Updated: Jun 18, 2020
For a number of years, we would regularly visit the beautiful Russian River Valley to taste wines from some top-flight producers, so we were pretty excited to see this Kirkland Signature RRV land at our local Costco. Noticing that the bin right next to this wine carried another RRV Chardonnay, we felt they would be a logical match for our next blind tasting duel.
2018 Kirkland Russian River Valley Chardonnay - $12.99
2016 Pellegrini Russian River Valley Chardonnay - $14.99
Reading the labels quickly revealed that we would be tasting wines made in differing styles. The label on the KS states that this wine was made with some composition of French Oak, while the Pellegrini states, "No oak, no malo-latic conversion. Pure Chardonnay." Clear stylistic differences will be present here, but this will be a fun tasting regardless.
Wine #1: Pale yellow color. Oak and vanilla present on the nose, stone fruits (peach) on the palate with a long mouth-coating finish. The oak didn't seem well integrated as it hit the palate all at once. As the wine warmed up in the glass, it did seem a little "flabby" and "cheap". The oak showed more as well. All four tasters preferred this wine at the colder temperature.
Wine #2: Richer yellow color. Nose is slightly more muted, but had a touch of citrus. A hint of pleasing effervescence (barely noticeable), touch of salinity, well-balanced, clean. Some comments we threw around were: "interesting, composed, honest, it's got more going on."
At first, it seemed like wine #1 was edging ahead, but both of these wines evolved quickly in the glass and the tide turned resolutely towards the second wine. Wine #1 was the Kirkland Signature and wine #2 the Pellegrini. In the end, this group of tasters preferred the cleaner approach to the unoaked wine. This represents our tastes only - there are many people who love an oaked Chardonnay over an unoaked one and you can find many great examples of each throughout Sonoma County.
Is it worth the extra $?
For us, yes. An extra $2 is worth it for the cleaner style of the Pellegrini, but if you prefer the oak (or just happened to be in the mood for it), the Kirkland wine is just fine and a solid buy. Check out the CostcoWineBlog for another review of this wine. To be completely honest, we probably won't run out to buy more of either of these wines anytime soon - for a little more money we feel like you can get a great French Chardonnay with a lot more character.
Do you like your Chardonnay with or without oak? What region does your favorite Chardonnay come from? Let us know in the comments, we would love to hear from you!