Costco sells a ton of its Kirkland Signature brand Cabernet Sauvignon, but how good is the quality of their wine?!? To answer that question, in this episode we do a review and wine tasting challenge with 3 different Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignons to tell you if we think they are worth your hard earned money! Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular red wine in the United States, and Costco sells the most wine in the US, so it only makes sense to do a challenge with these two behemoths. We also talk about why Cabernet Sauvignon is so popular (at least in the US), and how Costco is starting to put more “named wines” under its Kirkland Signature brand. We are also proud to announce that Decanter magazine recommended The Wine Pair Podcast in its October 22 issue! Wines reviewed in this episode: 2020 Kirkland Signature California Cabernet Sauvignon, 2020 Kirkland Signature Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2020 Kirkland Signature K Vine Wahluke Slope Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
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Episode 50: Costco Kirkland Cabernet Challenge! (Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon wine review, why Cabernet is so popular) 00:00
Hello! And welcome to The Wine Pair Podcast. I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime, Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair!
Ok, a quick orientation for those of you who may be new to the podcast - in each episode we learn about, taste and review three wines that are reasonably priced - meaning under $20 - and are, or should be, easy for you to find. Our goal is to have some fun, learn about some new wines you may want to try, and expand your wine horizons while taking some of the stuffy and the boring out of wine. And, as of the October issue, we are officially recommended by the editors of Decanter Magazine, who describe our Podcast as fun, irreverent, chatty, and entertaining. How about that?!?
It’s episode 50! This week, Carmela, we are back to our Costco Kirkland Signature Brand wine challenge, and in this episode, we are going to do a Cabernet Sauvignon challenge. Ooooooo
First, you may ask, what is a Costco challenge? We did an episode a few months ago where the challenge was about Kirkland Signature Chardonnay, and the challenge is basically to do a taste test to see how we feel about Costco Kirkland brand wines. We want to see if we like the wines, and if we think they are worth recommending to you, all of our friends out there in listening land. As you would expect, all of the wines we taste and review in these episodes come from Costco, and at least one of the wines has to be a Kirkland Signature brand wine. And, in fact, in this episode, all 3 of the Cabernet Sauvignons we are going to try are Kirkland Signature. Woah!
And why do you think we do these challenges, Carmela? Well, for a couple of reasons.
- One reason is just that Costco Kirkland Brand wines are very popular. Even if people don’t want to admit it sometimes, they are drinking a lot of Costco wine. As a wine retailer, Costco is the biggest wine retailer in the US, which is kind of amazing. They sell over $2 billion worth of wine each year. And according to an article I found on the interwebs on private label wines says that about 15% of the wines they sell are private label. That’s $300 million in private label wines!
- The second reason is that these episodes on Costco brand wines have been pretty popular, especially for those searching on the Internet. So, we figured we’d give the people what they want! If all of you out there in listening land want to get opinions and reviews on Costco Kirkland Brand wine, then we are happy to oblige!
So, you can see, Carmela, that I am not the only one who loves to shop for wine at Costco. But, I will admit, I am excited every time you want to go to Costco to get supplies for your cake business (called BabyCakes, by the way) because it means I am going to be bringing home some wine!
And, for this episode, we are choosing a very popular wine from Costco and popular all over the world, but especially in the US, in Cabernet Sauvignon. Pretty much no matter what list you look on, Cabernet Sauvignon is in the top 5 of wines. And, among red wines, it is a battle between Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet. In the US, however, it is pretty much Cabernet that takes the top spot. And we will talk about why that is.
So, if you’re going to do a Costco Kirkland Signature brand wine challenge, it feels like we should probably choose a Cabernet Sauvignon for at least one of the episodes! And that is why we are here. So, in a little bit we’ll talk about why Cabernet is so popular, and the Cabernet Sauvignons we are tasting today, all of which are Kirkland Signature brand . . .
But first . . . we have to do our shameless plug, right Carmela? If you like what you are enjoying our show, we would so appreciate you subscribing to our podcast, and leaving us a nice a rating and review so that people who may stumble upon us will tune in to our podcast.
You can also follow us or reach out to us on Instagram at thewinepairpodcast or contact us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com.
And, as we do every week, we’ll tell you someone we think you should tell about The Wine Pair Podcast, and this week we think you should tell anyone who loves their Cab Sauvs, and loves their Costco brand wines.
