Villa Russiz

About the Producer: 
Villa Russiz was founded by the French Count Theodore de La Tour and his Austrian wife Elvine Ritter in 1869, when the northeastern corner of Italy was under rule of the Hapsburgs of Vienna. Graf de La Tour, as he was known by the Austrians, planted vineyards with Merlot, the Pinots, and Sauvignon Blanc from his homeland and built the vaulted cellars still used by the winery. After WW1, the countess left the property to the Italian state to become an orphanage that carries that name of its founder Adele Cerutti. The wine tradition continued and in recent decades Villa Russiz has re-emerged as one of Friuli’s premier estates. Credit for that goes to Edino Menottu, who ran the winery for years, and his son Gianni, the current director, winemaker and vineyard specialist. The wines of Villa Russiz, which all qualify under the DOC of Collio Goriziano are predominantly white, in keeping with Friuli’s modern reputation. The standout is Sauvingon, which Gianni Menotti selects in top years as Sauvingon de La Tour. The reds are Cabernet and Merlot. When I first visted Villa Russiz in the late 1970’s, Edino Menotti let me taste those wines, which I recalled as being deliciously soft and fruity in the flush of youth – in keeping with what was then the style in Collio. But recently Gianni Menotti has selected Merlot from outstanding vintages to be aged to aristocratic splendor as Graf de La Tour. The wine is excruciatingly rare and precious, but its so plush and elegant that it seems to be inspiring a new breed of Merlot in Friuli. Villa Russiz has 30 hectares of vines to produce about 180,000 bottles a year of Collio DOC, inclusing Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigo, Ribolla Gialla, Riesling, Sauvignon, Tocai Friulano and sweet Verduzzo.