Political pundit James Carville famously quipped that Pennsylvania was more or less Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. But those heartland Pennsylvanians in Altoona have it all over the folks in Mobile when it comes to wine - in particular, a bottle known as Cycles Gladiator, which the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board recently banned because its label, drawn from an 1895 French advertisement, depicts a nude, red-headed nymph soaring with a winged bike.
The Cycles line of wines has been booming since producer, Hahn Family Wines, launched a "Banned in 'Bama" promotion. As it turns out, the wines, from California's Central Coast region, are actually pretty good for their commercial niche, with more balance and complexity than I usually taste in the $10 range. The syrah, cabernet, and pinot have been my favorites.