Quality $10 wines in a tough economy

2009 has been a tough year for much of the economy, including the wine industry.  Looking at the latest sales numbers for the first quarter, consumers are still buying wine, but at a lower price point.  Wines selling above $30 aren't moving like they were a year ago, which is too bad because there are some stellar wines going unsold.  Not surprisingly, the $10-$15 price point is the sweet spot for wine sales. Finding wines with a good quality-to-price ratio (QPR) can be spotty.  A winery I've enjoyed over the past few years is Cycles Gladiator made from grapes sourced on California's Central Coast.  The packaging is awesome and features the art of G. Massias, who created the original poster in Paris, 1895.

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Cycles Gladiator winery offers a full range of grape varietals, most sell for around $10.  The Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are individually consistent from year to year.  We enjoy about one Cycles Gladiator wine a week.  These wines fall into the "every day drinking wine" category, although, the reds have enough richness and depth to go with the elaborate weekend meals at Chez Bakas.

This week I've picked a few Cycles Gladiator wines to feature in Rick's Picks.  In an effort to make wines more accessible, I've teamed up with AmericanWinery.com to offer an easy way to get the wines  I write about.  Each week Rick's Picks will feature three wines.  If you like the picks, you can order the wines, which are delivered in a few days and backed by AmericanWinery's customer service.  A high level of customer service was important to me to make this work.  Back to Bakas gets credit for the sale, which helps pay for all the things that go into doing a wine+food website.  Mostly, the ingredients.  Back to Bakas is the first wine blog to have a personalized wine pick widget.  Your feedback will help make it more useful.

The 2006 Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon is rich, yet velvety smooth balancing dark berry and black cherry notes with stewed plumb.  What does that mean?  Hell, I don't know.  Reading the description on my blog doesn't mean much.  Get it in your glass and swirl it around.  There's sweetness in what you'll smell.  But when you take a sip, you'll think you were drinking a $25 Cabernet.  It struts around on your palate with the right amount of sweet mocha and fruit without making  your lips pucker.  For $10 you can feel good about the QPR in a tricky economy.

The 2006 Cycles Gladiator Syrah - Some red wines feel like a wool sweater on your tongue, this one feels like a cashmere sweater.  If you like Australian Shiraz, you'll probably like this one.  This Syrah has all the personality you want in a Syrah, including geeky wine terms like raspberry, stewed plum and spice box notes.  After the first sip, you may not want to share the rest with anyone else.  And that's okay, we've all been there.

2007 Cycles Gladiator Pinot Grigio - Now that warmer temperatures are around the corner, it's time to find that next great white wine to either sip on the patio by itself or with a tasty meal.  Wine+food pairings coming soon!  I like this white because Central Coast Pinot Grigio's have the kind of aromatics that you can smell in the glass when the glass is sitting on the table.  The Harry & David pear and ripe honeydew aromas are lovely.  Makes me think about walking through a garden in bloom.  After taking a sip, there's a nice rich mineral and sweet apple backbone to the wine without being over the top.

Look for some recipes coming this week to pair with these wines.  Cycles Gladiator wines are a great option in a struggling economy.  Share your favorite memories or recipes with these wines here.  Cheers!