The wine itself is styled after the great dessert wines of Sauternes, and Dolce has been mentioned more than once in the same breath with Yquem. It's certainly the most remarkable dessert wine made in California. The blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc (about three to one in the case of this 1998 vintage) gives it complexity, and the botrytis fungus which attacks the grapes late in the season brings tiers of ripe fruit flavors: peaches, apricots, and honey. This wine has gorgeous balance and amazing finesse. If you can refrain from drinking it (a tough challenge), it will continue to grow in complexity in the bottle.
TENUTA DI CAPEZZANA VIN SANTO RISERVA DI CARMIGNANO 1995 ($30)
Tenuta di Capezzana, in northern Tuscany, derives its name from the veteran Roman legionnaire Capitus, who received the estate as a land grant in the first century B.C. A document dating from the year 804 shows definitively that the vineyards were enjoying a fine reputation by the Middle Ages. After passing through the hands of both the Medici and the Rothschild families, the estate was purchased by the Bonacossi family in 1922.
The current owner, Count Ugo Bonacossi, is referred to as the King of Carmignano because of his dedication in maintaining this region's distinct identity, as opposed to neighboring Chianti. In the mid-1990s, Carmignano received Italy's highest appellation status.
The lovely Vin Santo dessert wine is made from white grapes dried on cane mats for three months and then subjected to multiple fermentations. The classic way to eat biscotti, by the way, is to dunk them in Vin Santo.
WEINGUT BRÜNDLMAYER 1998 ($65)
Until recently, it was only the lucky, initiated few who appreciated the great wines of Austria. All that is starting to change now, thanks to the work of a few inspired importers. One of them, Therry Theise, has tracked down a handful of Austria's best producers and makes the wines available (albeit in limited quantities) to a growing number of ardent fans. I've been a convert for several years.