ARTICLES and LINKS
Topic: Why is Cabernet Sauvignon so popular? 07:56
Now, about this challenge. I think many of you who have listened to the podcast know that I am not a huge Cabernet fan. That does not mean that I don’t like Cabernet Sauvignon, but I am not a fan of the California style of Cab Sauv which is all over the place in the US, and which I find to be very oaky, very high in alcohol, with very little acidity, and with very little complexity. I like to say that American Cabs tend to feel like they are punching you in the face, with the subtlety of a runaway semi-truck.
There are Cabernet Sauvignons that I like, but they are a little harder to find here in the US. It’s like the way it is with beer where it is getting harder to find anything that isn’t a lager or a super hoppy IPA. I like my Cabernets to be a little softer and a little more subtle. So, as we taste and review these wines, you’ll have to gauge my review and taste and rating to what you like. If you like those bigger, fatter, flabbier, oaky Cabernet Sauvignons, you may find that your feelings about these wines will be quite different. And that’s not just ok, it’s more than ok (whatever that means)!
By the way, fat and flabby are real wine terms that have to do with the experience of the wine in the mouth - they mean a wine that is low in acidity and high in alcohol. The difference between fat and flabby generally has to do with the perception of what is called “body” in the wine. A wine with a lot of body, high alcohol, and low acidity is fat, and with a little less body it is called flabby. And I think they kind of have a feeling in the mouth the way you think they would based on how they are described.
There is a great article from Decanter in the show notes that talks about this a bit, and one of the points they make is that American wine makers are trying to cater to an American public raised on strong tasting sodas - which tend to be pretty sweet and pretty strongly fruit flavored.
Interestingly, European winemakers are not always trying to cater to the American palate (although some are for sure, and probably sending those over to the US and keeping their favorite wines at home), and I think this is why French producers of Cabernet Sauvignon, most famously from Bordeaux, rarely create wines that are single varietal Cabs. They are generally blended with other grapes, like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, etc. And why do you think that is, Carmela?
The blending tends to mellow and smooth them out and make them more palatable to the tastes of European wine drinkers. Interestingly, there is more Merlot grown in Bordeaux than Cabernet Sauvignon, so I think that indicates something. Because there is way more Cabernet grown in California than Merlot. By about 2 to 1.
But, enough about my thoughts on American Cabs. Because, they are here to stay and they are very, very popular. So, clearly, there are a lot of people who disagree with me! Why do you think Cabernet Sauvignon is so popular?
- Dependable - most of the time, when you order a Cabernet Sauvignon, you know what you are going to get. And, like we said, many people like that style of wine, so it is very logical that if you are going to spend your money on a wine, you want to get a wine that you are going to be pretty sure you are going to like, or at least know.
- Ubiquitous - Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that grows pretty easily almost everywhere you can grow grapes for wine, and it is the most widely planted grape on earth, which is a big factor for me in why I think it is so popular. A lot of wine makers make a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon versus other varietals, and the so I believe that this is a great example of supply driving demand rather than the other way around. Like McDonalds - McDonalds actually isn’t great food. It’s just all over the place, so it sells a lot of food. When you go someplace that sells wine - a grocery store, wine shop, or restaurant - you will find plenty of options for Cabernet Sauvignon, much more than you will find almost every other varietal other than Chardonnay.
- Big feel - Cabernet Sauvignon is a big, bold wine. The high tannins naturally found in the wine, plus the tannins that come from oak that it is most often aged in, leads to a wine with a big, rich mouth feel which can be fulfilling when drinking a wine. And I get that. The less expensive versions are usually not very subtle, and I think there are a lot of palettes in America that like that overwhelming sensation of lots of flavor.
- Goes well with red meat - we have mentioned this before as well, but the American dinner plate has a lot of red meat, and other favorite foods tend to be other bigger flavored foods like bold pizzas, and this is a wine that can do well with those kinds of foods.
So, look, I get it. People like Cabernet, and there is a reason why it is so popular. I am not trying to buck the crowd. And, I am really excited to try these wines because there are Cabernets I really like - like the Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon. Are you excited?
Let’s learn a little more about the Costco Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignons we chose.
ARTICLES AND LINKS
Costco Kirkland Brand Cabernet Sauvignon Wines We Chose for This Episode 16:40
Again, I am just repeating this, but all of the wines we are having today are Kirkland Signature brand. It seems to me, too, that beyond their basic Cabernet Sauvignon, which we have, they are working with local winemakers to label their wines with Kirkland branding.
