Cycles Gladiator Petite Sirah 2016
I thought this label, and the wine inside the bottle, were made to titillate young male bicyclists. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The juice inside the bottle is darn good drinking and the label, albeit a bit racy, has a good story behind it.
The label originates from an 1895 G. Massias poster designed for the Paris bicycle manufacturer Cycles Gladiator. 1895 was the golden age of France’s Belle Epoque, and Massias was inspired by the women’s suffrage movement. Bicycles were not just symbols, but vehicles of women’s suffrage – they were one of the few forms of transportation available to women during that time.
Beyond being heavily used by women to get from here to there, bikes became symbols of emancipation and self-reliance. Our Lady Gladiator being unclothed was another symbol of liberation – liberation from the stern formal women’s clothing of the time.
Or, as Susan B. Anthony once put it: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
From here our story jumps to 2005, when talented winemaker Adam LaZarre was searching for a label to put on a bottle of wine that he and his then-employers, the Hahn family of Santa Lucia Highlands, California, were drawing up. They already were making good wine, but most of that was Chardonnay and Pinot. Not wanting to alter their current wine program, and wanting to branch out, Adam and the Hahns chose the whimsical Massias print for the label.
You may remember this wine and its iconic label from back then. I sure do. The wine initially was outstanding and grew – to a crossroads. Wine is not like Coca-Cola because there isn’t a formula that can be cooked up every time you need some. The new corporate owners wanted the brand to grow immensely, but LaZarre wanted to keep the traditional fruit sourcing. A golden parachute opened, and LaZarre quietly left the winery.
The results were predictable. The new owners expanded the winery, went to cheaper fruit sourcing, shrank the provocative picture on the label and eventually removed it entirely. Word got out – the new wine wasn’t like the old wine, and sadly, the wine collapsed. It went off-line for several years.
But now, LaZarre, the original fruit sources, and our untrammeled red-haired beauty are back! That’s right. Adam LaZarre is the sole owner of the winery, liberating this voluptuous Petite Sirah. As he puts it:
“Blueberry, blueberry, and more blueberry on the nose with hints of cinnamon and cedar in the background. Lush and sweet with layers of black fruits that wrap around the tongue. Melting tannins that leave the impression of milk c
chocolate coat the mouth. Blueberry motor oil that will stain your soul.”
And that is a delicious end to our story.