Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Virtual Wine Tasting: Cycles Gladiator

A group of wine writers spent a fun hour recently with Cycles Gladiator winemaker Adam LaZarre, thanks to Charles Communications. We were quick to learn that the Lady on the Bicycle is an homage to women's freedom during the Belle Epoque, when bicycle sales flourished prompted by the suffrage movement. Susan B. Anthony noted that bicycles gave women the ability to leave the home to work and vote. Cycles was just one bicycle company that "plastered Paris with posters" depicting free and liberated women on bikes au naturel.

The event was hash tagged as #CyclesGladiator and you can check out the video online.

LaZarre says he grew up in New York’s Finger Lakes area, but not until a U.S. Navy stint in Seattle did he get the wine bug. He started Cycles Gladiator in 2005. There were favorable comments during the virtual event on LaZarre’s creative tasting notes. He tweeted that he used to write them while drinking tequila. "I don’t do that anymore," he wrote, "I changed to bourbon."

2014 Chardonnay

Three vineyards are used for the Cycles Gladiator ‘14 Chardonnay, from Livermore Valley, east of San Francisco Bay.  The cool fog from there and from Monterey Bay make the wine special, according to the winemaker. He claims it goes great with "meat, pasta and popcorn." It’s mostly tank fermented, with 15% of the juice vinified in one-year-old barrels.  Alcohol is somewhat restrained at 13.4% abv and the aging was done  70% in the tank, 20% in new French oak barrels and 10% in new American wood.  The Central Coast wine retails for $11.

This Chardonnay shows a medium straw color in the glass and smells really beautiful.  The nose displays ripe nectarines and a hint of lemon wearing a shawl of oak spice. The wood definitely makes itself known, but it is a pleasant presence. Flavors are juicy and ripe, too, with that oak touch adding a bit of heft without getting carried away. It has me wanting a piece of broiled fish or some roasted potatoes to go with it.

2014 Pinot Noir

"It slipped  down my throat like the little lord Jesus dressed in velvet pantaloons." This is not LaZarre’s quote, he says it comes from some Burgundian nuns 400 years ago when they described the wines of their vineyards. LaZarre uses the centuries-old quote to describe his own Pinot Noir. Boiled down to modern terminology, "silky, lush, sexy, an elegant Pinot balanced between Power and Grace," is how he translates.

Chualar Canyon Vineyard in Salinas Valley and and the Los Alamos Vineyard in Santa Barbara County are the hillside properties from which the grapes come, with low yields to concentrate the fruit. He says the former gives high-acid aromatic grapes while the other makes for fatter, juicier wines. This Pinot is made from 70% Chualar Canyon grapes. Alcohol tips at 13.9% abc and retail is only  $11. The wine was aged for 13 months in oak, 22% new French, 5% new American and the rest neutral.

This Pinot Noir is one big Pinot Noir, so if you are looking for Elegance Street, this is really the wrong address. That said, I like this wine. I do like my Pinot to offer a touch of grace, but in certain cases it's alright if it takes a swing at me.

This wine is very dark and earthy on the nose and has a palate that is more suited to chuck than chicken. The tannins are on the forceful side and the weight is not light. It's got some brawn to it, and it's not shy about it.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Three vineyards contributed to this Central Coast wine, one from Paso Robles’ east side, one from Indian Valley in southern Monterey county and Collier Canyon Vineyard north of Livermore. The latter provided the dominant component. It is reportedly one of the wines to be featured on Starbucks’ nighttime menu.

Aging took place in 18% new French oak, 15% new American oak and the rest neutral barrels. Alcohol is in control at 13.8%  abv and the price tag is, again, $11. The Cabernet is blended with 12% Merlot and 8% Syrah.

It’s not a terribly complex wine, but it is drinkable, with firm tannins and a cassis flavor that carries it along through some mineral-laden meanderings. It may not be the Cabernet you’d choose go with a $50 steak, but you may get it at Starbucks and have a good time sipping it. Try something chocolate with it.

2014 Petite Sirah

During the virtual tasting, LaZarre said, "Petite Sirah is one dimensional, no matter where it’s grown," but countered with, "Syrah adds another layer and makes it more food friendly, more interesting." That’s why he blends in 18% Rancho Arroyo Grande Syrah with the Paso Robles and Livermore Valley Petite Sirah grapes.

Petite Sirah was called Durif in France in the 19th century. When it was brought to California, planters believed it to be Syrah, but the grapes were much smaller so they called it Petite Sirah.
Hot, dry days and windy conditions are best for PS. The winemaker calls this wine “blueberry motor oil that will stain your soul.” He also advises that you not spill any on your shirt. A Central Coast appellation, the Cycles Gladiator Petite Sirah hits 14.8% abv and sells for a pretty incredible  $11.  The wine spent 15 months in oak, half new American and half neutral.

This is a dark wine, very dark, non-porous dark. There is no light getting through this indigo pour at all. Loads of blueberry smells jump right out, followed by abundant oak spices. A little smoky and savory angle sneaks through at the edge of the glass.  The wine is very easy to drink, with fine tannins and beautiful dark-fruit flavor laced with that oak effect.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter