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Blind Tasting: Kirkland Stag's Leap District Cabernet vs. Stag's Leap Cellars Artemis Cabernet

Stag's Leap District Napa Cabernet. Kirkland Signature and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. This promises to be epic....or will it?

2018 Kirkland Signature, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag's Leap District ($23.99)


2016 Stag's Leap Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, "Artemis" ($59.99)

When we saw this new 2018 Kirkland Signature Stag's Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon drop at our local Costco, we got a little giddy. We are always on the lookout for a new offering of Kirkland wines and seeing this one from such a well-reputed AVA got us planning our next side-by-side blind tasting. Fortunately for us, the next bin over contained the iconic 2017 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet. That sets up a perfect tasting matchup, well, sort of. The price points of these two wines aren't even in the same league. The Kirkland comes with a tariff of $23.99, while the Artemis wine is priced at a daunting $59.99. Pretty hefty expense for our little tasting experiment, but curiosity got the better of us, and we plunked down the cash.

Wine #1: Dark and deep purple in color. The nose gave off aromas of blackberry, phenol, and chocolate. The fruity nose and front end of the taste gave way to a finish that was somewhat harsh and bitter - almost like this wine was a bit confused. It's got some of those characteristic cassis and leather components typical of cabernet, but they seemed to be out of balance overall.

Wine #2: Very similar in color to wine #1. Notes of smoke and a healthy amount of oak wafted generously from the glass. This wine was fruit forward and jammy, but a bit more assertive in nature. Alcohol levels seemed very present, but was also balanced with some nice acidity (something not terribly present in the first wine). The finish was long and sweet.

This group of tasters had a tough time with this one - hemming and hawing over which wine was "better". In the end, 3 of the 4 tasters preferred the second offering.

The reveal:

The "winner" of this side-by-side tasting was the Stag's Leap Artemis Cabernet.

Is it worth it?

Nope. Not a chance. Not for us.

We have to confess that while we were very excited about these wines before the tasting, were left quite disappointed after sampling them. They were too overdone, over-oaked, and over-manipulated to our tastes. Both of these bottles were at 14.5% alcohol (which is actually low for Napa standards), yet they were both bruising in style. We know that our tastes have morphed over the last few years, but this tasting shocked us since high quality Napa Cabernet generally still appeals to us. In fact, we recently opened up a 2012 Single Vineyard Napa Cab that was absolutely terrific and balanced. But at what price? That bottle sets you back $80 (thankfully, it was gifted to us), and we can't justify consuming wines at that price tag very often. We can think of many wines that would provide more enjoyment for under $20 that we would prefer to taste in our glasses - lots of examples from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and even France.

We won't give up on Napa Cab just yet, but we won't be purchasing either of these wines again in the near future.

Are we crazy? Let us know what you think!

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