So, in Washington state, where we are, we see quite a few Washington state wines. I assume in other wine making states, like Oregon, California, New York, Virginia, and others, they may also be seeing local wines or wine makers making wine with Kirkland Signature on the label. What I am not sure about is if a lot of folks outside of Washington State are seeing Washington State wines in their local Costco label with Kirkland signature. I did notice that the Costco Wine Blog site said they purchased one of the Washington State wines we have today in Atlanta, Georgia, so I know they are out there, but not sure how widely. If any of you out there can verify what Kirkland Signature wine labels you are seeing in your state, we would love to hear from you.
One other thing on that subject, I think everyone knows this, but Costco doesn’t actually make their own wine, or anything else labeled Costco Kirkland brand. That may seem obvious, but I thought I would just mention it. You knew that, right?!? But I do think that Kirkland brand products are pretty good!
Because of these local wine connections that we mentioned a minute ago, Costco is actually also starting to be a little clearer about who is making some of their Kirkland Signature brand wines, like we said, sometimes not really even changing the label, and sometimes just putting the name of the producer on the bottle.
The one that I am just not super clear about is our first wine, which is the main Costco Kirkland Brand Cabernet that comes in the big 1.5 liter bottle called the California Cabernet Sauvignon. The rumor is that it is made by E&J Gallo, which is a huge wine maker in the United States who also owns a ton of other wine brands in the US like Barefoot (yuck), Apothic, Apothic, Black Box, and La Marca.
This wine is a bargain based on size alone.Just look at it! Describe this bottle, Carmela! If you can find a magnum of wine, which is again two bottles, that is under $10 and is decent quality, you should buy that all day. And, this wine does pretty well with critics, earning scores in the high 80’s which, again, for a wine of this price, is remarkable. Wine Enthusiast and Tasting.com both give it 87. So, we’ll let you know what we think.
The second wine we have is another great price point called the Kirkland Signature Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This one we know a little bit more about. This is a wine, obviously, that comes from the Columbia Valley right here in Washington state and, according to the Reverse Wine Snob site, is made by Brandon Rice who is the winemaker for a large custom wine bottling plant run Milbrandt Vineyards, and he also worked for Goose Ridge Vineyards. I don’t know him, so I am taking their word for it.
This wine is aged in French and American oak for 16 months, so it is going to be pretty oaky and tannic if you drink it young. Do you remember anything about French vs. American oak, Carmela? And we are going to be drinking it young, maybe too young. I honestly expect this wine to kick us in the teeth. Decanter and Tasting.com gave this wine a 90 rating which is pretty huge for a wine that is under $10. Depending on how we feel about this wine, you may want to stock up on this one.
Our final wine is another Kirkland Signature from Washington State called Kirkland Signature K Vine Wahluke Slope Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines are made by a winemaker we like named Charles Smith. Do you remember we tried the Kirkland Signature K Vine Chardonnay a few months ago? And we also really like his Kung Fu Girl Riesling, so I am excited about this wine. Charles Smith also makes some other reasonably priced wine labels we like, like the Substance wines and the Pop-Up sparkling Chardonnay. Remember those, Carmela? So, we are Charles Smith fans.
For a Kirkland Signature US wine, this one is on what we call on the expensive side, but it is still super reasonably priced at just $13.99. In addition, this appears to be a single vineyard wine, which, for wine geeks, is kind of a big deal. What do you think single vineyard means, and why would that be important?
This means that all of the grapes in the wine can be sourced back to a specific vineyard, and usually that is only done for vineyards where it may actually matter. I know your dad talks about single vineyard Barolos and Barbarescos all the time, and those are considered to be the top of the top.
I won’t go into it, but there is a great write-up by Vinopointer.com on Washington State wines grown in Eastern Washington - where the summer weather is hot and dry like California - and the Wahluke Slope in particular, and you can find a link to that website and lots of other links in our show notes.
On a side note, James Suckling did give this wine, the 2020 version, 91 points. So what else is new? That guy gives everything 90+ points, so take it with a grain of salt. We’ll tell you if we think it is good :)
Ok, enough with this jibber jabber - I think it’s time to drink some wine!
