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Blind Tasting: Three California Red Blends - Decoy, Kirkland, Smith & Hook

2018 Kirkland Napa Valley Red Blend ($10.99)


2018 Decoy Red Wine ($16.99)


2017 Smith & Hook Red Wine Blend ($15.99)

A side-by-side-by-side blind tasting of three California Reds with 4 socially distant friends and a whole lot of pizza! This was a fun (and long) night indeed!

Immediately after seeing this KS Red Blend hit the shelves at Costco, we tried to think of what would be a good sparring partner for a blind tasting. In the realm of California wines labeled as “red wine” or “red blend”, it’s really difficult to create an even playing field. In the US, wines designated in this fashion can be made up of a host of different varietals, so we just tried to get in the ballpark for this tasting. The vintages are different, the locations are different (but they are all CA), and the grapes making up these three wines are surely different. So by “in the ballpark”, we mean that these wines are all red. And all available at Costco. Not a perfect setup for the purists, but hopefully you will read on.

Let’s see how they stacked up!

Wine #1: This wine poured the lightest ruby red in the glass. Red fruits and a bright character come through on the nose. There is a friendly acidity that is underpinned with subtle oak. Tastes like a quality wine with nice complexity. 4 people preferred this wine.

Wine #2: Muted nose. Very much a middle-of-the-road type wine. Nothing sticks out as offensive, but also nothing presenting itself to be full of character. Drinkable, simple and easy. 1 person preferred this wine.

Wine #3: This wine was boldest. It was big and brash, with lots of oak flavors as well as high alcohol content. For a couple of the tasters it was a bit heavy handed and bruising, kind of like entering the boxing ring with a vintage Mike Tyson. 1 person preferred this wine.

The reveal!

Wine #1: Decoy ($16.99)

wine #2: Kirkland Blend ($10.99)

wine #3: Smith & Hook Blend ($15.99)

Is it worth it?

This one was all over the map, which was completely expected given how different these wines were from each other. Even within the Vinovistas household (we both preferred the Decoy), there wasn’t a consensus on the value here. The 50% markup between the Kirkland and the Decoy seems like a lot to us, but it all comes down to personal preference. If you are opening this wine for an easy drinking Wednesday night drink with a bowl of popcorn - go with the Kirkland. If you want something a little more complex to pair with your pasta with meat sauce and don't mind shelling out $17 - try the Decoy. Looking for something big to pair with your BBQ but don't want to break the bank? Smith & Hook could work quite well.

All in all, this was great fun. Maybe too much fun as the next day seemed just a little foggy. Cheers!

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