A Decade of Dönnhoff

A ten-year vertical riesling flight

In Wine
on 07 Feb 15

"What's the significance of a vertical flight?"

Donnhoff vertical flight

A newer member of our wine study group asked something to that effect on Monday night. We were celebrating a member's birthday with a ten-year vertical flight of Dönnhoff Spätlese rieslings from her impressive Terry Theise collection, along with cheeses, some pregame bubbly from Soter, candied walnuts, and onion jam, and a dramatic reading of Terry's ever-eloquent vintage reports by the birthday girl.

It was a great question, the kind you only get when you're surrounded by a diverse mixture of wine experience, and though we each took a moment to respond, the most agreed-upon answer was my friend Lindsay's: "Because we never get to try things like this in Madison."

I've never even had a ten-year vertical flight at a winery or at TasteCamp, let alone right here in my hometown. The opportunity to experience vintage variation over a decade through the lens of one extraordinarily age-worthy grape was unforgettable for all of us.

My notes have something glowing to say about every single vintage––after all, this is riesling, and Dönnhoff, and Terry Theise––but a few stood out.

2004

Delicate, beautiful acidity; when I returned to this wine after a few hours it had warmed to a gorgeous, full, pulsing fruit character with an amazing finish

2008

Softer peach-fuzz notes; deliciously balanced, rural, reminded me of the Finger Lakes in the best possible way

2011

Gooseberry on the nose with a sexy petrol finish; all the wines of this decade were youthful and glorious but this was my favrorite. Crazy acidity and a big mineral component balanced the musky diesel notes.

The best thing about wine geeks is that they can think of nothing better on their birthdays than to open their cellar to their wine-geek friends. Here's to more of that.

Julia Burke reviews South African wine and writes about social justice, the South African wine industry, and her own adventures in winemaking.