Battle of The Bargain Napa Valley Meritage – Cameron Hughes Lot 325 vs Kirkland Signature

We pit two Napa Valley Meritage available at Costco in a head to head match. Is Atlas Peak the difference?


The 2010 Cameron Hughes Lot 325 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Meritage and the 2010 Kirkland Signature Napa Valley Meritage face off!

We’re huge fans of Meritage blends here at The Reverse Wine Snob. As you may remember from our recent Make Mine a Meritage series, a Meritage blend is basically a Bordeaux style blend that is not from Bordeaux. The Meritage Alliance began in California when a number of wineries got together to create the term and now encompasses a number of different countries.

We’re also huge fans of saving money and both the Cameron Hughes and Kirkland Signature wines specialize in delivering great wines at surprisingly low prices. You can find out more about the Cameron Hughes model here and the Costco model here.

And so when we walked into our local Costco the other day and saw both of these Napa Valley Meritage blends staring at us for under $12, we knew we had to give them a try. Both wines rely on Merlot for the base of the blend, but the Cameron Hughes turns to Cabernet Franc while the Kirkland Signature goes with good old Cabernet Sauvignon. The other big difference is that while both wines are from Napa Valley, the Cameron Hughes comes from Atlas Peak. Read on to find out why that could be important.

2010-Cameron-Hughes-Lot-325-MeritageFirst up is the 2010 Cameron Hughes Lot 325 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Meritage, a blend of 64% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot from Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, California. 5,000 cases produced. Purchased for $11.99 at Costco.

From the bottle:

“Cameron Hughes is an international négociant, sourcing and producing small lots of high quality wine from the world’s best regions. Cameron offers a diverse range of wines uniquely represented by the Lot number on this label.

On the nose, pretty raspberry notes dance upon a wild and loamy black fruit core. Subtle notes of exotic spice. Gracefully refined tannins infused with pretty red fruit flavors that linger endlessly on the palate.

13.7% Alcohol”

Atlas Peak is one of the highest elevation areas within Napa Valley. It features volcanic soil, lots of sunlight (it sits above the fog line) and the big temperature variations between day and night that grapes love. Talk about exclusive, this area represents only a third of a percent of all acreage planted in Napa Valley. So just what kind of wine do grapes from this area produce?

The 2010 Cameron Hughes Lot 325 Atlas Peak Napa Valley Meritage begins with aromas of delicious dark fruit, lots of oaky spice and a little vanilla and chocolate with a hint of spearmint. The wine tastes fantastic and features loads of juicy fruit like plum, blackberry and black cherry. You’ll also find a dry texture with lovely spice notes that flow all the way through to the long finish. A really delicious wine with wonderful depth of flavor!

Taste Rating: 9              Cost Rating: 7
Overall Rating: 8.5

Bulk Buy

2010-Kirkland-Signature-Napa-Valley-MeritageSecond we have the 2010 Kirkland Signature Napa Valley Meritage, a blend of 57% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc from Napa Valley, California. 40,000 cases produced. This one comes in $1 less than the Cameron Hughes and was purchased for $10.99 at Costco.

From the bottle:

“A combination of classic varietals combine to create a finely nuanced blend from the well-drained gravelly loams and silt soils of Napa Valley. This Meritage has the concentrated notes of black cherry and cassis supported by silky tannins and the spice rack notes of oak and cedar finishing with the velvety notes of rich plum. The 2010 Meritage is a traditional blend of 57% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc. Drink now through 2017.

14.1% Alcohol”

We’re no stranger to Kirkland Signature wines, and in fact, one of our very favorites just happens to be a Meritage from Napa Valley — the Rutherford Napa Valley Meritage. That wine sells for $13.99 and in some ways may be a fairer comparison to the Cameron Hughes Atlas Peak Meritage as both come from premium areas within Napa Valley. However, today’s Kirkland Signature Meritage also taught us that it’s best not to rush to judgement.

The 2010 Kirkland Signature Napa Valley Meritage begins with a pleasant aroma of plum, cedar, a little mint and vanilla. The wine gets much more expressive as it has time in the glass. The wine tastes nice, smooth and dry but again it really needs some time to open up. We found that it improved dramatically after a couple hours — so much so that I had to change my original Taste Rating of 8 to a 9. Just like the Cameron Hughes there is lots of juicy fruit (plum and blackberry mainly) plus really nice spice, vanilla and oak. It ends with good length plus more juicy fruit and oaky spice that lasts a long time in the mouth.

Taste Rating: 9              Cost Rating: 7
Overall Rating: 8.5

Bulk Buy

Two wines, two Bulk Buys! Can we declare a champion? The Cameron Hughes is the clear winner when the wines are first popped and poured but after a few hours in the glass the Kirkland Signature catches up. (Which, by the way, is the reason we always drink wine over a period of time and don’t write reviews based on small isolated tastings.) And while both are excellent wines that get Bulk Buy ratings I would probably give a slight edge to the Cameron Hughes as I felt it had a tad more depth. If you are lucky enough to see either of them at your local Costco; however, stock up! Both brands are notorious for selling out quickly. Cheers!

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