2017 Weingut Dönnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Roxheimer Hollenpfad, VDP Erste Lage, Nahe Germany.
The 2017 Hollenpfad Trocken is gorgeous and mineral driven with radiant yellow fruits, perfumed and classically stony in nature, this is the essence of Dönnhoff and a tribute to Cornelius’ talent in the vineyards and his cellar. His estate was started by Dönnhoff’s great-grandfather, Hermann, in the 1920s, and his dad, Helmut, took over from his father, Hermann Jr. in 1966, it was a time that sowed the seeds of greatness, at that time there were only 4 hectares under vine, it was in this period that Helmut turned his full attention to producing quality wine. Cornelius, now the fourth generation, who joined his father at the winery 2007, has become one of the world’s greatest winemakers and continues his fathers traditions and follows his mantra, that the winemaking doesn’t bring quality, but it can only retain the available quality, meaning they believe the wine is made in the vineyards and that terroir is key to their wine’s greatness. Anyone that has recently tasted Dönnhoff understands this instinctively and these last three vintages have been absolutely outstanding, with both the trockens and sweet(er) wines excelling, especially bottling like this dry Hollenpfad Riesling.
It has been largely assumed by many tasters that all of Dönnhoff’s wines are 100% in steel, such is the purity here, as there is never perceptible oak flavor, but Dönnhoff is flexible and does use German oak Stückfass (1000 Liter casks), made by a local artisan cooper in Bad Kreuznach called Hösch, with the wood for Dönnhoff’s casks coming from the Lemberg forest, directly across from the Leistenberg vineyard, one of the estate slate sites. According to Terry Theise Dönnhoff’s importer, the winery was designed to have total capacity in either oak or steel, allowing Dönnhoff to vinify and age wines according to what they feel the wines need, not what they have room for. He adds that grapes are handpicked at the height of ripeness rather than by sugar levels, and each site is fermented individually with native yeasts. The winery notes the weathered warm sandstone of the Rotliegend strata lends the wines their inimitable character. Grapes grown here tend to be very small with intense, nuanced aromas. Again Theise adds that the resulting Hollenpfad, which I certainly agree, wines are elegant with a spicy mineral fruit and excellent aging potential, these are, to me, forward Rieslings that thrill the palate, in particular this 2017.
The Erste Lage Roxheimer Höllenpfad is a very famous, steep, south-facing vineyard of weathered red sandstone, and the old name Höllenpfad translates into English as “path to hell” and was likely named for the red sandstone soils, an anomaly in the Nahe, and maybe the hard work required to hand tend this vineyard. I actually find this wine more of a pathway to heaven, it is a beautiful and striking example of crisp dry Nahe Riesling with layers of fresh apricot, peach and tangy tangerine fruits, driving, but smooth acidity, steely class that reminds of Chablis along with a touch of tropical fruit, lime blossoms, saline, an almost meatiness, seductive rosewater and a hint of ginger and clove spiciness. This vintage is wonderfully expressive, refreshing and shows subtle depth and density/extract and it gains in textural form with air, highlighting this vineyard’s Premier Cru class and complexity. This is a serious effort and rivals some very expensive GG’s, but it is also a young wine that can be enjoyed now with much less quilt for popped the cork as it is a great value. This 2017 Hollenpfad can be and is remarkably flexible with cuisine choices and can be a porch pounder as well, it’s a fabulous Summer white, don’t miss it.
($33 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive