We arrived at Weingut H. (Hermann) Dönnhoff in the middle of a driving rain. Mommy was feeling a bit under the weather and wanted to sleep in the car, but baby M was wide awake, so I did what any intrepid and thirsty daddy/wine blogger would do: strap the baby to me in the Ergo carrier and head on in.
Current proprietor Helmut Dönnhoff’s daughter-in-law Anna greeted us, bemused by the rain-soaked but indomitable daddy-daughter team standing before her, and led me through the 2012 Donnhoff dry wines:
2012 Dönnhoff Riesling Trocken – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
- Very fresh, very nice – balanced, complex. A wonderful buy at the price range.
- 2012 Dönnhoff Tonschiefer Riesling Dry Slate – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
The slate and the fruit combine here to present a very perfumed nose. Has great acidity, with a balance between minerality and generosity to the fruit. A fine, slightly smoky ashy quality on the nose makes this a very distinctive bottling.
- 2012 Dönnhoff Höllenpfad Riesling Trocken – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
Means “road to hell”. 2nd vintage of this wine, from a vineyard bought from another branch of the family, this is considered to have been of GG-like quality historically, this is a vineyard in the process of being revived. My tasting notes seem to have been lost, but from memory this was very good, included it in my purchases at the estate. Anna Donnhoff told me this vineyard is known for a certain herbal quality, but I felt it less on this bottling than on the Felsenberg.
- 2012 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Großes Gewächs – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
Not yet bottled, so this is from a sample bottle. Very pretty, tightly coiled. Mineral, and a touch herbal. Gentle, appealing note of sweetish fruit (orchard fruits, green apple) on the nose. Very dry and stony on the palate, with a green apple acidity. In sum, an elegant, tightly coiled GG.
- 2012 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
Not yet bottled, so from a sample bottle – even had a bubbly frothiness in the bottle. Immediately on the nose, you get sweeter, more present fruit than in the Felsenberg. Richer, more opulent – apricot notes to the fruit as opposed to the green apple-ish quality of the Felsenberg. Really plays to my wheelhouse. Such a floral and perfumed quality to the nose, yet the fruit also comes to the fore. Easy to understand why this is one of the great GGs of Germany.
Anna described 2012 as a vintage with vivid flavors (an apt description in my eyes based not only on what I tasted at Dönnhoff but elsewhere as well), blessed with excellent weather that allowed for each lot to be picked at optimal times.
As we reached the fruity wines part of the tasting, we were surprised to be joined by Helmut Dönnhoff himself. Because Anna had been very knowledgeably leading us through the tasting already, I hadn’t really expected to meet Herr Dönnhoff, but I was glad to do so, as he shared some terrific insights with us, and he’s one of a handful of winemakers worldwide that I regard with rock star-like status. In person, he is
conpletely down-to-earth, friendly and when tasting the wines, shows a youthful curiosity and engagement with each sip, all wonderful qualities that are certainly not a given when meeting a winemaker of such reknown and stature.
Mr. Dönnhoff told us that 2012 is a vintage in which the fruity wines at the spätlese and auslese levels especially excelled. There was no botrytis so there are no BA (beerenauslese) or TBA (trockenbeerenauslese) bottlings in 2012; even the auslesen were quite hard to get.
- 2012 Dönnhoff Riesling – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
Very typical Donnhoff estate bottling – pretty, balanced and terrific for the price range. The 2012 edition has plenty of generosity on the fruit. 91-92 (91 points)
- 2012 Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Kabinett – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
Very pretty – shows more opulence than the estate riesling. Very pretty. Somewhat new to the American market, I am told. 92-93 (92 points)
- 2012 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
Same wine as the Tonschiefer, except fermentation is stopped earlier to preserve some RS. Showed nicely, consistent with prior vintages but especially harmonious , with fruit, acidity and mineral firing on all cylinders. 92-93 (92 points)
- 2012 Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
A very natural spätlese vineyard according to Helmut Donnhoff. The 2012 version is very good, with the strength of the vintage making this bottling on par with other Donnhoff spätlesen despite it having perhaps a bit less reputation than some of the other spätlese vineyards.
- 2012 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)More tightly coiled and less expressive than the Oberhauser Brucke spätlese tasted with it, but lovely nonetheless.
- 2012 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
A little more floral, and richer than the Felsenberg spätlese. Really beautiful, with some of the creamy mouthfeel of past vintages I’ve had. A bit brighter, more lively and vivid than the Felsenberg, and I prefer this bottle slightly for those reasons. 94+ (94 points)
- 2012 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
As beautiful as the Kirschheck, Felsenberg and Brucke spätlesen are, this bottling is on a whole other level. You stick your nose in the glass, and the minerality here is the final piece to the puzzle, a perfect example of what makes Germany the pinnacle for off-dry riesling. The complex interplay of minerality, luxurious but controlled sweetness, and racy acidity can’t be matched anywhere else. 96+ (96 points)
- 2003 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
Aging extremely well for a wine from a year as hot as 2003. Has a wonderful sweetness, with some signs of maturity, but still a “youngster”, as Helmut Dönnhoff put it.
- 2011 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Eiswein – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
Wonderful, with florals and an exotic spicy quality on the expressive nose. P found the palate a touch too sweet for her, but this was right on the money for me – unctuous yet balanced.
- 2012 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Auslese – Germany, Nahe (5/23/2013)
Fascinating to taste this a few minutes after the spätlese, and hear the same vineyard speaking in a different voice.. Very different noses, and the auslese feels lighter in a way, and more exotic. Lovely.
When prodded for a recommendation for a wine to put into baby M’s birth year case, Herr Dönnhoff noted that he feels the Hermannshöhle spatlese in particular will be a special wine. As you can see from my notes above, I agreed. We picked up some bottles of this and the other transcendent 2012 Dönnhoff wines from our special visit and headed back off into the rain with spirits lifted.
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