Affordable pinot noir shootout: Erath vs. Costco (Kirkland)

6 01 2019

Today we check out two pinot noirs each costing around $14 at Costco.

Erath (also can be found for $14 at Total Wine) is a 2016 Oregon pinot noir.  To be honest, I’ve disliked this wine in the past.  But this Erath is a Read the rest of this entry »





Malbec shootout: Kaiken, Gascon, Clos d’Argentine

2 01 2017

Today we pit 3 malbecs in the $10-12 range against each other in a blind taste test conducted in our clean room laboratories in an underground bunker which have been meticulously designed to replicate my friend’s house. These malbecs are from from Mendoza Argentina (of course) and they are:

  • Kaiken Reserva, 2015:  Total Wine, $12.19
  • Gascon, 2015:  Total Wine, $12.19
  • Clos d’Argentine Reserva, 2013:  Costco, $9.99

The Kaiken hits you with a very big, full “mouth feel” borrowed from a more expensive wine. It has some

Read the rest of this entry »





Marques de Casa Concha carmenere review

13 02 2016

Hi there! Today we look at a 2013 carmenere from Chile, which I picked up at Costco for $18.

This can be quick, folks.  Although Marques de Casa Concha has a very nice aroma and is full bodied, with excellent mouth feel and a good balance of dark red/dark purple fruit vs. gentle spiciness, it is…. a little sour.

Because of that sour kick, I don’t recommend this one.  Maybe next year!

carmenere





Carnivor cabernet and Fabula Riserva sangiovese review

4 10 2015

Hi there people! Hope life is going well.  I’ve been taking a break from writing wine reviews, but I had to come back and … well it sounds bad, but I had to warn you against buying this particular cabernet.  I tried Carnivor cabernet at Costco because it was $9 or $10 and they said other stores sell it for $15.  As it turns out, Read the rest of this entry »





LaCrema vs. Decoy pinot noir review / shootout

22 06 2014

Today we compare two 2012 pinot noirs from Sonoma County, California:  La Crema Sonoma Coast ($19 at Total Wine and Costco, but usually in the low $20s) and Decoy Sonoma County ($22).

Decoy first impression:  a beautifully sweet aroma, a delicious cherry-rhubarb pie taste, what could go wrong?  Read the rest of this entry »





Decoy merlot vs. Purple malbec shootout

21 05 2014

This is the debut of the new Wineguider:  all comparison shootouts, all the time.

Today, we compare:

– Decoy, a 2012 merlot from California’s Sonoma County, $19 at Costco

vs.

– Purple, a 2011 malbec from France, $15 at the local wine shop.

Aroma Read the rest of this entry »





Kirkland Russian River pinot noir review

24 08 2013

Today it’s a 2012 pinot noir from California’s Russian River Valley that goes for about $12 at Costco.

This pinot has a lot going for it:

  • the price is low,
  • it’s Russian River,
  • it is not “all cherry all the time” as many affordable California pinots are, and Read the rest of this entry »




La Crema Sonoma Coast pinot noir: IMPORTANT NOTICE

26 09 2012

ALERT!  La Crema 2010 Sonoma Coast pinot noir is delicious — and right now it’s just $16.89 at Costco.

Wow.  I’m used to seeing this wine for around $23.  Regardless of the price, it is compelling: light, but spicy.  It smells Read the rest of this entry »





Benziger merlot mini review

24 09 2012

Hi!  Today it’s a 2008 merlot from California’s Sonoma County.   I found it at Costco for $13.

Benziger Family Winery’s Sonoma County merlot uses grapes grown with sustainable farming methods.  And it tastes that way – Read the rest of this entry »





Kendall-Jackson Avant chardonnay review

23 09 2012

I purchased this 2010 California chardonnay at Costco for $11.

