2018 Kirkland Signature Carneros Pinot Noir, Napa Valley ($9.99)
2016 Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Sonoma County ($15.99)
Okay, disclaimer - there are a couple underlying issues that we think you should know about about this tasting before we dive in. First, we have wines from different vintages (2016/2018) and second, we have wines from different counties (Sonoma/Napa). So why bother? Well, part of our goal with these side-by-side tastings is to help provide you with some guidance if you find yourself debating on what wine to purchase at Costco. When this Kirkland Carneros Pinot showed up at our local Costco we wanted to find the most comparable Pinot Noir we could that was available at the time of our purchase. Sure, we would have loved to have compared this to another Pinot from Carneros, but we were out of luck and this Rodney Strong was as close as we could find in the store. We hope you will forgive us and read on!
Wine #1: Poured a nice light ruby color in the glass. Sweet Cherry fruit and floral notes on the nose. One taster mentioned a "cotton candy" smell and taste that some California Pinot Noirs can have. On the palate, this wine had a pleasant sweetness and evenness that was pleasing to this group of tasters. A nice acidity balanced out the sweetness on the back end of this wine. This wine was pleasant, unobtrusive, gentle, and left you wanting to take more sips.
Wine #2: Poured a ruby color in the glass, but had more richness/depth relative to wine #1. The nose on this wine was a bit more forceful and seemed to give off more alcohol/heat. It was almost unpleasant to smell, as the alcohol overpowered any fruity or floral scents on the nose. On the palate, the alcohol was also quite present in this powerful and broad shouldered Pinot. Darker fruits and even a little tobacco came through as well. This was a "steakhouse pinot", which some people may love, but didn't float our boat.
This was an easy, unanimous choice for these four tasters - wine #1, without hesitation. Another win for the Kirkland Signature label. For all of us, it came down to style and exhibiting typicity of the grape. As we were tasting the Rodney Strong, we repeatedly asked the question, "does this smell and taste like Pinot?". Each time, the answer was the same - no. Russian River Valley Pinot Noir certainly has its own character, but we don't believe this wine to exhibit much resemblance to many of the great wines produced in that AVA. The Kirkland wine from Carneros (about an hour SE of RRV) was more typical of wines from that cooler region. Its lightness, combined with some of the classic cherry notes make this wine an easy winner.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely. $9.99 for a quality wine like this is an easy sell for us any day of the week.