La Feliciana is a small winery south of Lake Garda, in the Commune of Pozzolengo, and remarkably peaceful, with gentle rolling hills and vineyards stretching off into the distance; the only thing that would make you wonder if it has always been this way is the massive stone tower built on a low hill a couple of miles away: It's the monument to the Battle of San Martino, fought by the Piemontese against half of the Austrian army while their French allies were fighting the other half at Solferino, a few miles away, on June 24 1859 -- a bloody encounter that began the Austrian withdrawal from most of Northern Italy and paved the way for the unification of Italy under the House of Savoy. The tower, erected in the late 1800s, has heroic frescos of the battles inside, and offers a commanding view of the area (looking north, well up Lake Garda, and on a clear day I would expect to see the Apennines in the distance to the south)
Considering that Sirmione and the rest of Lake Garda are also just a few minutes' distance, and that Garda's famed amusement parks (Gardaland is one of many) are just a little further away, as are the lakeside towns of Lazise and Bardolino, and that Gabriele D'Annunzio's Vittoriale is just a little further, on the Breascian side of the lake, you'll understand why we stayed at the estate's Agriturismo for a few days this August. Very pleasant, and highly recommended.
In addition to the Agriturismo there is the winery, which consists of about 7 hectares of beautifully kept vineyards. They make a number of wines, and I asked Massimo Sbruzzi if I might taste a selection. He kindly nodded, and here we are:
Azienda Agricola Feliciana Grifo Lugana Brut DOP Non Vintage Metodo Charmat; Lot not apparent Fairly bright straw yellow with moderately fine intense perlage that's fairly persistent. The bouquet is fresh, with floral notes and some heather, and very slight hints of bead crumbs with some savory mineral accents as well. Direct, but fresh and clean. On the palate it's medium bodied and again fresh, with fairly mineral white berry fruit that has slight hints of gooseberry and peppery spice from the sparkle, and flows into a fairly long peppery mineral finish that has slight citrussy minty accents. It's quite up front, a wine that looks one in the eye, and will work nicely as an aperitif or with creamy dishes, and also with grilled or roasted fish. Expect it to go quickly, and people will likely want more. 1 star
Azienda Agricola Feliciana Forfel San Martino della Battaglia DOP 2011 Lot 1212 This is from Tocai grapes; and is pale slightly greenish brassy yellow with brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, and rather savory, with citrus fruit, rather sour salty lemon with peppery spice, laced with gunflint and some savory minerality; as it opens the gunflint fades, giving way to the heather of a freshly cut field, while the spice continues. On the palate it's rich and rather languid, with ample fairly sweet honeydew melon laced almost gooseberry-like white fruit supported by moderate peppery spice from grapes, and by moderate acidity that nicely provides direction, and flows into a heather laced, almost brambly honeydew gooseberry finish. It's pleasant in a rather seductive curvy key, and will be pleasant as an aperitif, and also has the structure necessary to stand up to grilled or roasted lake fish 2 stars
Azienda Agricola Feliciana Felugan Lugana DOP 2011 Lot 11.12 Pale brassy greenish white with greenish brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with loquat and white berry fruit supported by some sweetness and slight greenish accents with some spicy heather as well. On the palate it's bright, with lively white berry fruit supported by deft mineral acidity and by pleasant peppery spice that flows into a clean bright white fruit finish with underlying minerality and mineral acidity that is balanced by some sweetness. Pleasant in a rather zesty key, and will drink well with fish, including fried fish; it will go quickly, and you can expect people to ask for more. 2 stars
Azienda Agricola Feliciana Grifo Rosé Brut Vino Spumante Non Vintage; lot not apparent. Brilliant salmon pink with fine slightly salmonate perlage that's fairly persistent, and salmon reflections. The bouquet is fairly intense, with roses and red fruit mingled with slight violet and some sweet almost marzipan notes, and also some greenish heather. On the palate it's light, with fairly bright red fruit supported by bright mineral laced brambly acidity and some peppery notes from the sparkle, which fade into a fairly long mineral finish with, again, the pepper from the sparkle that's mingled with some other spices as well. It's brash and up front, a direct wine that will work well as an aperitif with cold cuts and other antipasti, or with white meats or fish. It has the brashness of a teen, and will go quickly. 1 star
Azienda Agricola Feliciana Feudo Garda Classico Chiaretto DOP 2011 Lot 03.12 This is a blend of Marzemino, Groppello, Barbera, and Sangiovese; it's pale slightly orange rose (not quite salmon), and has a fairly intense bouquet with considerable heather and some red berry fruit supported by spicy notes that bring nutmeg to mind, and a fair amount of alcoholic warmth. On the palate it's bright, with lively sour cherry raspberry fruit that is supported by both raspberry acidity and some sweetness, and flows into a clean fairly tart wild berry fruit finish that again gains direction from acidity, while there is also alcohol that confers a certain slightly greenish warmth. Pleasant, and will work well at table with foods, from grilled or roasted fish through creamy first course dishes (I wouldn't serve it with a red sauce), and on to white meats. Versatile, and pleasant to drink. 2 stars
Azienda Agricola Feliciana Cebon Benaco Bresciano Rosso DOP 2009 Lot 06.10 This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Marzemino, and Groppello, and ages in botti after fermentation in steel. Deep, almost impenetrable violet with slight purple reflections that emerge from the depths of the wine. The bouquet is intense, with the cabernet much in evidence in the form of graphite shaving and some cedar; the combination brings to mind the finger paints I played with as a child, and there is also some forest berry fruit, and also underlying savory accents and spice. Pleasant in a fairly international key. On the palate it's medium bodied, with fairly rich chewy dark forest berry fruit, in particular black currants, supported by savory accents and slight peppery spice, while the tannins are quite smooth and flow into a long cassis laced slightly peppery finish. It's quite approachable in a fairly international key, with rich fruit nicely supported by tannins that are polished but not buffed to a really high shine -- there's an element of dust to them that keeps them interesting -- and will drink nicely now with succulent though not too fatty red meats, for example roast beef cooked medium rare and sliced fairly thickly. It's a nice integration of international and local varietals, and has pleasant verve and personality. 88-90
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.