$9.99 CabSauv Taste Test – Costco v. Trader Joe’s

Ahead of the July 4th holiday, we couldn’t resist putting these two Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon “in the ring” to see which one would prove to be the winner. In this corner…

Fast facts:

  • 2016 Kirkland Signature Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California  ($9.99 @Costco, California) Product #: 223343
  • 2017 Trader Joe’s Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California ($9.99 @Trader Joe’s,  California)
A bottle and glass of Kirkland Signature 2016 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and a bottle and glass of Trader Joe's Reserve 2017 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvigon
Another Costco vs. Trader Joe’s smack down. This time it’s Kirkland Signature 2016 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in one corner, against Trader Joe’s Reserve 2017 Alexander Valley “CabSauv” in the other.

While perusing the wine sections at my local Costco and TJs, these two caught my eye because they had so much in common:

  • Both are from Sonoma County, and better still, from the renowned section of Sonoma designated Alexander Valley
  • Both are private label wines for their respective chains
  • Both are $9.99

They were spoiling for a fight to prove which one was better…

This Ain’t our First Rodeo

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know we tend to focus on super wine values from Trader Joe’s and Costco. And you also know that we like to pit two similar wines from each against the other, like we did with these two Malbecs https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/vinopointer.com/1019 these two red blends https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/vinopointer.com/298 and these two Zinfandels https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/vinopointer.com/156 in past reviews.

But in each of these previous three head to head competitions, we have deemed the Costco/Kirkland brand to be superior (sometimes by the thinnest of margins) to those of Trader Joe’s. Yep, Costco had a commanding 3-0 lead going into this battle of the brands.

A glass of the brick red 2016 Kirkland Signature on the left, and a glass of the electric red/purple 2017 TJ's Reserve on the right.
The lighter, more brick red 2016 Kirkland Signature on the left, and the electric red/purple 2017 TJ’s Reserve on the right. Something told me these wines were going to taste different. They did.

Our Tasting Notes:

The Costco Cab was definitely lighter, as you can see in the photo above. The color also reflects the extra year of age this 2016 has. It has more balanced acidity, flavors of ripe plums, cherry, black currants and savory notes of black tea, and leather on the finish. It’s oak regimen contributes notes of vanilla on the finish.

The Trader Joe’s Cab was a glass full of ripe dark fruit, with the emphasis on dark. The wine is more opaque that the Kirkland wine. It was less structured than more pricey Cabs. Aromas of cherry, blackberry, plums and cedar dominate and assert themselves once sipped. The tannins are smooth and polished.

Our verdict:

This one goes to Trader Joe’s by a pretty substantial margin. While you won’t confuse it with a $25+ California Cabernet, it has no flaws and is a lovely mouthful of black fruit flavors that will pair well with whatever you will be grilling this holiday weekend, or over the summer season of cooking and eating al fresco. The Costco wine had no noticeable flaws, but it was nothing special and could be mistaken for a less costly Cab carrying only a California designation. Score one for TJs – now 3-1!

We’re sending our best wishes to you and yours for a relaxing and safe 4th of July.

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  1. As usual a fun read, unfortunately we can’t get a lot of these on the east coast but I send it to
    My daughter in SF and enjoy the reviews, thanks!

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