In the commune of Capriva del Friuli, in the heart of the Collio wine area on the border of Slovenia, is the estate of Russiz Superiore. Russiz as a place-name is traced back at least as far as 1273, when a certain Raimondo della Torre became the patriarch of Aquileia (basically, prince-bishop of Friuli). He named his estate Russiz Superiore due to its high (superior) location above the hamlet of Russiz. Russiz name comes from local toponym “rusic” which derives from the Slavic word “rusa” for grassland/turf.
The estate passed through innumerable hands over the next several centuries but was apparently known for most of that time as a source of fine wine grapes. In 1967, the property became available for sale. Marco Felluga—owner of a self-named winery in the nearby town of Gradisca d’Isonzo—recognized the superb potential of the vineyard land and purchased the winery. He knew the estate, already famed for its Cabernet Franc, could become the jewel of the family holdings. So, rather than folding Russiz Superiore into the family’s existing vineyards, he decided to maintain it as a separate working estate, vinified and bottled as a distinct brand.
Russiz Superiore estate Is just over 200 acres, but only 125 are vineyards. They only produce wines from estate-grown fruit, most of these being single vineyards by varietal. The estate is planted to both native and international grape varieties, Friulano, Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio for the whites, and Cabernet Franc and Merlot for the reds. To further distinguish the Russiz Superiore line, the white wines generally have about 15–20% of the juice fermented in large oak barrels. Their Collio Sauvignon as well as their blended white, Col Disore, are both highly awarded. The well-respected Cabernet Franc vines also produce an excellent red wine for the portfolio.
The history of the Felluga family traces back five generations, starting in the late 1800s in Istria (part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Eventually the family relocated to the Collio, and in 1956 Marco Felluga winery was founded, in Gradisca d’Isonzo, about 15 minutes south of Russiz Superiore. Today, Marco’s son, Roberto Felluga manages both estates.
Relais Russiz Superiore is a small, country house located on the estate that is available for lodging.
Collio is a crescent-shaped sub region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia that hugs right up against the Slovenian border. It is perfectly situated for growing wine grapes, especially of the white variety.
The Julian Alps to Collio’s north allow the influx of cool, nighttime breezes, while the Adriatic Sea to its south regulates the region’s temperatures. The area contains flysch soils,locally known as, ponca, a layered, sedimentary rock that formed millions of years ago as continents collided under the sea. Today the flysch soils that dominate the hills of Collio provide an interesting substrate for vine roots, with measurable mineral variations within small areas. The fractured layers of flysch soils also facilitate drainage and deepening of vine roots.
The region boasts a unique set of indigenous white varieties including Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia and the rare, Picolit. International whites—Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon (Blanc) and Chardonnay—have also been in the area for well over 100 years. Today Collio is often associated with crisp, clean, floral and fruity whites. But in recent years, there has been a resurgence in popularity of the ancient Slovenian style of fermenting white grapes on their skins. This process retains additonal colors and phenols, producing a complex finished wine with an orange hue, warranting the term, "orange wines."
Reds are far less common but the indigenous Pignolo makes an age-worthy red, and the international varieties Merlot and Cabernet grow here as well.
Cabernet Franc, a proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, is the subtler and more delicate of the Cabernets. Today Cabernet Franc produces outstanding single varietal wines across the wine-producing world. Somm Secret—One of California's best-kept secrets is the Happy Canyon appellation of Santa Barbara. Here Cabernet Franc shines as a single varietal wine or in blends, expressing sumptuous fruit, savory aromas and polished tannins.