Costco is not only the number one retailer of wines in the United States, they've got their own collection of wines on the shelf, a changing assortment made in wine regions all over the world, with all the most popular varietals, made sparkling, still, and fortified. Supermarkets aren't allowed to sell wine in New York State, but on a recent trip to Arizona I was able to stroll the wine aisles and pick up a few of Costco's own Kirkland brand wines for my family to taste. Here's my take on the four bottles we sampled over dinner, with more information about each wine in the photo captions above.
- Kirkland Brut Champagne NV (12% abv, $19.99) - This is legit Champagne from France and a bargain in that category, but we were disappointed. You'll taste a little citrus and some toast, but you could do better for the price with brut Champagne from Piper Hiedseick ($22.99 at Costco) or the rose sparkling Banfi Rosa Regale ($15.99 at Costco).
- Kirkland Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2008 (13.5% abv, $7.99) - If you like an oaky, creamy Chardonnay, this wine will do you just fine for the price. Similar in style but a bit more complex is the La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2008 ($14.99 at Costco).
- Kirkland Napa Valley Meritage 2007 (14.4% abv, $10.99) - This red blend is full of plum and dark berry fruit, but has a decent amount of tannin and acidity to balance it out. You'll notice it's high in alcohol, which could be a plus or minus depending on how you like to drink. The Veramonte Primus 2006 is a good upgrade ($13.99 at Costco).
- Kirkland 10 Year Old Tawny Port (20% abv, $16.99) - You'll get what you pay for: light bodied port that tastes of raisins, nuts, a little orange rind, and a pleasant but not cloying sweetness. Inexpensive tawny ports always lack the depth of flavor you get from using premium grapes and extensive aging, but that's why they're under $20.
In summary: Don't expect magic at these prices, but for everyday wines, there are some decent options to be found. The lady serving samples in the frozen food aisle spied my cart and heartily recommended an Argentine Malbec at $7.99, so maybe next time I'll give it a try.
"On the Bottle" is a column about wine and spirits appearing every Friday on the Martha Stewart Living Radio blog. Email your boozy questions and wine quandries to firstname.lastname@example.org and they'll be answered in an upcoming post.