardonnay, as we’ve enjoyed this wine at the winery and at restaurants.   The Cameron Hughes 445 Chardonnay towers above this wine in our humble opinion.

Whole Foods Olive Oil Tasting

I have been a participant in olive oil tastings, but never conducted one myself. The folks that do PR for Whole Foods Stores asked if I would like to do an olive oil tasting of Whole Foods brand of olive oils. I thought sure, why not, it sounds like fun. Whole Foods provided me with five Whole Foods olive oils, each olive oil from a different country. I did a little research on the Web and was surprised how similar an olive oil judging is to a wine tasting. Appearance, aroma, and taste are evaluated. Almost all olive oil tasting that is serious involves judging the olive oil in cups or small glasses. The tasters judge the olive oil by looking, sniffing, and tasting. I found several good websites on how to taste and judge olive oil. Try this one if you would like to know more about the proper way to taste olive oil: The Olive Oil Source.

whole foods olive oil

Olive Oil from Whole Foods, $13.99 in San Mateo

My Whole Foods Olive Oil Tasting

We were on our way for a dinner date at a local restaurant, so I invited the group over to our house before to do this olive oil tasting. I threw in some wine and, lo and behold, what a great time! I spotted a few neighbors walking by and also invited them in and we had 14 of us tasting the five different Whole Foods Olive Oil.

I ditched the idea of tasting the olive oils the way the Olive Oil Source recommends. I knew that the crowd did want to be so serious, so I cut up some sourdough French bread. I placed the five dishes with olive oil on a tray and labeled them one through five. I asked each to tell me their favorite. I was quite surprised that most guests took multiple samples before deciding their favorite. Below is the Whole Foods description of the five olive oils.

  • Greece – Koroneiki olives – complex aroma of olives and herbs, notably fruity taste and peppery finish. Best enjoyed in its raw state or as finishing oil.
  • Portugal – Arbequina olives – Balanced, fruity, yet smooth with notes of fresh almonds. Best used raw in order to preserve delicate properties.
  • Seville (Spain) – Hojiblanca olives – slightly sweet with smooth finish and subtle almond aftertaste. Wonderfully flavorful with complex aroma, ideal for baking and pan-sautéing.
  • Chile – multiple olive varietals – Chile is a relatively new but ideal climate for olive cultivation where varietals such as Arbequina, Frantoio, Arebusana, Piqual and Lecino thrive. This full-bodied oil is balanced, spicy and bitter, with notes of green tomatoes and fresh vegetables, making it excellent for dipping.
  • Sicily (Italy) – Nocellara, Biancolila and Cerasuola olives – intense flavor and aroma, medium fruity with notes of tomato leaves and green apple. Best drizzled over bruschetta, grilled fish or vegetables.

The most #1 votes went to two olive oils, Sicily and Seville. The Sicily olive oil was more pungent. The Spanish olive oil was smooth and mild. The cost of each olive oil is $13.99 and is one liter in size. At the Whole Foods store in San Mateo, they have a fairly large collection of olive oils and many more expansive then the Whole Foods label.

I wanted to do one more taste test before posting this article.  The following day Janelle and I compared our go-to olive oil to the two top Whole Food olive oils. We normally buy Costco’s Kirkland Signature Extra Virgin olive oil, first cold press and organic. It comes in a two-liter size and sells for about $17. It is a blend of olive from Portugal, Spain, and Italy. We sampled the olive oils. Janelle and I totally disagreed. She chose the Kirkland over both the Whole Foods, and I did the opposite. One factor, Janelle blind tasted and I did not.

The bottom line on this olive oil tasting, we realize we are novices but would like to further our understanding of one of nature’s great food ingredients. Olive oil is tasty and healthy. Just like wine!

Highway 12 Sonoma Red Blend 2012

Highway 12 Sonoma Red

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Mas Donis Barrica – a delightful Montsant wine bargain

mas donis barrica

Mas Donis Barrica - a delightful Montsant wine bargain From the Capcanes Cellars in the D.O. Montsant in Spain, this is a fantastic wine bargain. It is $12.99 at the Spanish Table. Both KL Wines and are sold out and will not be able to … [Continue reading]

Any wine bargains at Whole Foods?

whole foods eco-friendly wine

Everyone knows the old saying about shopping at Whole Foods. "We call Whole Foods,  Whole Paycheck!"  I do shop frequently at Whole Foods in San Mateo, and I believe if you are a careful shopper you can find plenty of good prices and not spend … [Continue reading]

Searching for Portuguese Red Wine

Portuguese red wines

Portuguese Red Wine Taste Off - September 2, 2014 At our bimonthly meeting of the Vintage Wine Tasters, we blind tasted six Portuguese red wines, all under $20 a bottle. Vintage Wine Taster Mike was in charge of the Portuguese red wine tasting. The … [Continue reading]