2018 Weingut Dönnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Kreuznacher Kahlenberg, Nahe, Germany.
The Kreuznacher Kahlenberg is one Dönnhoff’s Grand Cru sites, uniquely set on gravelly loams along the Nahe River and provides the grapes for this crystalline 1er Cru (Erste Lage) Trocken bottling, it is one of sleeper wines in the stellar collection of dry Rieslings by Cornelius Dönnhoff, with this 2018 drinking right up there with the GGs. The Kahlenberg Trocken, as this one is called, is electric and saline brisk in the glass with lime blossom and steely mineral driven, giving bright citrus, peach, hints of tropical fruit and spicy, adding stony details, a touch of chamomile and tart kumquat. Cornelius explains, to preserve laser-like focus and clarity in his wines, the grapes are pressed as soon as possible, almost always within 3 hours of picking. The Erste Lage and Grosses Gewachs dry wines, like this one, are typically fermented in Dönnhoff’s traditional German casks (1200 L stuck and 2400 L doppelstuck), with the lighter and or sweeter wines seeing mostly stainless steel, with both allowed to go through spontaneous fermentations. Though, interestingly, as Terry Theise, who introduced me to these wines, notes that Donnhoff’s cellar is unique in its capacity to hold all of its production entirely in stainless steel or in wood casks, allowing for the ideal élevage for any of wines at any point during a vintage, depending on the nature of the vintage or personality of each wine. This wine saw a combination of both stainless and old large cask to enhance balance and freshness here, with the wine resting on the fine lees for about 9 months which adds to the richness and textural quality here. This wine is sourced from mature vines with parts that are well sloped and with southern exposure with quartzite veins, which makes for concentrated and ripe Rieslings, like this top notch bone dry, but generous food friendly bottling, which is one of my favorites.
It’s well known, that the Dönnhoff family arrived in the Nahe region over 200 years ago, and their modest farm slowly evolved into one of Europe’s greatest wine estates, making some of most desirable dry, off-dry and sweet wines in the world. Helmut Dönnhoff, who is credited with bringing this property into the limelight had been making the wine since 1966, and now his son Cornelius, the 4th generation to run this historic winery and their 25ha of Grand Cru vineyards, has increased the fame of these wines as the winemaker. The Riesling vines here at Dönnhoff are old clones which according to the winery were sourced from sites in Niederhausen and Schloßböckelheim and the estate vines are farmed with holistic and mainly organic practices to preserve the soils here and produce the highest possible quality grapes, which are mostly Riesling, though Dönnhoff has some awesome Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which is used in their Sekt Sparkling wine. Dönnhoff, which is located in the village of Oberhäusen an der Nahe, is one of the Nahe superstars and the full range of wines here are exceptional and I cherish them across the board, from the entry level estate wines to their exotic Eiswein, which I must say was one of the greatest wines I’ve ever had, but the single vineyard dry Rieslings are maybe the most coveted, especially their Hermannshöhle GG. Dönnhoff’s importer Skurnik notes that this vineyard was first mentioned by name in 1499, and the history of the Kahlenberg vineyard is a long and venerable one, and while this part (and wine) is labeled Erste Lage, there is an exclusive Grosse Lage parcel that gets “Im Kahlenberg” and the VDP GG on the label. This Kahlenberg Trocken is an outrageously good value, with this 2018 absolutely delicious now, but with the depth and structure to go another decade or more with ease, and is set in the middle of some fabulous vintages from 2015 to 2021, all of which are well worth grabbing.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive