A comparison of reviews for a well known “value” wine from Cycles Gladiator

The other night I was looking for something inexpensive to open, as I only wanted a glass of wine and needed the rest for cooking. I found the Cycles Gladiator 2007  Merlot in my stash which I think I paid a whopping $7 for, so that sounded about right.

I remembered reading in one of my wine magazines that one of the older vintages rated pretty high for a wine this cheap, so I was a little excited to take my first sniff and sip. The sniff was pretty good. A little hot (strong smell of alcohol) but it had some nice cherry aromas. It seemed solid for a cheap Merlot, as some can be very sweet and floral.

Next was the sip. At first it wasn’t bad either. It seemed to have decent texture and the fruit carried through from the bouquet to the palate. But on the finish, it had a funny and very distinguishable taste. There was a bitter eucalyptus flavor that almost tasted like cough syrup…hmmmmm.

I thought this was odd, even though some Merlots from the Central Coast can have a pleasant herbal component to them. But this was so prominent that it really was taking away from the wine….in my humble opinion of course.

So I went to check out my two favorite wine review mags, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator, to see what the pros had to say. What I found was quite interesting. To be fair, neither of them had reviewed the 2007 vintage yet, but both had reviewed the 2005 and came up with very different opinions. I posted them both below so you can see how two wine tasting professionals can have completely different tastes, palates and notes that they pull from the same exact wine.

I want to stress again that I am not pointing this out to downplay or put down the professional wine reviewers. They are educated, skilled and have been at this for a long time. My point is to show that EVERYONE has different tastes, no matter how experienced they may be. So my suggestion is if you find a wine reviewer that you notice has the same taste as you, like WWG for example 😉 …Follow that man/woman!! He, or she, is probably tasting a hell of a lot more wines than you are, so you’re sure to find out about some great new wines to try!

Oh, and the moral of the story….go for the Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet-Merlot or the Blackstone Merlot instead of the Cycles Gladiator.



 Cycles Gladiator 2005 Merlot

  • Wine Enthusiast Rating: 88
  • Price: $10
  • Varietal: Merlot
  • Appellation: Central Coast, US, Central Coast
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Bottle Size: 750 ml
  • Case Production: 10000
  • Category: Red
  • Importer: Wimbledon Wine Company
  • Published in Magazine: 7/1/2007
  • Published to Web: 7/1/2007


What an interesting wine this is. Classic California Merlot, soft and rich, with a burst of cherry, raspberry and mocha flavors, and spicy, smoky vanilla from considerable new oak. But the addition of Petite Sirah, Syrah and Cab Sauvignon give it added depth, texture and nuance. At this price, stock up by the case. – S.H. (7/1/2007) – 88


Merlot Central Coast 2005

Score: 68

Release Price: $10

Region: California

Issue: Web Only – 2008


Lean and herbal, with muted cherry aromas and flavors and chewy tannins. 10,000 cases made – TF


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