The Trip That Took Away A Secret

A Special Report by Jan Beks, the Wining Dutchman

sandemanI grew up with ads about Sandeman. The silhouette of the guy with the cape and sombrero filled my teenage years: “The secret one shares with Sandeman” was the slogan I remember from the early 70s. But in my family there simply was no wine, let alone sherry culture, at all. At that time for me Saturdays meant to buy beer for my dad and my mother’s brothers so they could enjoy drinking beer while discussing matters like politics and sports. I didn’t even drink beer at that time.

Last winter during my first-ever trip to Porto, Portugal, the silhouette of Sandeman entered my life again and I wondered why it showed up here. Luckily the answer was not far away and I soon got to taste the port of the same company. And if it were not for the tour at the Sandeman cellars and the other ports I tasted during this trip, I never would have gotten rid of the Sandeman myth. Continue reading “The Trip That Took Away A Secret”

The Story of the Wine Guide

In the early 1980s, as the popularity of vintage wines soared in the USA, I tracked the best wines, and the best values. Focusing on red wines, but also enjoying great white wines, I began carrying a list of interesting, sought-after wines when I traveled for work. I found incredible values all over the USA, and in many other countries I visited.

I subscribed to popular publications, including trade journals and food mags that promoted wines. Soon, I had too many wines on my list, so I needed a more efficient solution.

We entered my list  into a database. The personal computer movement was just starting to grow in the mid-1980s, but as an experienced database manager, I found a PC relational database tool called R:Base.

We used R:Base for our wine database; by 1985 I was carrying my printed database booklet into stores, for quick reference for the wines I encountered. The booklet was so handy, we gave copies of it to customers and friends. It was a hit, and everyone wanted a copy!  Continue reading “The Story of the Wine Guide”

Maryhill Winery Follows up in 2015

It is difficult, as  to top out, as Maryhill Winery did, in the San Francisco International Wine Competition ‘2014 Winery Of The Year’ award. Not to worry: Maryhill Winery followed up in 2015 in fine fashion. First, the Wine Press Northwest Magazine named Maryhill as 2015’s Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year. See the press release, and a good background on Maryhill Winery at the Wine Press Northwest magazine’s website.

And now, you have a way to taste some of those award winning wines, that we wrote about last year, and tasted this year. Maryhill Winery opened their Reserve Room, a 1200 square foot room that offers tastings of a rotating selection of their best wines. Of course, there is an additional charge, but visitors can apply the $20 fee towards purchase of the wines.  Continue reading “Maryhill Winery Follows up in 2015”

Cameron Hughes: An American Négoçiant

We discovered the wines of Cameron Hughes in 2007; our first purchases included Lots 29,  34, and 35: Lake County Meritage, and Rutherford and Yountville Cabernets, respectively. We soon followed up with 75- and 100-year-old-vine Shiraz, and more California Cabs (including more of the Lot 35. What a great discovery, that our friend Julie Bettis had turned us on to!

Soon, although we had an ownership interest in a wine shop, we were buying over half our wines from this discovery. So what is the story behind this interesting American Négoçiant?


Cameron Hughes grew up in Modesto, California, and learned about wine from his father, Steve, who was involved in the wine industry as a salesperson, and winemaker. After getting a degree in marketing, Cameron decided wine was more interesting, so he used his–and his father’s–wine trade contacts to find wines. During the wine glut in the mid-2000s, he found excess wines from premium wineries, placed his Lot Number label on them, and sold them to major chains (e.g., Costco), and online subscribers, like us.  Continue reading “Cameron Hughes: An American Négoçiant”

Maryhill is 2014 Winery of the Year

A winery that we frequently visit, Maryhill Winery, in Goldendale, Washington, was recently honored as the Winery of the Year for 2014.  A press release for the San Francisco International Wine Competition, in making the announcement, reported …

After judging more than 4,500 wines from 1,400 wineries, 26 states and 31 countries, the Tasting Panel Magazine at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition awarded Washington state’s Maryhill Winery as “Winery of the Year.”

In addition, Maryhill won 30 awards for its wines, including four gold, 11 bronze, and 10 silver, two “Best of Show” honors and three double golds:

• Best Mourvedre (97 pts): 2011 Mourvedre, Rattlesnake Hills
• Best Grenache (95 pts): 2011 Grenache, Proprietor’s Reserve, Columbia Valley
• Double Gold (95 pts): 2011 Syrah, Classic, Columbia Valley  Continue reading “Maryhill is 2014 Winery of the Year”