Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon – From Costco… Really!

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment
We love Alexander Valley Cabs at a great price!

We love Alexander Valley Cabs at a great price!

So, I recently wrote about my last trip to Costco, which accidentally ended up including buying more wine. No, no one is shocked by this. My impulse purchases are no longer clothing, shoes, and jewelry–they're now wine, gourmet food stuffs, and more wine. I restocked on the Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon (because the label says it's from Alexander Valley) and I didn't recall NOT liking it. Couldn't really remember specifically liking it or anything, but cheap wine I don't dislike is grounds for a closer inspection.

And inspect I did! I read the back of the label this time, seeing as when I opened the bottle and smelled the cork it was lovely. Just what I like in

my Cabernet's… a hint of red fruit, some blueberries, and something I can only describe as purple. Maybe someday I'll have the flavor word for purple, but for now, purple will have to do. It's good I inspected the label because it SAYS Cabernet Sauvignon on the front, but when I turn her around, I find it out she's all slutty (in a good way of course). From the back of the label,

“Alexander Valley's gravel and  loam soils create dense, dark blackberry fruit with a sweet hint of wild cherries. 20 months in American oak barrels add toasted spice layers, vanilla, and cinnamon. The blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Petite Sirah and Merlot create a complex mid-palate of black cherry and currant. The long finish shows depth and concentration with lifting acidity. Drink now through 2012.”

Sometimes Costco does buy good wine!

Sometimes Costco does buy good wine!

Yeah, what they said. Exactly. But can you believe how many different grapes are in there? It's like that six-hour spaghetti & meat-sauce I made last weekend that had really complicated flavor profiles in the sauce because of the six million ingredients (six-hours is not an exaggeration… six million may be a little).

Moral of the story: PromisQuous Red could have been MUCH better if it were more about winemaking and less about marketing… and I have to go buy more of the 2006 Kirkland Signature Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Costco!


The Costco Cabernet Saga Continues

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment
Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Label

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Label

One of the best ways to get value in wine is to buy it on sale. Even more value happens when a big retailer buys so much of it they got it at a great price, which they pass onto you, and then they add coupons to it! For this reason, I pay special attention to Costco Wine Coupon Sale time… which, coincidentally happened last week.

This time, I restocked on the Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec, the Kirkland brand Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, and the J Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon. I also tried an experiment from the sale wines because the price seemed right for experimenting… $10.49 with coupon. It was the Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

I ate it with a spaghetti & meat sauce recipe that I spent all day cooking (six hours, to be precise) figuring it would pair nicely with a hearty meaty dish. It left me flat. It wasn't bad, but it was tannic and very very dry… too dry… and I usually prefer very dry wines. Then again, so was the food. Well, not tannic, but dry. I'll blame the chef for that.

Director’s Cut Wines from Coppola

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Great Wines Under $20 | Comments Off on Director’s Cut Wines from Coppola
Fun wine label makes for a great gift

Fun wine label makes for a great gift

The Daily Sip, the email newsletter from Bottlenotes, did a piece on Director's Cut wines today. It reminded me that I like these wines, too and haven't had one a while. I found them to be a good value under $20, especially the Cabernet Sauvignon (which is an Alexander Valley Cab and probably explains why I like it). I also like giving this wine as a gift because of the fun and unique label.

I'm excited to see they've come out with some new varietals, including Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay, all of which will be on my “must try” list.

If you can't wait for me to drink it and review it, here are some stores selling it online. I believe I purchased it at Cost Plus World Market, so if you've got one near you, might be worth taking a look.

Buying Wine by Region and Year

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Notes | 2 Comments

About a year ago I decided to try an experiment. It was this: use the Wine Spectator region/year rating system to pick out wines even when I've never heard of the vineyard or winemaker (which constitutes at least 90% of wines I encounter). I can honestly say I've never been disappointed with this wine-buying method.


The Vintage Ratings Chart at Wine Spectator (subscription required to view the chart)

Here are some example region-vintage combinations that I like, and the full list of winners as decided by Wine Spectator (who I trust for their wine reviews explicitly… better than Parker in my opinion).

