The 2008 Cameron Hughes Santa Ynez Valley Meritage (means the grapes used in the blend are the same varietal grapes approved for wines from Bordeaux, France) Blend is 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec that are sourced from vineyards and a winery in the Happy Canyon AVA which is located inside the Santa Ynez Valley AVA which is part of the Santa Barbara County AVA (Santa Barbara County is much closer to Los Angeles, than to San Francisco and Napa Valley) which in turn is part of the Central Coast AVA. There are only 6 vineyards and 3 wineries operating in the Happy Canyon AVA, so you have a 33% chance of guessing right on which winery produced this wine. Cameron Hughes is a negociant and negociants buy excess wine from various wineries, sometimes they simply relabel the bottle and sell it as is and other times they take various wines and create their own unique blends. Secrecy is important for a negociant, they seldom indicate exactly who produced the wine, since negociants usually sell their wines at a far lower price than the originating winery, they do not want to undercut the producing winery, that would kill the Golden Goose. The wines used in the Lot 254 blend are from grapes that did not make the cut to go into the original wineries Meritage blend (which sells for $60). The alcohol content is 14.9%.
The color is ruby red with black highlights. The nose is strawberry and raspberry, cinnamon spice drops, a little cedar plank, some soft vanilla and a faint whiff of brewing coffee. There is a silky mouthfeel that contrasts nicely with a spicy mid palate. It starts with blueberries, cassis, French vanilla, cola, and curry spice. The mid palate adds Christmas spice, fresh juicy plum, orange zest and custard. The tannins are silky, the structure holds the flavors and textures together. The finish is complex and lengthy, it fades quickly, but never really goes away.
These wines may not have cut the mustard to be included in the $60 blend, but they sure rock hard in a 12 buck bottle. The Lot 254 is a large fruit forward wine that still has balance and structure. Sometimes, winemakers in an effort to achieve Bordeaux-like balance in their wines, balance the flavor right out of the wine. That is not a problem with the Lot 254, there is flavor galore along with depth and structure usually found in more expensive wine.