Kirkland Carneros Pinot Noir

Costco Serves Up The Quintessential Deal In Pinot Noir

Garnet Vineyards winemaker Allison Crowe see more at

Garnet Vineyards winemaker Allison Crowe see more at

If there is one thing you can say about Costco, they don’t stock crap, and that extends to their private-label Kirkland brand wines. Costco doesn’t normally disclose which winery that produced the wine, but does the next best thing, they credit the winemaker. In this case it is Allison Crowe, the winemaker at Garnet Vineyards, and it is not a reach to infer that Garnet is the likely source for this delicious Kirkland Pinot Noir. The Garnet name started its life in 1983 as a second label for the Carneros Pinot Noir pioneer Saintsbury. It went to market as a lighter-styled, lower priced offering, which to my tastes was at best simple tart cherry-cranberry fruited wine, and at its worst was barely worth drinking;  and it plodded along this way for 28 years. But 2011, the Garnet brand was sold to Silverado Winegrowers the firm which had been supplying the grapes to Saintsbury (for Garnet) all those years. So the grower becomes a producer, and what do you know? The quality goes up.  No doubt once they owned the label, they put more care into the production than Saintsbury did (after all Garnet was no longer a second label, it was the label) and more care into the vineyards and the fruit themselves. At any rate, the quality seems better, even in this sold off, declassified wine. Their winemaker, Allison Crowe, first cut her teeth with the talented and passionate Dan Karlsen at Chalone Vineyards where she interned while an enology student at UC Davis. Later Allison worked at Byington in high above Los Gatos in the Santa Cruz Mountains, before moving down the Mountain to spend almost 5 years with working for Randall Graham at Bonny Doon.

Kirkland pinotTasting Notes: 2012 Kirkland Carneros Pinot Noir

This is classic Carneros Pinot Noir, with its nose of black cherries,, scorched caramel, a momentary green note that turns briary, wisps of eucalyptus and creamy vanilla. In the background threatens the aroma of cooked beets,  like a day with a chance of rain. In the mouth, it is rich with deep, sweet black cherries, cooked strawberries, and plenty of deeper dark bass notes of black plum coming from a surprisingly concentrated core of fruit. The palate is smooth, round and quite weighty, with soft acids and few tannins. The young sweet fruit tapers nicely, though, giving the wine a moment’s leanness, as is tries in vain to grasp at an intellectually stimulating, and lingering finish, with some minerally notes of wet stones and gravel.  But ultimately it misses that gold ring of complexity. But who’s complaining?  At $10.99 it is a superior deal in Pinot Noir, comparing easily to wines that retail for$20 at retail. I highly recommend it. 88 points.

Bottom line: If the wine they sell-off to Costco is this good, this relatively new wine company has good things in store with it’s higher level production wines that draw largely on several estate vineyards, most notably the highly-regarded “Rodgers Creek” in the Petaluma Gap and Stanly Ranch vineyard in Carneros.


4 thoughts on “Kirkland Carneros Pinot Noir

  1. Hey Dean, glad you liked! This wine is a fun project to do for our friends at Costco and for wine fans who like a great deal in Pinot from Carneros. It is a bit like the farmer’s market- when you buy in-season direct from the farmer, it tastes great and doesn’t have to cost a lot. Coming mostly from Stanly Ranch Vineyard in Carneros, I find this wine responds well to a “hands off” approach in the cellar. As one of the home vineyards for Garnet, it’s possible I might do a vineyard designated Stanly Ranch Pinot from Garnet one of these days. Glad you discovered my little gem! Cheers!


    • Great info Alison. I’m looking forward to trying some of your ‘bigger’ wines under the Garnet label, based on the sold off stuff. Nice work, and thanks for the “comment by the winemaker” addition to the post!


    • Running a little hot right now? It’s probably lost it’s balance now that the baby fat has fallen off, if you are just now getting to the vintage I was writing about two years ago. These things weren’t meant for the long haul.


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