A Rieslingfeier of our Own I: Dönnhoff, Willi Schaefer, Selbach-Oster

For the first year ever, I missed the Rieslingfeier festivities, but I suppose there was a good reason: I was in the Mosel! What follows are some cursory notes and descriptions of our winery visits. We were very lucky to have gone in the wake of the WA, as it meant there were still many open bottles of 2015s for us to taste – when we made our appointments, we were warned that since the vintage had been sold out, there would not be very much to taste at all.

Part I (this): A Rieslingfeier of our Own I: Dönnhoff, Willi Schaefer, Selbach-Oster - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers
Part II: A Rieslingfeier of our Own II: Schloss Lieser, Weiser-Künstler, Fritz Haag - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers
Part III: A Rieslingfeier of our Own III: Emrich-Schönleber, Joh. Jos. Prüm, Alfred Merkelbach - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers

A RIESLINGFEIER OF OUR OWN - Traben-Trarbach, Germany (2/13/2017-2/18/2017)

We were hosted initially by Helmut, who was a wealth of knowledge and patiently explained all the estate’s holdings to us. I did find it very interesting he focused a lot, lot more on Hermannshöhle than the Brücke (which in my mind are the two top sites of his stable). We were a little pressed for time as our appointment was later in the day (you’ll notice we jumped from Spätlese straight to the mind-bending TBA), but Gabi found the time to also drive us around the vineyard sites, pointing out the estate’s plots in Hermannshöhle and the tower in the Felsenberg, before taking us across the river to a point overlooking most of the estate’s holdings.

  • 2015 Dönnhoff Riesling Tonschiefer trocken - Germany, Nahe (2/14/2017)
    #04-16, 12% abv. Under screw cap. Essentially, this is the dry version of the Leistenberg vineyard. The nose on this is peachy and fruity, with just a hint of those more exotic flavours – Thai herbs and lychee. The palate shows similarly fruity, with mild acidity that is in good balance with the rest of the wine. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Felsentürmchen Großes Gewächs - Germany, Nahe (2/14/2017)
    #27-16, 13% abv. 100% volcanic soil. The nose shows quite ripe and broad, with a touch of minerality and some white fruit. The palate feels quite ripe as well, though the fruit doesn’t seem to show through quite as much, and the acidity gives this much needed lightness. The finish is slightly marred by just a little bit of alcoholic heat – this wine is a little more diffuse than the NH GG. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs - Germany, Nahe (2/14/2017)
    #29-16, 13% abv. The nose on this is very aromatic, and shows lovely stone fruit and Fuji apple. The palate here is much more focussed, with some of that brilliant green acidity. Although similarly ripe to the Felsentürmchen, this holds its weight a little better and the finish here is clean and refreshing. Still, this is a heavier wine than I prefer for my riesling. (90 pts.)
  • 2014 Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Nahe (2/14/2017)
    #02-14, 9% abv. Under screw cap. I was slightly surprised by the second half of the AP number on this, but didn’t have a chance to ask Helmut about it. The nose and palate on this showed very reductively, almost in a white Burgundy sort of way. This was a much leaner wine compared to the 2015s, though this showed more towards the yellow spectrum; the fruit was much more restrained here. This just didn’t have quite as much stuffing either. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Nahe (2/14/2017)
    #02-16, 9.5% abv. Under screw cap. Now you’re talking much closer to my language! This was a delicious Kabinett – one to enjoy for its simplicity and sheer drinkability. White pineapple on the nose and palate, with just the perfect amount of sweetness to keep your mouth watering for more. (93 pts.)
  • 2016 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Nahe (2/14/2017)
    Recently bottled; no AP yet. This was very difficult to evaluate as it showed a fair amount of green acidity that was still quite hard on the palate, though Helmut remarked that that was normal and that with a few more months the acidity would smooth out. I picked up some grapefruit and tart citrus as well, but I’m not sure how this note will hold up with more time. In any case, the wine seems good, if a bit hard to approach now.
  • 2015 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Nahe (2/14/2017)
    Oops, missed the AP information on this one, but it ought to be easy enough to fill in. I thought this was a very intriguing iteration of the NH Spätlese – this wine did not suffer from any Prädikat creep and was a reasonably classical rendition of the style. There is plenty of Mosel-like green apple acidity here, but balanced with that lovely soft touch that Dönnhoff is famous for. Crisp and clean, there’s no funk here at all – this is about as clean as it gets. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese - Germany, Nahe (2/14/2017)
    #25-16, 7% abv, 400 g/L residual sugar, 15 g/L acid. I’m told there were two iterations of the 2015 NH TBA this year, a Donnerstag and Freitag; we tasted the Freitag version from a half bottle that had been open for 10 days. Interestingly enough, in comparison to the monumental 2010, this wine actually showed far more acidic cut than the fruit monster that was 2010. Of course that is not to say at all that there wasn’t fruit here – the crystalline clarity and kaleidoscopic quality of the top-Prädikat Dönnhoff wines was on full display here. There’s no way words can do this masterpiece justice, so I won’t attempt it. This wine is simply stunning. Helmut seemed to favour this wine over the 2010, but through the lens of my immaturity, I don’t quite see it; this wine certainly needs the benefit of a few more years for a just comparison. (98 pts.)

