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Blind Tasting: Kirkland Columbia Valley Cabernet vs Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

Spending time with family has been a great excuse for us to experiment with more and more side-by-side blind tastings. This next one up was a tasting of two Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Typically, we spend a few weeks each summer in Northwestern Washington and we finally made it to Walla Walla (an AVA in the much larger Columbia Valley) in the summer of 2019. It is a charming region with many high quality wines. We thoroughly enjoyed that visit and we look forward to our next visit to the region. In the meantime, let's see how these two Cabs compared to one another!

L'Ecole Winery in Walla Walla, 2019

2018 Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington ($8.99)


2016 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington ($11.99)

Wines purchased in a Ft Myers Costco location

Wine #1: Poured a deep ruby color that was opaque. Nose gave aromas of sweet oak and that tingling sensation of high alcohol. The palate was smooth front to back, with flavors of black cherry and other dark fruits, which were appealing to our group.

Wine #2: Poured a little lighter in the glass. The nose was a bit more muted than wine 1, but also smelled more of unripe cherry fruits. Upon first sips, this wine fell flat to our group. It seemed unripe, stale, and tight. However, as this wine developed in the glass, it became more harmonious and the flavors shed their "unripeness".

The Verdict?

Wine #1 walked away with a decisive 6-0 victory with Columbia Crest taking the honors! First impressions go a long way with wine, and the immediate appeal (or lack thereof) can really sway tasters in this type of setting. We found it interesting (but not all that surprising) that the Kirkland wine made a solid comeback after opening up with some air. This wine is 2 years younger than its counterpart and clearly needed some time to come together.

Is it worth it?

In the bubble of these two wines, the easy answer is yes, it is worth the extra $3. BUT....the answer to this question was complicated by the somewhat remarkable evolution of the Kirkland wine over time. If you purchase this wine, give it some air, you won't regret it. To expand this question a bit and complicate things even further, if we (the authors) expanded our options to include other Cabernet wines from other countries (Chile or France?) or even open it up to other big wines made from other varietals in this price range, we may not walk away with either of these wines in our cart.

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