As you may know, I am not a huge fan of California chards.  Kendall-Jackson’s relatively new Avant chardonnay has less of the chemistry-experiment taste than their regular chardonnay, and less oak and butter.  From the front label:  “Fresh.  Crisp.  Clean.”  Read the rest of this entry »





Apothic Red wine review: Newwww, Worrrrrldd, Mannnnnnn

21 09 2012

Today it’s a 2010 California red blend that you can buy at Costco for just under $9.

Quick lowdown:  Very cool black and red bottle, very popular, a warm, sweet blend of  syrah, zinfandel, cabernet and merlot.  Smells like Read the rest of this entry »





Cupcake sauvignon blanc review

14 06 2012

Hello!  Today we review a 2011 sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough Valley, selling at Costco for just $7.89.

WOW do I ever like this wine.  The 2011 Cupcake sauvignon blanc is a summer party hit — it has a fun name, a lighthearted yet classy label, and its taste is tangy and refreshing, with lemon, a little lime, and just a whisper of  grapefruit and honeysuckle.  It does nothing wrong, and with the crazy low price, this is kind of a big deal.  In fact, why isn’t everybody talking about this?  What is going on!?  Why isn’t this wine on the FRONT PAGE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES?   EVERY DAY?

I would like to humbly suggest that you hurry to Costco and buy as much of this little stunner as your family can afford.   Or, to Total Wine, where it sells for a mere $7.97.  Or anyplace you can find it, really.  That guy at the slot machine is laughing because Cupcake 2011 sauvignon blanc is a Best Value winner, even at $12.  And it is highly:

Recommended.





Kirkland Signature Cotes du Rhone Villages review

22 04 2012

Today we review a 2010 Cotes du Rhone from Kirkland Signature (Costco’s brand) which sells for the low price of $7.

I am a fan of the Kirkland label — many times, I have been astounded by the quality of the products carrying this simple all-capital-letters logo.  And that includes wine.

In this case, the dark purple juice that flows into your glass looks beautiful and has a nice subtle aroma of red fruits and flowers.  The taste is certainly not terrible — yes, it’s a little too sweet, and yes it’s very simple, but these things can be forgiven at $7.   What kills it for me is that it sort of tastes like Welch’s grape juice.  Just a little weird, just a little “off.”  Unfortunately, this bargain-priced Costco red is:

Not recommended.





Ruffino prosecco sparkling wine review

24 12 2011

Here’s a $15 non-vintage prosecco from Italy, which I obtained from Costco.

This Ruffino is an extra dry sparkling white wine.  The label says that it is creamy and crisp, with hints of peach and golden apples.

I disagree.  I say it is massively over-carbonated, and produces loud, extended belching.  As for its flavor, I can’t tell, because of the Colorado-rapids rush of foam in my mouth.  After various efforts to reduce the carbonation, which your New Years Eve guests will not be able to replicate, I conclude that this is an average, OK-tasting sparkling white wine.  Meaning, it tastes roughly like salty apple cider. 

Like most sparkling wines and champagnes under $300, this prosecco is:

Not recommended.





Chateau Ste. Michelle “Indian Wells” merlot review

1 06 2011

Hi!  Today we are reviewing a 2009 merlot from Washington State that is $13 at Costco.

OK Washington merlot is supposed to be sweet and jammy.  This merlot IS kind of sweet, because it’s very fruit-forward.  But it’s also a little spicy, and has some leather/chocolate going on.  Maybe a tiny bit of tobacco.

At $13, I give it a thumbs-up.  It’s not “great”, but it is definitely nice, and does not do anything wrong if you like warm, jammy, velvety merlot.   BUT — there’s a caveat.  You really have to let it breathe, for at least an hour.  When you first open it, the only thing you will smell is alcohol, and it will be almost tasteless.  Just takes a while to open up.

Chateau Ste. Michelle "Indian Wells" merlot reviewRecommended.





Kirkland Columbia Valley merlot review

22 05 2011

Today we examine a 2009 merlot from Washington State that costs $9 at Costco.

