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WOTM #2 / Cycles Gladiator – Lodi, CA

Cycles Gladiator is located in Lodi, CA and is actually owned by parent wine company Hahn Family Wines Out of Soledad, CA in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County.

Cycles Gladiator is winning awards and growing their line of wines at an unbelievable pace. Their popularity is soaring and for good reason. They make GREAT wine! Nestled in the northern end of Lodi ~ you’ll find a small, newer tasting room (visitor center) in the shape of a large shed with a deck and very nice picnic grounds on one side; vineyards on the other. The simple appearance of this visitor center does not reflect what you find on the inside of the building or with their wines….anything but!

The visitor center manager is Dennis Fagundes. He was working the tasting counter the day I was there. Dennis is “top notch” in managing a tasting room/visitor center and making sure your experience is a remembered one. He really has a knack for adding the little, special touches in the tasting room that make you feel a notch above the ordinary when your tasting wines. Not to mention making sure the exceptional service is compared to none! Dennis and I had met some years ago when I lived and worked in Napa ~ as he was the tasting room manager for Turnbull Wines and I belonged to their wine club at the time. It was really great running into him again and seeing his career take him to new and exciting places! Cycles Gladiator’s visiting center is decorated with modern nuances; a hanging bicycle and lots of wine and retail goodies. A nice wooden “L” shaped bar with big, beautiful tasting glasses (the little touches I was telling you about), make for a wonderful tasting experience.

The first wine poured was their latest, award winning 2009 Pinot Grigio. A GOLD at the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and a SILVER at the San Diego International Wine Competition. This Pinot Grigio Rocks! Not found frequently as a California wine to love as much as Oregon….but this one will have you changing your mind! It’s a blend of Pinot Grigio and Muscat giving you a peach/pear nose and a green apple and lemon taste on the tongue. Honey flavors on the long, clean, crisp finish. Great wine and only $12.00 per bottle.

Next up was the 2009 Syrah. (I’m a big Syrah fan, so when a winery has it on the tasting menu, I skip the merlot and go straight for it!) This big wine was full of flavor, texture and good acidity. Long finish with velvety tannins. Very nice at $12.00 per bottle.

Then came the latest 2010 Petite Sirah. What a beauty. The rich dark purple giving off blueberries; blackberries; plums….a fruit bomb with structure and balance. Smooth, luscious finish that will make you dance! Excellent expression of this varietal for, again, only $12.00 per bottle.

I then ask Dennis to pour me his choice of a Cabernet and end me with a Zinfandel. (it’s Lodi ~ one must represent the Zinfandel!) The Cabernet was a Hahn Family Wine, 2010 Smith & Hook Cabernet. This Cab sang of dark berries; cassis and a bit of mocha. It was rich and tannic ~ screaming for braised short ribs with blue cheese polenta! (one of my specialties!) A remarkable Cabernet made from Central Coast grapes. A $30.00 per bottle splurge, but let me tell you ~ worth every penny!

Finally the “peace de la resistance”! Boneshaker Zinfandel. A limited production of Ancient Vine Lodi Zinfandel making it’s way into this Zin lovers heart! A excerpt from Cycle Gladiators website:

“So what is this new bottle branded Boneshaker,
With a ghoulish label from bold Gladiator Wines?
The fruits of the labor of our restless winemaker
Is this muscular Lodi Zin from century old vines.
Fragrance and aromas of black cherry and leather arise
Not heady but subtle, yet affording surprise
At its balance of fruit and oak upon first taste
With a finish structured and absent of haste.
From the first cork pulled and first sip taken,
Leaves vinous thirst slaked and bones thoroughly – SHAKEN.”

Couldn’t have said it better! It’s WINETASTIC! (A FIVE BOTTLE rating for those that follow my wine reviews). $25.00 per bottle and limited production mean you better get your Zin on and buy a few!

All in all the wine experience with Cycle Gladiators was Amazing! The visitors center is inviting; beautiful and “Kudos” to Dennis for making such a memorable tasting experience. Make sure not to forget Lodi, CA when you make your next wine tasting excursion and when you get there, make sure that Cycle Gladiators is on your list. It’s a *must* tasting experience for true wine lovers!