Winemaker Adam 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. LaZarre’s creative tasting notes brought forth some online comment, and he tweeted that he used to write them while drinking tequila. "I don’t do that anymore," he wrote, "I changed to bourbon."
LaZarre calls this "little Merlot monster" a "fruit-driven cherry bomb of a wine." The alcohol is fairly restrained, at just 13.9% abv. The fruit was nearly all grown in the Livermore Valley, and there are smidges of Cabernat Sauvignon and Syrah in it. It was aged for 16 months in French and American oak.
The nose of the Cycles Gladiator Central Coast Merlot 2014 gives off a telltale funk, belying the Syrah, especially after a few days open. The fruit is dark and moody and there are notes of spice and a sweet smell, like burnt caramel, on the nose. The sip is powerful, belligerent fruit and brawny tannins, so don’t be shy. Cook a big, dirty steak and throw it on a plate next to a glass of this.