It’s time for our annual end-of-the-year roundup of Costco wines — because we could all use a drink after this pandemic year, yes?

As wine lovers can attest, the big-box chain offers some of the best deals on reds and whites. But which one is actually worth buying a case of to squirrel away and which wine should you turn your nose up at and move on to the next aisle?

We asked two judges to taste the wines in Costco’s large portfolio: Seattle Times food and drink writer Tan Vinh and Owen Bargreen, a certified Level Two sommelier and editor at Vinous.

Instead of a 100-point scale, we made the ranking more reader-friendly, grading each bottle “highly recommended,” “recommended” or “not recommended.”

What we found:

  • The European and South American wines were much better value than the domestic bottles.
  • Costco whites graded higher in our tasting than the reds.
  • We hit branches in Issaquah, Seattle, Shoreline and Lynnwood in late November and early December and concluded that the branches in Sodo and in Issaquah offered the widest and best selection. Still, even the most sought after Costco red wine was sold out at those two branches, but we tracked down a bottle at the branch near Alderwood mall. Read on to find out more about that magical wine.

Kirkland Signature Asolo Prosecco

11% alcohol, $6.99

Owen: This Asolo prosecco is sourced from vineyards in Veneto [in Italy]. Greenish in color, this delivers good weight with shades of sweetened peach and lychee. This finishes short and is best enjoyed over the next several years. Drink 2021-2024. Verdict: Highly recommended.

Tan: Costco’s signature prosecco checks all the boxes: low price and low enough in alcohol that you won’t get sloshed easily. It’s a pleasant sparkling that even a novice wine drinker would enjoy because it’s so fruity and goes down easy. Shoppers spend too much money on sparkling wines to make mimosas. This prosecco mixes great with orange juice for only $6.99. Verdict: Highly recommended.

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Kirkland Signature Prosecco Rosé

11%, $6.99

Owen: Faint red rose petal tones combine with ripe red raspberry and green apple on the nose. The palate is soft and inviting with salty undertones alongside sweetened nectarine and Golden Delicious apple. Drink 2021-2024. Verdict: Highly recommended.

Tan: I’ve never seen Costco’s Prosecco Rosé in stores before. I hope this becomes part of their fall/winter rotation because this prosecco rosé is a much better deal than Costco’s signature prosecco. Hard to find a prosecco rosé this good for under $15,

Verdict: Highly recommended.

Kirkland Signature Brut Champagne

12%, $19.99

Owen: Crafted by Champagne house Janisson, which is a grand cru site located in Verzenay, France, the “Brut” is a proprietary blend of pinot Meunier, pinot noir and chardonnay. Pretty nutty undertones combine with green apple and lemon blossom on the nose. The palate offers plenty of weight with shades of baking spice laced pear, challah bread and shades of kumquat. Drink 2021-2026. Verdict: Highly recommended

Tan: A Costco hall of famer, this is the best value in its wine portfolio every year. This Champagne should cost at least $40. This bottle is as good a deal as Costco’s $4.99 rotisserie chicken. Speaking of chicken, Korean fried chicken has become the new pizza takeout around Seattle, and this Brut goes well with those sticky, umami wings. Verdict: Highly recommended.

2020 Kirkland Signature Grave Pinot Grigio

12.5%, $4.99

Owen: The 2020 shows off faint hay and kumquat rind tones aromatically. The palate is soft and shows good mouthfeel with layers of pink grapefruit and orange blossom. It’s a bit out of balance with its unusual kiss of sweetness, but Tan, this delivers serious value considering the price point. Drink 2021-2024. Verdict: Recommended.

Tan: What the heck am I drinking here, Owen? It tastes like a Jolly Rancher green apple with a syrupy splash at the end. Verdict: Not recommended.

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2020 Kirkland Signature California Pinot Grigio

12%, $12.99 for a 3 liter box

Owen: This comes off a lot boozier than the listed 12% alcohol. Delicate pear and green apple notes mark the palate alongside very little acidity and shades of Lemonhead candy. This is cheaper than some bottled waters. Drink 2020-2023. Verdict: Recommended.

