Provocative, sexy, undeniable…that’s Cycles Gladiator. What do you think of the naked red-headed beauty on the bike? It certainly attracts attention. So much attention in fact that the label is actually banned in Alabama due to its “racy content.” Personally, I love it. My husband and I attended a French poster exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art a few years ago. I found the posters innovative, at times provocative, but always classy. Cycles Gladiator’s siren is the most risqué label on US wines, but it is also the most common wine label to hang in US retail wine shops. But the story does not end there…
So why the naked red-headed lady and why the bike? You see Cycles Gladiator’s label is much more than provocative, it pays homage to the Belle Époque period in French history and the women’s suffrage movement. During the Belle Époque period a French bicycle company named Gladiator launched the sale of its new bicycle “Le Bicycle Velocipede” in 1895 with a poster of a naked woman riding the bike symbolizing French freedom and happiness during the period. Bike sales flourished in France and also in the US. In fact, Susan B. Anthony praised bicycles as a liberator for women from domesticity and freed them to work and vote!
The risqué label worked and in 2006 Cycles Gladiator hit the market with tremendous success. In fact the success led to a corporate strategy insisting the winemaker, Adam LaZarre, “ramp up production” to keep up with demand. This strategy ultimately lead to poor quality wine making practices resulting in poor quality wine. Adam was not interested in producing corporate wine so he moved on to make high quality wine elsewhere and ended his relationship with Cycles Gladiator.
In 2013, Dennis Carroll of Wine Hooligans, acquired Cycles Gladiator from corporate wine and sought to re-invigorate it. Carroll knew he could not save the iconic wine without its wine maker. Carroll immediately reached out to LaZarre and asked if LaZarre would “rescue the woman on the bike.” LaZarre is back with his siren and the wine is back to its high quality form! Furthermore, there is a new stamp on the rear label that guarantees the wines’ “Vineyard to Table™ sourcing, because LaZarre guides the whole process – from selecting the Central Coast’s best vineyards to overseeing the farming to complete control of the winemaking.”
Though the risqué label draws you to the bottle, the wine is what keeps you coming back for more. I had the pleasure of tasting four Cycles Gladiator wines last week in a virtual tasting with Adam LaZarre hosted by Charles Communication. Here are the wines we tasted and my notes:
2014 Chardonnay: 100% Chardonnay from grapes cultivated in the Livermore Valley of California’s Central coast; vibrant gold in the glass; orchard fruit, spice notes, citrus zest, toasted cedar; creamy texture, lush, round and juicy on the palate, balanced acidity with a tart, lime zest finish; 70% stainless steel, 20% new French, 10% new American; 13.5% alcohol; SRP $10.99. Pair with poultry, seafood, salads, cheeses.
2014 Pinot Noir: 100% Pinot Noir grapes cultivated from vineyards in the Chualar Canyon and Los Alamos; soft garnet in the glass; tart red cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, spice notes, touch of white pepper; light yet lively, beautifully balanced, round acidity, dusty tannins on the finish; 13 months in 22% new French oak, 5% new American oak, 73% neutral oak; 13.9% alcohol; SRP $10.99. Pair with pork tenderloin, pasta, risotto, Cornish hens.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 8% Syrah from grapes cultivated in vineyards from the east side of Paso Robles, Indian Valley in southern Monterey County and Collier Canyon Valley; dark garnet in the glass; cherries, blackberry jam, plums, spice notes, dusty earth, chocolate, espresso, black pepper; dark, brooding wine with round acidity, well-structured tannins, full mouth-feel with lingering eucalyptus finish; all grapes fermented separately and fermented at 6 months, 30% new French and American oak; 13.8% alcohol; SRP $10.99. Pair with steak, pasta, game, bbq. This wine will be served in Michigan Starbucks starting this summer!
2014 Petite Sirah: 82% Petite Sirah, 18% Syrah from grapes cultivated in Paso Robles, Livermore Valley and Rancho Arroyo Grande; deep inky violet in the glass; black fruits of cherry, plum and black berries with spice notes, tobacco, dusty earth, mocha, pronounced black pepper finish; this is a big wine, full body, lush mouth-feel, rich acidity balanced with penetrating tannins leaving the mouth watering in a long finish; 15 months in 40% new American oak, 10% new American balance neutral oak; 14.8% alcohol; SRP $10.99. Perfect with steak, bbq, or black and blue burger as recommended – my mouth is watering!
Each of the Cycles Gladiator wines were excellent quality and tasted well above their price range. These are wines you want to drink and introduce to your friends. To learn more about Cycles Gladiator I encourage you to visit their web site and look for their wines online and at your favorite wine retailer.
My Song Selection: These wines were very well crafted and deliver on every level. They are also fun and totally rock!
Get your own bottles of Cycles Gladiator wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!