OK Washington merlot has a reputation.  That being, it is generally on the sweeter side.  It’s a good choice if you want to bring a white wine drinker over to the dark side.

Kirkland Signature Columbia Valley merlot falls right in line with that reputation.  And, it’s pretty good:  soft, medium-bodied, and pleasant.  Warm blackberries, with spicy chocolate.  It’s great for a party — most people will be happy to sip it, and it’s a conversation starter, as in: who knew that such a “bargain brand” could taste this good?  (Idiot wine snobs may talk behind your back, as if you brought some wine that you found at a gas station.  Screw ’em.)  It’s got some mouth-drying tannins, but it mostly soothes you with vague deep, dark fruit flavors.  It does almost nothing wrong. 

I found myself pouring glass after glass, a very positive indicator here at Wineguider.  This easy-drinking red is:

Kirkland Columbia Valley merlot reviewRecommended.





Ghost Pines merlot at Costco – !$%#@!?!!

21 03 2011

Hi!  Got some news for you. 

Ghost Pines 2007 merlot is $16, at least.   It’s truly delicious, and WELL worth it, as I explained in my review here.   Bright, juicy, fun, flavorful and interesting, it is everything that an affordable California merlot should be.

Right now, a cheaper 2008  is only $12 at Costco.   (?!%$#!!!)  I don’t know if this is simply a new vintage, or if it’s a special version made for Costco.  Anyway the Costco version isn’t as good.  But it’s still good.  It’s less interesting, and extra bright.  One difference is the source of grapes:   The Costco version is 90% Sonoma, 10% Napa.  The 2007 Ghost Pines merlot that I reviewed before is 49% Sonoma, 51% Napa. 

At $16, the “real” Ghost Pines merlot is a screaming buy, and a Best Value.  At $12, this 2008 version is, I don’t know — shrieking?  It is a HUGE Best Value.  BUYBUYBUY!!

Enjoy.





Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve cabernet sauvignon review

21 03 2011

Hi!  Today we look at a 2006 cabernet from California’s Sonoma County, which costs $20 at Costco and $22 at Total Wine.

The $15 “regular” Kendall-Jackson cabernet is juuuuuust good enough to recommend, according to me (I reviewed it here).  Today’s wine, the K-J Grand Reserve, which sounds like it should cost about $85, is actually only a few dollars more.  Unfortunately, it isn’t much better than the regular stuff.  It smells sweet.  It is spicy, oaky, and has a fair amount of mouth-drying tannins.  It reminds me of leather.  It has a lot of dark red fruit and it isn’t very complex.  What we have here is, basically, a generic California cab.   

Although the Grand Reserve is probably a little better, if I were shopping in the K-J lineup, I’d stick with the “plain” cabernet (which is misleadingly named “Vintner’s Reserve”).  (Sigh.)  In the coming months, I am hoping to find other cabernets in this $15-$25 price range that are more interesting, more exciting, maybe even a “Best Value”.  Unfortunately, this Not-Very-Grand K-J cab is none of those things, so it is:

Not recommended.





Ruffino chianti superiore review: Isn’t it ironic

16 03 2011

Today we review a 2008 chianti superiore from Italy (of course) that costs around $11 or $12, but is just $9 at Costco.

You would think that Ruffino‘s chianti “superiore” would be, ahem, superior to other chiantis, such as chianti classico, or classico reserva.

But this one isn’t superior to much of anything.  It’s on the light side and it’s dry, not juicy.  Kind of bitter.  Not warm, not complex, not delicious.  Maybe it would be great with food?  Sorry, I just didn’t care for this, despite its promising name.  I can’t suggest that you spend even the $9 that it requires at Costco.  This one is:

Not recommended.





Palo Alto Reserve red wine review

7 01 2011

Here’s a 2009 red blend from Chile’s Maule Valley that will cost you $8 at Costco.

Say!  This stuff  is pretty good for $8!   So, why I have I been preparing to “not recommend” it?