Tan: Owen, this wine box works out to around $3 a bottle, the better value of the two grigios on this list. It’s a good patio sipper or a wine to take to a tailgate or potluck. It’s a table wine that even a novice wine drinker could enjoy because of the pleasant, sweet tropical finish. Verdict: Highly recommended.

2021 Kirkland Signature Marlborough Ti Point Sauvignon Blanc

12.5%, $6.99

Owen: The nose shows bright green bell pepper and dried herbs with gooseberry tones. Fresh and vibrant with great acidity, this might not have the best feeling of weight but delivers plenty of lip-smacking acidity with its lemon zest and melon tones. Drink 2021-2023. Verdict: Highly recommended.

Tan: Buy stock now. I would buy a case at this price. Owen and I agreed this is one of the best values in this tasting. Tastes like a dry Sprite with an earthy, clay finish. Verdict: Highly recommended.

2019 Kirkland Signature Chablis Premier Cru

13.5%, $17.89

Owen: Crushed wet rock and bright pear tones combine with shades of nectarine on the nose. This shows good weight and is nicely textured but offers slightly less in terms of bright acidity than the 2018 bottling. This wine is a sure bet for any Chablis lover that craves value in a market that offers very little decent deals. Drink 2021-2028. Verdict: Highly recommended.

Tan: This would make such a perfect dance partner with furikake seasoning or a dish with bonito flakes or nori. This crisp wine with a mineral, flinty finish turns supernova with any benthic-high tide-esque flavor dish, or with something umami-rich like dry shiitake. Owen, I could veg out on my couch all night watching The Beatles documentary while popping furikake seasoning into my mouth with this Chablis. Verdict: Highly recommended.

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2020 Kirkland Signature California Chardonnay

13.5%, $7.99 for 1.5 liter

Owen: It’s unclear where the wine comes from, although the label notes it’s cellared and bottled by DC Flynt MW Selections in Modesto, California. This edition comes off slightly better than the last vintage, with less cloying notes alongside orchard fruit flavors. While this is exceedingly cheap, you can do better in the $7 range without suffering a headache the next morning. Drink 2021-2024. Verdict: Not recommended.

Tan: Drink 2021-2024? How about drink “never.” Owen, you ready for the hate mail? People love Costco’s 1.5 liter Chard, and they let me have it when we dis it every year. I don’t get why Costco shoppers love this so much. The wine hearkens back to those California Cooler drinks from the ’80s, and it’s a lot hotter than the posted 13.5% alcohol. Verdict: Not recommended.

2020 Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Chardonnay

13.5%, $6.99

Owen: A touch cloying and sweet, the 2020 delivers very forward and sweetened ripe fruit flavors that deliver at this price point. Soft on the mouth and not overly oaked. Nice texture. Drink 2021-2024. Verdict: Recommended.

Tan: I enjoyed this $6.99 Chardonnay with its pear, apple and vanilla notes, but, Owen, we had two superior Costco Chardonnays that were released earlier this year. (See the end notes.) Verdict: Recommended.

2020 Kirkland Signature Côtes de Provence Rosé

13%, $8.69  

Owen: A blend of grenache (35%) and cinsault (28%) with smaller portions of Carignan syrah, tibouren, ugni blanc, vermentino and mourvedre, this wine was made by winemaker Olivier Sumiere. It delivers nutty and earthy undertones that meld with guava and raspberry on the nose. The palate is soft, medium-bodied and very inviting with mouthwatering acidity and plenty of texture. Drink 2021-2025. Verdict: Highly recommended.

Tan: I’ve never seen this Costco rosé on shelves in the fall/winter. A lovely, crisp wine, with white peach, lychee and a lingering acidity. It’s such a complexed Provence rosé at this price point. We agreed this is one of the top Costco releases. Verdict: Highly recommended.