Willi Schaefer
The next morning, we were greeted by Christoph at the winery, and settled down to business pretty quickly, when he pulled out “something that he found in the fridge” – a 1976 Domprobst Auslese. Ironically, I had been remarking to Bill and Tim the night before how I had never had the chance to taste a very old Willi Schaefer wine. We spent most of the time talking about the winery itself and what goes on during the winter months, as Christoph led us through the entire lineup of 2015 Domprobst Auslesen. We had a little bit of extra time at the end, so we took a little tour of the winemaking facilities as well, ending with a peek at what I call the Schatzkammer and a pair of barrel samples. I can only say that these wines are still at the top of the heap as far as Mosel riesling is concerned.

  • 1976 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #1 - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #01-77. Incredibly dense and powerful, showing lots and lots of secondary characteristics, but still incredibly fresh. Lots of fruit still, and plenty of petrol to boot. Quite sweet and honeyed, with a light taste of botrytis. An awesome wine to experience at least once. The balance here is impeccable, and despite having clearly been opened some time ago, this is still in incredible shape. (98 pts.)
  • 2015 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #02-16. White fruit with a little bit of that lovely pineapple gummy candy flavour that I tend to find in the Willi Schaefer wines. The fruit here has a nice white quality as well as plenty of acidity. Floral and light, and very, very crisp. A bit bigger for a Kabinett, but good nonetheless. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5 - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #05-16. This wine is curled up very tight right now, showing a bit of sponti and a dense kernel of minerality that is quite hard to crack at the moment. But there’s no denying the pedigree of this wine. This is showing a slight touch of reduction right now, and the finish has a bit of clarified apple juice. Brilliant, later. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #11 - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #11-16. From half-bottle. Of the three GD Auslese that we had, this was by far the leanest. Crisp white minerality balanced by a light touch of yellow fruit. Clearly sweeter than the #5 Spätlese but holding the sweetness in check very well with acidity. The palate finishes with a light touch of green citrus. I thought this was fantastic, until I tasted the other two… (95 pts.)
  • 2015 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #14 - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #14-16. From half-bottle. This is clearly cut from the same cloth as its much more acidic sibling #11. The same core of slatey minerality is here, but this instead shows much more fruit and much sweeter. Very opulent. This doesn’t taste riper but is clearly stylistically different. The acidity here isn’t as prominent on this, but it’s not like this is a low acid wine at all… I did slightly prefer this over the #11 and the Versteigerung today. (95 pts.)
  • 2015 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese Auction - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #15-16. From half-bottle. In density, this seemed to be a hypothetical blend of the #11 and #14. Today though, I thought that the #14 was the best of the trio, though I am certainly open to the possibility that I would have felt differently on a different day. The fruit on this is a bit more towards the orchard quality as opposed to white citrus. Honeyed and sweet, and absolutely delicious. (95 pts.)
  • 2015 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Beerenauslese #16 - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #16-16. From half-bottle. Incredibly viscous and dense, like you reduced the regular Auslese by four and concentrated the sugars and acidity into a third the liquid. Syrupy and thick, but never cloying for even a moment. The spice notes here are brilliant and invigorating. The concentration and power of Yquem for half the alcohol. (98 pts.)
  • 2016 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    Barrel sample. Clean and crisp, with tons of bright citric acidity – think grapefruit and kaffir lime. Bracingly acidic but there’s a little discernible sugar here already.
  • 2016 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5 - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    Still very deeply influenced by yeast aromas both on the nose and the palate. There are now glimpses of what is to be, but the most compelling piece here is that dense slatey core that is already on full display.

