BEN GILIBERTI As the 2005 harvest wraps up across the United States and Europe, the bounty of previous years is now appearing on area retail shelves.
Though newly released, these wines from the 2003 and 2002 vintages have benefited from having more time to mellow than the recent vintages and are enjoyable now. Prices are approximate.
Monte Antico 2003 Tuscan Red ($9-$10): Made just outside the pricey Brunello di Montalcino zone by the stellar enologist Franco Bernabei, the latest release of Monte Antico has plainly benefited from the freakishly hot conditions of the 2003 vintage, which have endowed it with extra richness and intensity. A subtle bouquet of violets and berries leads to layered flavors of tart cherry fruit accented with notes of spice, vanilla and wild herbs. Stylish and affordable.
St. Francis 2002 "Red" ($12-$13): This innovative blend of merlot, zinfandel, grenache and sangiovese is delectable and fun. Each of the 12 bottles in the case comes with a different bold red label, and the grape blend and type of oak aging will change from vintage to vintage depending on the attributes of the harvest. This inaugural release serves up boatloads of merlot fruit polished by a sheen of vanilla oak, with notes of spice, raspberry and dried cherry contributed by the zinfandel, grenache and sangiovese.
Murphy-Goode Fume Blanc 2003/2002 "Sonoma County" ($12-$13): Consistently among the zestiest sauvignon blancs made in California, Murphy-Goode's fume blanc (another name for sauvignon blanc) avoids the excessive grassy character that can mar this varietal, offering crisp citrus and white peach flavors and aromas, highlighted by a bright, clean finish. Ben Giliberti, The Post's wine critic since 1987, can be reached at email@example.com. His Wines of the Week column will run once a month in this space.