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2020 Kirkland Signature Côtes du Rhône Villages

14.5%, $6.99

Owen: This 2019 was made by Patrick Lesec. A blend of mourvdre, syrah and grenache, the wine shows off high-toned guava and orange rind tones that combine with white pepper dusted bacon on the palate. The palate is fresh with lovely garrigue notes alongside a core of medium-bodied dark fruit flavors. While this says 14.5% alcohol, my guess is it rings in at closer to 15%. Drink 2021-2025. Verdict: Highly recommended.

Tan: But Owen, I thought this wine was crafted well enough that consumers won’t notice how hot it is. I’ve had so many glasses of Côtes du Rhône at restaurants priced at $18-$20, and none were as good as this. I had to check my receipt to be sure. Yep. The. Bottle. Is. Only. $6.99. The bad news: the Costco by Alderwood mall in Lynnwood was the only Seattle-area store that had any bottles left. Verdict: Highly recommended.

2020 Kirkland Signature California Cabernet Sauvignon

13%, $7.99 for 1.5 liters

Owen: This wine borders on communion wine. Sweetened figs and oak chips fill the nose. The cab comes off saccharin-driven as this is so poorly made I wouldn’t make sangria from it. Drink 2021-2023. Verdict: Not recommended.

Tan: Also, this cab clocks in at a lot higher than 13% alcohol. Verdict: Not recommended.

2019 Kirkland Signature “Signature Series” Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

14.5%, $18.99

Owen: The cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley was produced and made by winemaker Glenn Hugo. The wine comes off a bit hot with sweetened chocolate and overripe black fruits that mingle with loamy soils on the palate. It’s jammy and lacking balance. I would like more classic Napa character. They advertise Rutherford dust on the label, but there isn’t an inkling of that. Having reviewed 200 Napa wines this year, I gotta say this wine ranks in the bottom tier. Drink 2021-2025. Verdict: Not recommended.

Tan: So, not even Costco, with its buying power, can pull off a decent Napa cab for under $20. Costco marketed this as a “signature series” release with the slick packaging in black-gray hues like a Mercedes ad. We had high expectations given that the last Costco signature cab release was outstanding. This special release flopped. Verdict: Not recommended.

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2020 Kirkland Signature Malbec

14%, $6.99

Owen: Sourced from Mendoza, Argentina, and made at the famed Broquel winery, the 2020 is forward and polished with ripe red currant flavors alongside chocolate, blackberry compote and tar tones. It’s hard to find an Argentinian malbec that delivers this much quality at under $7 bucks. You usually see this in the $12 range. Drink 2021-2025. Verdict: Highly recommended.

Tan: A burst of plum and spice to start, and a nice, lingering dark fruit finish, this was one of the top reds for us. It’s readily available at all the Seattle-area stores (at least it was when I checked the shelves in early December). Verdict: Highly recommended.

Kirkland Signature 10-year-old Tawny Porto

20%, $16.99

Owen: Formerly made by Foseca Guimarens, this 10-year-old tawny is now crafted by Kobrand producer Vila Nova de Gaia. The nose is pretty with orange embers and ripe red raspberry coulis with bright red plum tones. The palate is fresh and viscous with silky tannins that line a core of rum raisin, chocolate covered caramel and bright red fruit flavors. Delicious to enjoy now, this has a long life ahead of it. Drink 2021-2028. Verdict: Highly recommended.

Tan: As Owen typed his tasting notes, I called dibs on this bottle to take home. I was blown away by this dessert wine. We just don’t drink port in the United States. This bottle is just collecting dust on Costco’s shelves. Lot of raisins, dulcet plum and dry fruits with caramel on the finish. I bet if I served this port to a room of oenophiles, no one would believe it came from a big-box chain. Verdict: Highly recommended.

Below are earlier Costco releases we would recommend if you can track down the bottles. These are also high on our watch list for 2022:

  • 2016 Kirkland Signature Reserva Rioja
  • 2018 Kirkland Signature Riserva Chianti Classico
  • 2018 Kirkland Signature Gigondas
  • 2019 Kirkland Signature “Signature Series” Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley
  • 2019 Kirkland Signature K Vine Evergreen Vineyard Chardonnay
  • 2019 Kirkland Signature Russian River Valley Chardonnay

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