Because when I first opened it, it really wasn’t very good.  But on day 2, this wine is very enjoyable — almost delicious.  Although its aroma remains musty and nondescript, the taste has transformed from green, under-ripe sterno to a dry, alcohol-ish transport device for tannins.  This glass of unknown dark and dusty fruit combined with spice and cigar paper is making me want more and more. 

60% cabernet, 25% carmenere, and 15% syrah.  13.5% alcohol.  If you don’t have the patience to wait a day after opening it (and re-corking, of course), then you might want to buy a decanter and let it sit for an hour or two before enjoying.

Recommended, and if it weren’t so quirky when first opened, it would also be a Best Value.Palo Alto Reserve red wine review





Penfolds Koonunga Hill shiraz cabernet review – STRIKER!

6 01 2011

Today we examine a 2008 southern Aussie blend that you can buy at Costco for $7.69.

This medium-to-full-bodied red smells like a nice cab with some black cherry shiraz notes, but on your tongue it’s jammy blueberry shiraz all the way, balanced by soft tannins and a touch of chocolate.  It’s better on day 2: you get more cabernet, and less alcohol.

And it’s a screamer.  In fact, let me be frank — 

it’s the new value red wine top dog — the big cheese, the head honcho — Penfolds Koonunga Hill shiraz/cab blend is HIGHLY desirable even at $13, and it’s better than many $20 wines I have tried.  It’s warm.  Tilted toward the sweet side of the sweet/dry spectrum.  Big, but won’t overpower most food.  It was the only red served at the hip New Year’s party I attended in posh West Chester, PA, and it beat 14 other reds in my friends’ $15-or-less blind tasting. 

Our past favorites in the red wine value race are narrowly eclipsed by this reliable Godzilla.  Highly recommended, and a blatant “Best Value” red.   Bravo! 

Penfolds Koonunga Hill shiraz cabernet review





I’m such a cork tease

5 01 2011

In the next few days I will be reviewing some wines that present a serious challenge to the dominance of our current selection of best value reds.  Stay tuned.  Although these are all about value, not ultimate wine nirvana, they are still extremely enjoyable to drink.  So, you’ve got THAT going for you.

One of them is available primarily at Costco.  Here in Delaware, you don’t have to be a member to shop at their wine store — and you get the low member prices.  If you’re not a member, you might want to check whether your local Costco has these same rules.

Cheers!  -Wineguider

P.S.   Actually “cork tease” means a person who always talks about great wines they are going to open, but they never do.  My problem is the opposite — I don’t talk about them, or mention them.  I just notice the bottle, and soon it’s gone.





Jordan Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon review

25 12 2010

Merry Christmas! Today we check out a 2006 California cabernet that will cost you somewhere between $40 and $60. 

I paid $47 for this cab at Costco, but I’ve found it ranging from $38 to $70.  Wow.

This is a very pretty cab.  It’s only 13.5% alcohol, so it’s not fire-breathing.  It’s lighter and has fewer tannins than some of the big boys from California.  But it’s more elegant, so you can pair Jordan Alexander Valley with all kinds of food — it’s not just a red meat wine. 

The aroma offers strong alcohol, cloves, vanilla, and a mix of cedar and red/black raspberries, like a pinot noir.  You’ll taste mainly oak and black raspberries.  It tastes young, so storing this wine for a few years will likely deliver a more sublime experience.  It isn’t pure cabernet sauvignon: it’s 19.5% merlot, 4.5% petit verdot and 1% malbec.  Any downside?  Sure.  For its price, it is, like this review, a little boring.

At $45, this wine is a go.  I probably wouldn’t pay $50 or more for it, but I might if I wanted a delicious red wine that has a fresh take on traditional California cab traits, and is also light on its feet.  Recommended.Jordan cabernet sauvignon review





Bouchaine pinot noir review – GET SERIOUS

4 11 2010

Today we look at a 2007 pinot noir from the Carneros area of California, which costs $25.

