Many great Italian dessert wines, with their limited production and distribution, aren't easy to find, nor are they inexpensive; most come in small-format (375- or 500-milliliter) bottles. Chill the whites, but not too cold, and serve the reds either lightly chilled (especially in warmer weather) or at cellar temperature. Listed in order of vintage.
2002 Abbazia di Novacella Moscato Rosa. Made from a red sub-variety of Moscato, this intriguing wine has a lovely clear garnet-ruby color, an unusual bouquet of sweet cassis, red berries, pomegranate and an herbal finish. It's well-balanced -- not cloyingly sweet, and with good acid. At Liquorama in Upland, (909) 985-3131, www.finewinehouse.com; and at Wine House in West Los Angeles, (310) 479-3731; www.winehouse.com, $40 (375 ml).
2001 Forteto della Luja Moscato Passito Loazzolo. This luscious, full-bodied wine has a beautiful, clear, deep golden color with a rose tint, a gorgeous honeyed aroma that whispers botrytis, and delicious flavors of honey, mushrooms and vanilla. It's very sweet, with a long finish: a serious argument for passing up the tiramisu. At Wine House, $35 (375 ml).
2001 Giuliano Ruggeri Montefalco Sagrantino Passito. Deep and dark purplish-red, this wine has herbal, earthy aromas that belie its sweet character. On the palate it's full-bodied, sweet and a little viscous (with 15% alcohol) with serious tannins and intense flavors of roasted cherries, vanilla and good butter. The finish is curiously dry, almost grapey. At Wine House, $50 (500 ml).
2000 Le Salette Recioto della Valpolicella "Pergole Vece." Recioto della Valpolicella is known as the Veneto's answer to Port. This one is concentrated, well-balanced and complex, with a pleasant hint of bitterness and a long, lip-smacking finish. It's all preceded by aromas of warm red fruit, brambles and herbs. At Liquorama and Wine House, $70 (500 ml).
1999 Salvatore Murana Moscato Passito di Pantelleria "Martingana." A lovely, tawny-colored wine that greets you with racy, attractive, slightly \o7rancio\f7 aromas of prunes, black cherries, herbs and burnt caramel. On the palate, the texture is silky and luxuriant, and the wine is full-bodied and sweet but not cloying, with enough acid to support the sugar, and fabulous flavors of dried apricot and red fruit. Delicious and intriguing. At Wine Expo in Santa Monica, (310) 828-4428, $80 (375 ml).
1959 Cantine Antonio Ferrari Solaria Jonica. Wow! The Solaria Jonica is unforgettable, even down to its color, which is deep and dark, almost black, but brilliant. The aromas are intense and alluring: roasted black cherries in aged balsamic and prunes -- specifically, \o7pruneaux d'Agen\f7, the high-toned, deeply flavored prunes from the southwest of France. The texture is velvety, the flavors soft and caressing, but with some oomph. It's a terrifically balanced wine with layers of flavor, seriously complex, not cloyingly sweet, with lots of ripe fruit (even at its advanced age) and tannins that have completely mellowed. It's gutsy, but with some finesse, a lovely strawberry finish and amazing length. At Wine House, $190 (500 ml); or www.smithandvine.com, $150 (500 ml).
-- Leslie Brenner