Mead On Wine

© 1996 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved
Vol. H No. 51


by Jerry D. Mead

It was about 18 months ago that we first began warning you that wine prices, due mostly to a shortage of supply in California, were going nowhere but up. Regular readers will remember our advice to stock-up on favorites, whatever the price range, because they were almost certainly going to cost more and more for the foreseeable future. That advice was absolutely accurate.

I hate to tell you, but it ain't going to get any better for at least another couple of years. That's when thousands of acres of newly planted California vineyards will come into bearing.

In the meantime, there are three things you can do to drink well without mortgaging the family estate.

The brands that have always offered value pretty much still do, but they do cost more than they used to. But relying on the value brands we've turned you onto in the past, like Napa Ridge, Canyon Road, Columbia Crest (actually from Washington), Pedroncelli, Wente and a handful of others will help you persevere.

Survival method number two is to drink more wines from places you never drank wine from before: Argentina, Chile, Bulgaria, South Africa, regions of France you never heard of before, and even Mexico, Slovenia, Rumania and the Czech Republic.

Continue reading "Mead On Wine," which features more value and "Best Buy" wines than any other brand of wine column.


What a success story. What started out as a "negociant" brand created by an immigrant Hungarian wine salesman and a member of the fifth generation of the famous Mirassou wine dynasty who sold his interest in the family business, has now become a real winery with its own tasting room. By spring there will be a hospitality center with meeting rooms and catering facilities and a new barrel storage cellar.

Ivan Tamas is the first and middle name of the Hungarian chap (they couldn't use the Mirassou name for obvious reasons) and is pronounced "Yvonne Tah-maws." I new him when he was Ivan Feuzy and it was pronounced "eye-van." The partner is Steve Mirassou and the company has just taken on some additional investors to make the growth and expansion possible.

Even the label has changed, been upgraded, made more glossy and eye-appealing. What hasn't changed is the figure on the label which has become a virtual logo for the brand. And since you could never tell on your own, I'll tell you it is not a woman. Neither is it a guy in drag. It is supposed to be Bacchus is his godly raiment.

Wine country visitors can check out Ivan Tamas seven days a week from 11am to 5pm at: 5443 Tesla Road, Livermore, CA 94550 (510) 455-7753. And that's the number to call if you have trouble locating any of their wines.

In keeping with today's value theme, just about every wine in the line is an exceptional value or a "Best Buy."

Ivan Tamas 1994 "Livermore" Trebbiano ($7) The only Californian example of this prolific Italian white and it's a dandy quaff with lighter fare, like maybe linguini with clam sauce (white sauce, of course) or delicate fishes like sole or roughy. Mildly herbaceous with a tart grapefruit citrus quality. Very crisp in acidity making it also a perfect foil for oysters in the raw. Rating: 85/90

Ivan Tamas 1995 "Monterey" Pinot Grigio ($8) You'll be seeing lots of wine from this grape, under one name or another, as it is being widely planted in California and Oregon. Many are using the French name for the grape, which is Pinot Gris. "Grigio" is the Italian name. This one is all floral and citrus, and the citrus is grapefruit again...but different. Where the Trebbiano has the tartness of a white-fleshed grapefruit, the Pinot Grigio most definitely has the fruit and implied sweetness of a Texas red grapefruit. The finish is softer and less acid, but still dry. Rating: 88/92

Ivan Tamas 1994 "Livermore" Sauvignon Blanc ($7) Some of the best examples of this variety in the state come from Livermore. This one is 100 percent varietal and features citrus and pleasant grassiness without being offensively herbaceous. Rating: 84/88

Ivan Tamas 1994 "Central Coast-Reserve" Chardonnay ($12) Lean, but not quite austere, citrus style, with toasty, slightly smoky complexity from a major wood presence. After-flavors are very long and very pleasant. Rating: 88/86

Ivan Tamas 1994 "Livermore" Sangiovese ($16) Ivan Tamas obviously intends to be a player in the currently fashionable Cal-Ital trend, what with this being the third wine made from an Italian-origin grape. It's a lighter style red, sort of an Italianate Pinot Noir, and shows some earthy, truffley complexity. Rating: 86/82.

Ivan Tamas 1992 "Livermore-Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon ($12) A lean Bordeaux-like structure, but with a big and serious extraction of fruit and plenty of oak. Flavors run to cassis and berry with a pleasant hint of herbaceousness. Rating: 89/90


Ivan Tamas 1995 "Central Coast" Chardonnay ($7) Wow! More than a "Best Buy"'s a steal! Mild citrus, pineapple and tropical fruit notes, nicely oaked and showing way more flavor and wood than you can get anywhere else for this little bit of money. Rating: 85/98


Ivan Tamas 1993 "Livermore" Zinfandel ($8) I personally challenge you to find a better Zin at this price. Ripe plum and berry fruit without a hint of overripeness. Lots of extraction for those who like their Zins intense and it's nicely wooded as a bonus. Very drinkable but with some cellaring potential. Rating: 90/99

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value. For a reprint explaining the scoring system in depth and a pocket scoring guide, send $1 to: Mead's 100 Points, P.O. Box 1598, Carson City, NV 89702-1598.


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Latest Update: December 29, 1996