  • Australia: Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale 2003-2005
  • Spain: Ribera del Duero 2004-2005
  • California Pinot Noir: Anderson Valley 2003-2005, Sonoma 2004, Santa Barbara 2004
  • California Cabernet Sauvignon: Napa 2004-2005 and (in my experience) you can never go wrong with a Cabernet from Alexander Valley in Sonoma
  • California Syrah: Napa 1999-2006, Paso Robles 2004 and 2006, Sonoma 2002-2006
  • Washington: 2005 and 2006

I keep this short list in mind as I peruse wine lists in restaurants and when I go to wine stores. This helps me pick out the best bargains. It's led me to some of my favorites including:

  • 2004 Vina Santurnia, Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, Spain
  • 2004 and 2005 Peter Lehmann Shiraz, from McLaren Vale, Australia (ok in all fairness, a friend brought a bottle of this over for dinner, bit I've continued to test the vintage/region combination and am pleased with it)
  • 2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, from Washington

Last week I was out for happy hour with a friend at my favorite wine bar in town (Bodega Wine Bar in Santa Monica) and I ordered a bottle I'd never heard of, but it was a 2005 Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero and since I love that Vina Santurnia I figured it was worth a shot. We both enjoyed the wine!

Try this! If you don't have a Wine Spectator online subscription and you don't want to purchase one just to get your hands on this list, I found pre-printed copies of it at my favorite local wine store… yours might have them, too. It's called the Vintage Ratings chart.

Tales from the grocery store…

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wines from the Grocery Store | 1 Comment

This is a new feature I'm starting to show everyone how easy it is to buy great wine at fantastic prices. The only times I ever spend more than $20 on a bottle of wine are as follows:

  1. When I'm out wine tasting in wine country somewhere.
    I'm usually caught up in the moment (buzzed if it's the end of the day) and willing to pay full retail under these circumstances.
  2. When I'm buying someone a gift (I'll often spend $20-50 on a bottle for a friend)

Otherwise, there's no reason to spend more than $20 on a bottle of wine. Ever.

It's actually quite easy and here's my recipe:

  1. Find a store near you with great prices (there must be one) and visit it often (I like Safeway stores, best prices around, plus you get a 10% discount if you buy any six bottles)
  2. Find a store near you that gets special deals (they buy large quantities of small-production wines) and get on their mailing list (I like the Wine House, best prices at a wine-specific store on this side of town)
  3. Only buy on sale! (This is my all-time money-saving tip for everything… it stretches your dollars by however much you've saved)

My latest trip was especially triumphant… here's the tally:

  1. 2008 Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc (made from Organic grapes)
    Regular price: $14.99, Sale price: $11.90, Six-pack price: $10.71
  2. 2006 Sanford Chardonnay (Flower label)
    Regular price: $21.99, Sale price: $15.39, Six-pack price: $13.85
  3. 2006 Steelhead Sauvignon Blanc
    Regular price: $18.99, Sale price: $9.98, Six-pack price: $8.98
  4. Promisquous Red
    Regular price: $16.99, Sale price: $9.98, Six-pack price: $8.98
    So-so. For $9 it's okay.
  5. 2006 Coppola Malbec
    Regular price: $18.49, Sale price: $13.98, Six-pack price: $12.58
  6. 2005 Keltie Brook Merlot
    Regular price: $18.99, Sale price: $6.99, Six-pack price: $6.29

Grand total Regular price: $110.44
Grand total Sale price: $68.22
Price I paid: $61.39 (plus tax)

TOTAL SAVINGS: $49.05 (44%)
Price per Bottle: $10.23

Caveats: I've not had most of these, so I can't yet vouch for their quality… I know the Sanford Chardonnay is good.  I don't normally drink Merlot but that was too good a price to pass up just to see if it's any good.


The 2008 Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc was great. It was light, not too acidic, and (as is my usual test for success) makes me want

to drink/buy more of it. The Promisquous Red and the 2005 Keltie Brook Merlot were undrinkable. The Coppola Malbec was  much like the other Coppola wines (Director's Cut excluded from this description)… decent but nothing to write home about for a fair price. The Steelhead went down smoothly, very fruity and tart, though not overly tart. I'd say the Steelhead is a classic-style reasonably well-balanced Sauvignon Blanc. It's regular price feels steep, but the sale price was a “steel.” The Sanford Chardonnay was good as usual… That's my go-to white wine.