Structure and Grace: Grand Cru German Riesling, at its Best

When: Thursday, September 16
Time: 4:00 pm TO 6:00 pm
Where: Delafield

September 16 – 18, 4 to 6 pm

Location: Milwaukee’s tasting hosted by our restaurant partner Birch, 459 E. Pleasant Street. Delafield’s tasting hosted in-store at 631 Genesee Street.

RSVP: Not required. Just drop in and enjoy.


“Die Lagen sprechen für sich. Man muss nur genau hinhören.”

Translation – “The vineyards speak for themselves. You have to listen to them.” – Helmet Donnhoff

Grosse Gewachs (GG) – the Grand Crus of Germany.

Weingut Donnhoff – most definitely one of Germany’s top three producers of Riesling, if not the very best.

Combined, this is the greatest producer of German Riesling, in his top Grand Cru Vineyards. With a very special flight at Birch and at the Delafield Wine Bar we will be presenting a set of Donnhoff’s Grand Cru Rieslings in a single flight, from magnum (of course).

Riesling is considered one of the purest expressions of terroir – how a wine tastes like the place it’s from. And in his small corner of the world, in Nahe, Germany, Helmut Donnhoff and his son Cornelius have take on a lifelong quest to divine what Nature produces. Here are amazing, mind-blowing expressions of single-vineyard wine at its absolute best.

If you were to purchase the bottles for this flight yourself for the tasting, your retail cost would be $330 (seriously). But this Thursday – Saturday only, we will be offering a flight of these wines for $25. Come join us for this amazing flight!

Notes from Cornelius Donnhoff (first quote) and Michael Skurnik (all other quotes) Donnhoff’s American importer, on the vintage and wines:

“For us, it was so important to have a lot of people actually working the harvest.

“At the end, I am very happy with what we produced, and really it was only possible through all of the work in the vineyard. It was a marathon vintage, with 50 people working harvest here in Oberhäusen, which is a lot – the same number of people we had in 2014.” – Cornelius Dönnhoff of Dönnhoff

“2019 is an exceptional vintage in Germany. It’s a vintage that has both excellent ripeness and bright, crisp acidity. It was not the easiest vintage on our grower’s nerves; the weather patterns were more extreme than previous years and varied from region to region and even village to village. The harvest required quick decision making and long days but the hard work resulted in a beautiful array of wines. Across Germany, it’s a vintage that shows great range and depth. The wines from 2019 are a pleasure to drink now and will develop gracefully for decades.

“The 2019 Germany Vintage Report 12019 has a warm, ripe character without feeling exotic or overblown. There is a solidity, a firm structure in the wines which is a commonality throughout all regions. Growers attributed this to thicker skins, a result of the warm, dry summer. The wines also show an unexpected character in their crisp, vibrant acidity. The growing season was hot and sunny, but cooler weather late in Summer and much-needed rainfall at the beginning of autumn produced wines that are profoundly delicious. This crisp character lends freshness to the wines, balancing the warmth of the growing season. Many of the 2019 wines show a freshness and snap that one would associate with a cooler year. The fruit is pure and concentrated, not aggressive or rich. The wines have savory, mineral side as well, something which growers associated with the rainfall in September, relieving the dry stress from summer and allowing the fruit to develop more slowly.

“The range of wines that growers were able to produce is impressive. There are excellent wines on offer from entry-level dry wines to outstanding top-quality GGs. There are crisp and classically styled Kabinetts and monumental Auslesen. Note that we visited growers in the Nahe, Rheingau, Württemberg, and Pfalz in early March, returning home a week early and missing the Mosel and Rheinhessen part of our trip. From what we have tasted and from the discussions with our growers from those regions, we are confident that the 2019 collections from these growers will be superb.

“Winter was much warmer than normal and growers were worried about another warm and very early harvest. In the first part of 2019, it was looking like 2018 all over again, the earliest harvest on record Luckily, the weather changed drastically, and late April and May were so cold a number of growers were concerned about frost. Frost did hit a few areas but this wasn’t widespread; only Andreas and Barbara Adam in Dhron noted significant damage from frost.

“Flowering started normally, in the second and third weeks in June, much later than 2018. June and July brought heatwaves, with record-breaking temperatures in July. Sunburn was a problem in this vintage, though not as widespread as it was in 2018. Growers from the Mosel to the Pfalz remarked that the warm, dry summer produced thicker skins, but that the cooler late summer slowed maturation and sugar levels.

“This turn in the weather helped to preserve acidity, maintaining the freshness of the wines, balancing the ripe character and structure that the summer had produced. Rain started around the 20th of September in some regions and varied widely, region to region. Harvest conditions necessitated a larger than normal team for a number of wineries as well as patience and a bit of luck.”

Wines to be tasted:

2019 Donnhoff Felsenberg Grosse Gewachs Riesling

Schlossböckelheimer Felsenberg (volcanic porphyry and decomposed melphyr) is a very old and very famous site, directly on the Nahe river. It’s extraordinarily steep and the soil here is pure volcanic: “you can see that there is almost no topsoil here; we have to promote humus with hay and other organic material” says Cornelius, walking along the bottom of the vineyard. Looking up, the vineyard, cliffs, and forest above show the gradient. “This is one of the very difficult vineyards to work, it’s just so steep and nothing to hold you up. It’s just rocks,” says Cornelius.

“In some vintages, two wines are produced: a Spätlese when conditions are right and almost every year the smokiest and most powerful Grosses Gewächs bottling of the collection.

“The GG comes from a sub-parcel of the vineyard, around the Felsentürmchen, the small tower in the middle of the hill. Smoky and mineral, Felsenberg shows the volcanic cragginess that anyone who visits this vineyard in Schlossböckelheim will remember. “Felsenberg is the god of thunder,” said Cornelius, which is as accurate a personification of a wine as we’ve heard.”


2019 Donnhoff Krotenpfuhl Grosse Gewachs Riesling

Kreuznacher Krötenpful (loess, loam, and quartzite) is a site that Dönnhoff produced just a single wine from for many years. “It’s a really nice site for Kabinett, making a riper wine than Leistenberg, but with great acidity still.

“The vineyard sits just behind the town of Bad Kreuznach, a quartz-rich hilltop plateau with a steep, south-facing section, angled towards the village. In 2017 Cornelius produced Krötenpfuhl Grosses Gewächs for the first time when frost reduced the crop and concentrated the always small berries here even further.

“The GG is made from the steepest section of the vineyard and feels open and charming. It is the most approachable of the GGs in its youth. The spicy and bright Krötenpfuhl Kabinett comes from the quartz-rich plateau and while it’s not quite as saline as the Leistenberg, it’s extraordinarily drinkable.”


2019 Donnhoff Dellchen Grosse Gewachs Riesling

Norheimer Dellchen (grey slate over porphyry and melaphyr) is a very small, very steep amphitheater shaped vineyard just upriver from Oberhäusen and Niederhäusen. The name refers to “small hallow” where the vineyard is planted, between volcanic cliffs, facing south.

“From this small site, a single Grosses Gewächs wine is produced. Dellchen GG is powerful but graceful, always showing the bright sunny quality of the vineyard. In 2019 Dellchen is a perfect complement to the mineral, rugged Felsenberg – it’s bright, beautifully delineated, and tastes of pure sunshine.


Flight of all three, 2.5 oz. pours: $25


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