- 2015 Castoro Cellars Paso Robles Chardonnay $8.99 (@Costco; California)
- 2016 Kirkland Signature Carneros Pinot Noir Napa Valley $9.99 (@Costco; California)
At first glance, these two wines from Costco may not appear to have much in common.
The 2015 Castoro Chardonnay is from Paso Robles, on the Central Coast of California. It’s a blend of fruit from the cool and foggy Templeton Gap and the warmer Eastside of Paso Robles.
The 2016 Kirkland Signature (“KS” per my store receipt) Carneros Pinot Noir is the “land bridge” that connects the southernmost reaches of the Sonoma and Napa appellations known as (Los) Carneros. Foggy and cool Carneros, just north of San Francisco, is itself one of the most famous Pinot Noir and Chardonnay appellations in the world. But not quite as famous as the appellation in France that put these two grape varieties on the world stage. I am talking of course, about Burgundy.
The great white wines of Burgundy are crafted from the Chardonnay grape, and the reds from Pinot Noir. The difference between California and France – nine time zones aside – is one of latitude. Latitude is a significant factor in the level of ripeness that the wine grapes can achieve. The Burgundian versions of these two varietals, although they have softened in more recent years (as the region has warmed and wine making techniques have modernized) are less ripe. They are more earthy and austere examples of “Old World” wines. Their “New World” counterparts are more fleshy, ripe and, well, fruity. That is what more sunshine and a longer growing season does for wine grapes.
The fact that the Castoro Chardonnay was made from two different vineyards yields a wine that is a nice, balanced melange of two climates. It exhibits both the tropical flavors of a warm region Chard and the more structured and restrained style of wines crafted from cooler regions. This Castoro rendition has lovely aromas of apple and ripe pineapple. It is both soft and lively in the mouth and would pair really well with just about any seafood, but also with creamy sauces on chicken and pasta. It would be dreamy with lobster.
Like Paso Robles, Carneros has a diversity of climates, and appellations for that matter. The Sonoma side, being closer to the Pacific Ocean, gets more of the wind, fog and cool the region is known for. The Napa side, while still Carneros, is a bit further inland and so these facets of the climate are somewhat mitigated. This KS Pinot Noir is made of fruit from the Napa Valley part and as a result is a bit riper – and less acidic – than if the wine was made from grapes sourced on the Sonoma side. To recap: more sun and heat = more ripe and soft. Less less and heat = less ripe and more acidic. Neither is bad, they’re just different.
What they DO have in common is a really great price point. You know how much we love solid wine values that slip under the $10 price point. The Castoro “Chard” is $8.99 here in California stores, and the KS Pinot is $9.99. Why buy a $20 bottle of wine when you can buy these two for less? Your friends will never guess you paid under $10 a bottle. In the case of the Pinot, especially if you don’t SHOW them the bottle with the Kirkland label. Simply pour them a glass, or two.