ARTICLES and LINKS
Cabernet Sauvignon wine pairing tasting and review 25:00
Wine: Kirkland Signature California Cabernet Sauvignon
Producer: Costco - probably EJ Gallo
Price: $7.99 for a magnum, so equivalent to $4 per bottle
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon
Professional Rating: 87 Beverage Testing Institute
What we tasted and smelled in this Cabernet Sauvignon: Smoky, plum, cherry, baking spice, tastes like cherry juice, thin, not complex, easy drinking. A wine for a big party.
Food to pair with this Cabernet Sauvignon: Pizza, grilled cheese sandwich, quesadilla, aglio olio, something not fancy. A sandwich wine. A cookout wine.
As a reminder on our rating scale, we rate on a scale of 1-10, where 7 and above means that we would buy it, and 4 and below means that we are likely to pour it down the sink, and in-between we are likely to drink it and finish it, but we are probably not going to buy it.
- Joe: 5/10
- Carmela: 5/10
Wine: Kirkland Signature Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Washington, Columbia Valley
Producer: Costco - made by Brandon Rice at Milbrandt Vineyards
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon
Professional Rating: 90 Decanter
What we tasted and smelled in this Cabernet Sauvignon: Cherry, rose, more complex, smoke, wood, cigar box, sweet tobacco, black licorice, bigger, very tannic, tastes like wine, balanced.
Food to pair with this Cabernet Sauvignon: Richer dishes. Steak, barbecue, red meat wine. Steak frite, pot roast. A good fall/winter wine. Sunday Roast with Yorkshire pudding.
- Joe: 7/10
- Carmela: 6/10
Wine: Kirkland Signature K Vine Wahluke Slope Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Washington, Columbia Valley
Producer: Costco, Charles Smith
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon
Professional Rating: JS 91
What we tasted and smelled in this Cabernet Sauvignon: Plum, ripe red cherry, spice, licorice, sharpened pencil, wood, tar, rich and smooth. Tartness at the end, black currant.
Food to pair with this Cabernet Sauvignon: Burger, steak. More sophisticated. Similar foods to the previous one. Sausage and peppers, roasts, bracciole, teriyaki flank, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, bolognese sauce.
- Joe: 7/10
- Carmela: 7/10
Which one of these are you finishing tonight?
- Carmela: K Vine
- Joe: Columbia Valley
Taste profiles expected from Cabernet Sauvignon: 44:06
- Cabernet Sauvignon taste profile
- Classic: black cherry, black currant, cedar, baking spices, graphite.
- California: Black Currant, Blackberry, Pencil Lead, Tobacco, Mint
- Others: Plum, black pepper, vanilla, licorice
- Kirkland Signature California Cabernet Sauvignon (from Tastings.com)
- Aromas and flavors of berry soufflé, chocolate mousse, caramel flan, and honey-roasted nuts with a slightly chewy, vibrant, fruity medium body and a warming, interesting, medium-length finish with heavy oak flavor. A voluptuous, fruity Cabernet that’s soaked in creamy, toasty oak flavor.
- Columbia Valley
- From the bottle - notes of black currant, spice and vanilla.
- From Tasting.com - Violet color. Aromas of black cherry cranberry juice, espresso beans, cedar, and grilled bell pepper with a satiny, bright, dry medium-to-full body and a warming, amusing, medium-long black cherry and cassis, pipe tobacco, and bell pepper and watermelon bubble yum finish with medium, clunky, woody tannins and light oak flavor. A polished and crowd friendly Cabernet with ripe fruit giving way to firm tannins and well-balanced alcohol.
- K vine
- From Vinopointer - The nose is all spice and earth, with notes of dark red fruit. Tannins and acidity are medium and in nice balance. Finishes with notes of black cherry, mocha and blackberries. This is classic Washington State Cab, which tend to be a tad more restrained
- Suckling - Fantastic aromas of silky cassis, black plum, and pencil shavings. A silky journey of the palate, with boysenberry, cigar box, suede, saddle leather. Deep concentration and a classic 100% Cabernet.
Outro and how to find The Wine Pair Podcast 47:24
As always, thank you so very much for listening to us, The Wine Pair, and you know, while you’re thinking about it, we think you should subscribe and give us a nice rating!
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Thanks for listening to the Wine Pair podcast, and we will see you next time. And, as we say, life is short, so stop drinking shitty wine.