I bought this wine because the sign at the wine market said it was made by a vineyard owned by cyclist Lance Armstrong. I’ve been a fan of the Tour de France for many years now and with this year’s race in full swing, that was enough for me to give it a chance.
Turns out the sign was fibbing. The wine is made by Hahn Estates Winery of Monterey County, Californina, and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong apparently has nothing to do with Cycles Gladiator wines.
Still, this pinot noir is a champion in my book.
First of all, it passes the affordability test: As you may recall, I cap my budget wines at $7.99/bottle or less. This one came in at $6.79 with the 15% volume discount for buying 6 or more mixed wines.
Secondly, it has an interesting back story. Cycles Gladiator is named after a 19th Century French bicycle manufacturer and includes that company’s original promotional poster on its label, which features a nude woman riding a bicycle.
That was enough to cause the Alabama state legislature to ban the wine’s sale in 2009. When news stories about the ban broke, sales of Cycles Gladiator wines went through the roof all over the country, causing many other wineries to request that Alabama ban their wines as well, I’m sure.
Finally, it passes the most important test of all, the flavor test.
Frequently, inexpensive wines don’t taste like the varietal they are made from, and many are just plain bad, which is why I’m cautious about spending money on an affordable wine I’ve never tried before.
I’m glad I took a chance with this one, however, because this pinot noir is not only balanced and delicious, but it has all the qualities of a traditional pinot: Cherry flavor, smooth, no tanginess, and just the slightest hints of sweetness and smoke.
One reviewer compared the taste of Cycles Gladiator pinot noir to the taste of Pepsi Cola. While that’s a little far out there, I can understand what made them say that.
So even though my local wine market used a little false advertising, I’m glad they did because otherwise I probably never would have picked up this lovely, affordable and delicious wine.
On a related note: There are only two days per year when there are no major American sporting events going on, and today is one of them. On the day before and the day after the Major League Baseball All-Star game, there are no other major sports scheduled.
This year, NBC Sports Network is featuring live daily coverage and multiple daily replays of the 21-day race, which features some of the best athletes in the world competing in a grueling cycling competition over the village streets and mountains roads of France. The stunningly beautiful images are awe-inspiring, especially in high definition.
Although not the maker of this wine, American Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France more than any person in the race’s history, but now he may be stripped of his titles because of doping allegations. While Armstrong hasn’t been convicted of anything yet, every day more witnesses — including some of the biggest names in cycling — are coming forward to confirm the allegations.
This is especially sad because Armstrong’s successful battle against cancer and his Livestrong Foundation have inspired millions of cancer victims and their loved ones through the years. While it’s still too early to pass judgement, I hope the charges are untrue, at least for their sake.