Owing to some last-minute scheduling conflicts, we were unable to meet with Barbara, so we met with one of the winery assistants, whose name I unfortunately forgot to write down. We got good insights on the Zeltingen sites that are the highlight of the estate, and why they’re so special. The 2015s we tasted, in the wake of the Wine Advocate coming through, were phenomenally good wines, though I thought the trocken wines were nowhere as good in quality as the nobly-sweet ones.

  • 2015 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Riesling Kabinett trocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #08-16, 12% abv. Screw cap. There’s a slight touch of reduction here, followed by very, very high acidity. Good minerality and crispness followed by a touch of white fruit, but my palate found this wine too hard and unforgiving. Not entirely approachable, even after being open for a few days. (85 pts.)
  • 2015 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #36-36, 11.5% abv. Screw cap. 18 g/L of residual sugar. Very potent acidity on this wine, and the sugar gives this much more roundness and approachability than the straight up Zeltinger trocken. There’s a little bit of almond on the back end in contrast to the white fruit. (88 pts.)
  • 2015 Selbach-Oster Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese feinherb Alte Reben - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #34-16, 11% abv. There’s a little reductive funk on the nose here, but otherwise there’s a nice steeliness to this wine. Lovely and relatively light, with a good palate presence. A very focussed and clear wine, very different from the powerhouses that are the Willi Schaefer wines. From 45-50 year old vines. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #14-16, 9% abv. Screw cap. Very reductive here with a bit of sponti-like funk on the nose. The palate shows lots of freshness, this is a very balanced and easygoing wine. The fruit here is much more rounded and there’s a slight touch of creaminess on the finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #15-16, 8.5% abv. Crisp on the nose with a touch of sulphur and some sweet citrus peel. The palate shows a relatively high amount of sweetness for a Spätlese. The acidity on this isn’t too powerful but the balance is maintained nonetheless. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Selbach-Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #31-16, 8% abv. This is a very soft and rounded wine, without too much cut from acidity. In fact this wine seems to me to be driven more by its intense minerality. There seems to be a bit of spice on the nose from botrytis, and there’s definitely a lovely wildflower honey flavour. A relatively bigger and rounder wine, but not cloying or fat. (93 pts.)
  • 2015 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Anrecht - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #30-16, 8% abv. After the rounder WS Auslese, the bright green acidic streak on this was all the more stark. The fruit veers towards a more tropical character – though not as ripe and round. This is very fresh at the moment and this wine is just mouth-watering. (93 pts.)
  • **2015 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese **** - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (2/15/2017)
    #18-16, 8.5% abv. My notes have this down as the Wehlener Sonnenuhr, but given that I also record AP numbers, I’m pretty sure my original note was wrong. Anyway, this is a fantastic wine, basically of BA quality. Very viscous, this is reaching towards that kaleidoscopic quality you find in the best sweet wines. There’s lots and lots of sugar here, but there’s no worry of this getting cloying. (95 pts.)

Thanks for your very fine notes, Adrian.
It is peculiar that our taste is similar regarding the above wines from Prum, Schonleber and Schaefer considering our differences about the Trockens.
Halgans and Fruhtau are brilliant bottlings

Thanks Claus. I might be slowly coming around them. We saw a 15 Keller Kirchspiel on a restaurant list, and I was the most insistent that we order it. That it was 45 EUR may have something to do with it though… the note is on part 3.

I wish we could have tasted a Emrich-Schoenleber GG while there – I liked the 09 Halenberg at a dinner last year quite a bit – but what we got at our visit was already over-the-top generous.

Drool. That tba

Funnily enough, I actually preferred the Emrich Halenberg TBA to the Doennhoff NH TBA. Kind of quibbling, I know…