Well, what do we have here?  A pinot noir as dark red (or is it purple?) as many California merlots, with an aroma that gives off some smoke and then whispers to your nose, “get ready for some serious pinot.”  Must taste wonderful, right?

Actually, right!  Although I often prefer Oregon pinots, Bouchaine stole my heart right away.  It is:

  • Juicy.
  • Yet, not sweet.
  • Serious.
  • Yet, easy to drink.
  • Silky.
  • And finally,
  • It is very, very, pinot.  There’s no mistaking it for anything else.  It’s dry and mildly spicy.  Its taste has real depth and includes cranberries and oak.  

It’s very coherent (if that makes any sense) and doesn’t do anything wrong.  Meaning, its flavors come together peacfully, with no random notes sticking out here or there to jar your senses.  This is the kind of behavior that I’m willing to pay $40 and more for, from Oregon.  True, an Oregon pinot might be more complex — but then again, an Oregon pinot might taste like a barnyard and beg to be jammed down my kitchen drain.

So at $25, I think Bouchaine pinot noir is a bargain, maybe even a SCREAMING bargain.  But what if you can only find the 2006?  I liked it too, although the ’07 was maybe a little spicier and a little more complex.  Given the choice: ’07.

Your picky-as-all-hell Wineguider loved this medium bodied wonder, and so it is:

Bouchaine pinot noir review

Recommended!





Mark West 2009 Russian River Valley pinot noir wine review

13 10 2010

Hi!  Today we review another Mark West pinot noir, a California red wine that costs around $20 a bottle.

Bottom line: A yummy pinot, but at $20, not recommended.

OK folks, I’ll keep this short.  You’re forgiven if you’re thinking. “Hey Wineguider, shut up already about Mark West!!” — this is the 3rd I’ve reviewed — but I have good reason for my focus on them: that amazing 2008 $9 pinot with the orange label.

This $20 pinot is also good, although its label is beige: it’s fruity, it’s a bit minerally, and it’s balanced.  It tastes like real pinot noir.  And it’s a beautiful ruby red color.  However, it doesn’t have serious depth or strength of flavor, and doesn’t have a lot of complexity.  At $20, I start to expect these things.  Another problem: I enjoyed it with a spinach salad that included hard boiled eggs and bleu cheese, and honestly, the salad overwhelmed the wine. 

I love their $9 pinot from 2008, and I liked their $17 2009 Santa Lucia pinot a lot, but at $20, this Russian River pinot is unfortunately:

Not recommended.

Next!





Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc review

21 07 2010

Today we review a white wine from New Zealand that sells for $11 bottle — $10 if you get it at Costco, or various online merchants.

Even as Oyster Bay approaches room temperature in your glass, it keeps its cool.  This wine from down under (I assume that applies to New Zealand too?) (if not, it should) is a bit minerally, has a lot of fresh citrus flavor, and is nicely crisp, dry and refreshing, while still providing some nice fruit overtones.  

I don’t like to say what foods a wine tastes like, because it’s almost always wrong and it sounds pretentious, but Oyster Bay is a typical sauvignon blanc.  So, “wine people” will expect me to mention that it has flavors of grapefruit — although they are mild in this case — and there are hints of lemon-lime.  It also has a little bit of “green grass,” but less than many other sauvignon blancs. 

Although not officially complex, Oyster Bay is plenty interesting.  In fact I would call it a crowd-pleaser, because it gives you just a tiny bit of “fireworks on your tongue,” and I can’t imagine anybody hating it, unless they require serious sweetness.  If you need to buy a lot of white wine for an occasion, I’d consider this one, with something else for the sweet crowd (or, a chardonnay . . .) .  I would almost name this a “best value”, but Nobilo sauvignon blanc, reviewed earlier, has less “limestone deposits” feel to it, and is a little better overall at only $11.

Recommended!

Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc review