Bonjour d’une maison de la classe gastronomique et une sincerité toujours touchante,
Ludivine and Jean Dirler-Cadé are, hands down, two of my favorite people with whom I work. Soulful sincerity (with a healthy dose of dark humor) is all that one will ever encounter here, with self-evident biodynamic purity, class and complexity in every single one of their wines that is at the very pinnacle of quality in Alsace. Over the past few years, I have pounded the drum with abandon, pleading with wine lovers to take a gander at these singular beauties, as I find it patently absurd that such raw quality can continue to go ignored. Of the many seemingly impossible uphill battles whose yoke I take on out of a passion driven imperative, this is of my most personally meaningful and intense. These are simply as good as it gets, artisanal excellence at the highest level…….
After tasting nearly all of the bottled 2016 vintage wines with the Dirlers in November of ’17, I knew that, regardless of what I had to say about the finesse filled strengths of the vintage, my comments would fall of deaf-to-Alsatian-beauty ears. I told them that we need to wait for Ian D’Agata’s reviews in Vinous, as his steady love affair and coverage of the region is just about the only source of critical influence that US consumers receive these days. Sure enough, like clockwork, he released his reviews of the 2016s a few weeks ago with both the Dirlers and Agathe Bursin (another heart-of-gold Alsatian producer with whom I work and whose 2016s are in stock) at the very top of the heap. With his impressions now in the mix, I present to you the crème de la crème of their Crémants, Sylvaner, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer wines at prices that are silly fair and overachieving……I honestly don’t know what else words can say or do……if you haven’t already become a fan, there is no time like the present, with the in stock goodies sure to make for some mighty fine springtime sippin’………and so…….
THE TEXT FROM THE 2015 OFFERING:
Bonjour encore d’un bijou d’éclat inouï inexplicablement ignoré,
I can’t say it loud and clear enough: the Dirler-Cadé wines are at the very pinnacle of quality in Alsace, of a gastronomy level of class and complexity. It continues to frustrate and befuddle me how consumers continue to overlook the substance and value offered here, but I steadfast will continue to fly the flag of Jean and Ludivine Dirler’s exceptional labor of love. I personally adore the wines, and drink them very often, a continuing source of fascination and inspiration to understanding Alsace’s unique patchwork of Grand crus and grape varietals at their very best. Recently, both the Vinous and Robert Parker teams chimed in with their reviews of the 2014 and 2015 vintages; like clock work, the Dirler wines were at the very top of the list, outpacing big names and big $$ like Boxler, Weinbach, and Zind Humbrecht. The value quotient here is bonkers. BONKERS.
And so, fasten your seat belt for another “are you kidding me? he is offering how many wines?” type offer of head dizzying proportion. HIghlights include (for the first time) their terrific single vintage bubblies!, aka Crémants d’Alsace, in both white and pink, the entire collection of 2014 Grand cru Rieslings (as good as it gets folks!!!), their Grand cru Muscats, Grand cru Gewürztraminers, heck, just about everything….! I believe that I am the only person in the country to bring in their Grand cru wines, literally every single one of them. I cannot help myself, as these wines are simply incredible and need to be better known!! And so, here is the original offering and the updated menu to include a global exclusive offering of the full range of new releases and currently available bottlings…..
THE TEXT FROM THE 2014 OFFERING:
It is working. My goal to awaken the US love affair with the singular beauty of Alsace and its wines is catching wind. So please do take it to heart when I say that the wines of Jean and Ludivine Dirler-Cadé are of a level of elegant gastronomic complexity, shimmering biodynamic purity, and terroir driven diversity that have completely rocked my world (and those who have already tasted some of the spoils of the first few waves). It boggles my mind that such soulful and INSANELY high raw quality goes so little appreciated by the world, as their wines consistently speak to me of the highest heights of artisanal wine growing virtue, of a deeply knowing gardener expressing the synergy of his place, plant, and season in an elemental nectar of unique and stirring beauty. The value quotient here is off the charts, as the sheer class, versatility, and longevity (easily ageing 15-25 years) is like nothing I have ever come across for such modest prices. Without a doubt, Dirler Cadé is my single most eye-opening and enthusiasm provoking discovery of the year……I’m in love!
Jean, seated on the left in the image above, is the 5th generation to carry the torch, and his knowing and touch in the wines is something remarkable. His father is seated on the right, and his great great grandfather, also named Jean, is in the painting above them. When we spent a November ’15 afternoon walking the vineyards, I got a chance to briefly see many of their parcels, including the steep terraces of the Kitterlé vineyard and the portion of the Kessler that they call the Heisse Wanne, or hot tub/basin; it was palpably evident what a compelling vineyard and geology these sites present. In a marathon crash course tasting session, Jean and I spent three hours plus tasting through over 40 wines from different sites, grapes, and vintages. KA-BOOM. MY MIND WAS BLOWN AND I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. Having tasted just how finessed, complex, and delicious these wines are, I will never be able to forget nor ignore such beauty’s beckoning call……
Jean, his wife Ludivine and I then strolled down the block to break bread together at la Petite Auberge, a fantastic stop if you happen to be in tiny Bergholtz. Jean has a cutting dry sense of humor and a gentle measured sensibility to his person, a bit introverted yet quite candid. When he speaks of his work/land, there is an unshakable knowing and precision, without any artifice whatsoever. He is clearly a vinous terroir whisperer, a voice for the land and grape, of the highest and masterfully intuitive order. Ludivine is the yang to his yin, quick and easy to laugh, more playful, with emotion closer to the surface. She too has a wonderful wicked sense of humor, as we quickly found ourselves all three cackling without self-awares in the hushed restaurant. We savored the ’07 and ’08 Riesling Kessler Heisse Wanne wines, their substance and complexity a pure delight, if still just young pups in their evolutionary curve. Conversation flowed effortlessly and broadly (eventually, we had to be shooed from the restaurant as the staff wanted to go home!), among many things speaking of their former relationship with US importer Robert Chatterdon (former importer for Albert Boxler, Bartolo Mascarello, among others), a man of much mystery, even to the Dirlers after 30+ years of working with him. To be the next generation to carry the baton to the US is an honor, indeed, and the timing couldn’t be better…..
After our time together, I was left awestruck by the magnificence of their wines and the soulful genuineness of their person. Thankfully, it seems that I am far from the only one who recognizes just how special these folks and their wines are. Ian D’Agata, who currently writes for Antonio Galloni’s Vinous publication, has not been shy in trumpeting the virtues of Jean and Ludivine’s work, as Alsace is a region terribly dear to him and their wines among his personal favorites. Just last week, he published his report on the late bottled 2013s and 2014s, with once again the Dirler’s wines at the very top of the heap; our notes proved remarkably similar, with most of my WOW moments aligning with his. Whereas I know that my enthusiastic solicitations may leave one a bit numb in their frequency, folks, I cannot implore you with sufficient gravitas not to let this opportunity slip by, as these are some of the most profound vinous expressions that money can buy, of a rare beauty and diversity like no other. If there were just one case of wine that you buy in your entire life to convince you of Alsace’s majesty, this is it. Trust me, once you taste these, it will NOT be your last.
What follows is a mind-boggling offer of pre-arrival new release/refill wines, as well as in stock goodies, with notes from D’Agata and yours truly. As you will sense, the value quotient here is off the charts. Every time I crack another bottle, the same remarkable and stirring elegance-meets-substance finds me shaking my head in disbelief. I am so beyond thrilled by their wines that i’ve chosen to include every Grand cru bottling that they make, from each variety, and each site. LONG LIVE THE GEEKY DETAILS!!! Just a few weeks ago, after a classic day of skiing a foot of feather light Wasatch powder with brother-from-another-mother Ryan Allen, we shared a bottle of 2010 Riesling Spiegel Grand cru at Alta’s Shallow Shaft restaurant as the sun set. He had never tasted one of their wines before. We both were beside ourselves with the poise, complexity, and sheer deliciousness that the still youthfully coiled wine offered, Grand cru class beyond evident, each sip inviting contemplative awe. Frankly, it is an inexcusable oversight of absurd proportion that such OBVIOUS class and complexity goes unrecognized and uncelebrated in the US. NOW IS THE TIME……
An image from their tasting room with the soil types of their four Grand crus, from left to right:
Grand Cru Kitterlé (Gréseux/Sandstone soils)
The steepest vineyard of the four Grands Crus, Kitterle has a sandstone-volcanic soil. Yields are classically restricted and the wines are well structured. Smoked and refined mineral notes are a feature of wines from this vineyard. Powerful on the nose, these wines impress with great purity on the palate. Gewurztraminer is distinguished by the aroma of faded roses and a characteristic minerality.
Grand Cru Kessler (Argilo-gréseux/Clayey sandstone soils) –
Facing due south, this site has a sandy clay-sandstone soil. The upper section of the Kessler vineyard is very steep and produces powerful wines with expressive mineral notes. They have magnificent ageing potential, particularly Riesling. On the lower section, the wines express opulence and freshness. Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer perform exceptionally well here.
Grand Cru Spiegel (Marno-gréseux/Marly sandstone soils)
Facing south and southeast, this site has on its south side, a clayey subsoil overlain by stony sandstone soils. Riesling and Muscat exhibit great elegance and demonstrate attractive mineral characteristics with bottle age. Towards the southeast, the soils are heavier with some limestone. Gewurztraminer possess a unique combination of richness and finesse with a hint of mint.
Grand Cru Saering (Marno-calcaro-gréseux/Sandy marly limy soils)
Facing southeast, this site has a clay-limestone-sandstone soil. In the western part, close to the neighboring Grand Cru Kitterlé the soil imparts subtle, elegant citrus aromas to the wines in their youth and a beautiful, distinct minerality with age. To the east, the soil has a higher clay and lime content which gives the wines a lively acidity.
Crémants d’Alsace: Longtime champions of restaurant glass pours and everyday bubbly value, the Dirlers have a well established fan club for their crémants. This year’s batch includes a first time entrant, a tiny 140 case “experiment” made with 100% Riesling from the 2014 vintage, hands down the best Riesling vintage chez Dirler in my tenure. Like all things Dirler, each and every bottling here offers great purity and substance for the dollar.
2014 Crémant d’Alsace Brut Nature
“Pale straw. Fresh aromas of orchard fruit complicated by yeasty and buttery notes. Then crisp and lively, with harmonious acidity (7 g/L total acidity) nicely framing the apple and pear flavors. This blend of 50% Pinot Gris, 40% Auxerrois, 5% Pinot Nero and 5% Riesling delivers lots of flavor without excess alcohol or residual sugar (12.7% alcohol; 1 g/l residual sugar). It spent 18 months on the lees.” 90 Ian D’Agata
2015 Crémant d’Alsace Brut Nature – I haven’t tasted this new disgorgement of the solar ’15 vintage, but I can always rely on this cuvée to deliver and then some. Jean is good with the bubbles….but then again, he is kind of good with everything??….
2015 Crémant d’Alsace rosé Brut Nature
“Pale pink. Strawberry and dried herbs on the enticing nose. Bright and crisp in the mouth, offering tart red berry and herbal flavors that are long and steely. This simple but vibrant bubbly finishes classically dry; it ought to prove very food-flexible (13% alcohol, 0.5% residual sugar, 6.2 g/L total acidity).” 89 Ian D’Agata
2016 Crémant d’Alsace rosé Brut Nature $25 – I don’t know much about the style afforded by the vintage, but I thought that I would include it here. It is an annual staple on my “best pink bubbly values” list, at the very top in fact….
2014 Crémant d’Alsace Riesling Brut Nature Riesling $25
“Pale straw-yellow. Full-blown aromas and flavors of apricot, apple and white flowers. Lush and sweet (in fact, this does not taste to me as dry as the word “nature” on the label implies); good midpalate energy lends shape. Not yet especially complex but well-balanced and long on the floral finish. This is the first 100% Riesling Crémant by Dirler-Cadé (only 1,700 bottles made); it spent 24 months on the lees.” 90 Ian D’Agata
2016 Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes – This is a stalwart pet-favorite bottling of Ian d’Agata who is a strong proponent of Alsatian Sylvaner. He featured an entire article on this bottling, tasting/reviewing a 10 year vertical. From grapes both in the Grand cru Kessler’s Heisse Wanne sweetspot, as well as other parcels. A humdinger of an example, once again…..
“Luminous straw-green. Very fresh, very pure Sylvaner aromas of green apple, quince and chamomile. Then surprisingly tactile in the mouth, offering focused flavors of white stone fruit and aromatic herbs. Finishes long, juicy and clean. This vintage, the Sylvaner was harvested relatively early because Jean Dirler worried that the Sylvaner grapes of the Heisse Wanne portion of the Kessler grand cru (the Heisse Wanne is the heart and warmest section of this site) might give too blowsy a wine. Lots of flavor and classically dry (12.7% alcohol, 1.5 g/l residual sugar, and 5.9 g/l total acidity). This 100% old-vine Sylvaner (40 to 60 years old) is absolutely delicious and showcases just how interesting the variety can be. This year, Dirler decided to ferment in 40-hL oak casks and then use 3,000-liter old oak casks as the aging vessel.” 92 Ian D’Agata
Muscat Grand crus: The category of Grand cru dry Muscat is yet another rare bird that finds pinnacle examples chez Dirler. This year’s examples are particularly good…..
2016 Muscat Spiegel Grand cru $25
“Pale straw-green. Subtle, crystalline aromas and flavors of green apple, aromatic herbs and grapefruit on the fruity nose, which is really all Muscat Ottonel. Then more delicate in the mouth, offering apple and grapefruit flavors complicated by powdered stone and bay leaf. This is a blend of Muscat Ottonel and Muscat d’Alsace that has a bit more size and bite (12.9% alcohol and only 4.1 g/L total acidity, which contributes to the rounder mouthfeel) than the entry-level Muscat but tastes just as dry (1 g/l residual sugar).” 91 Ian D’Agata
2016 Muscat Saering Grand cru $30
“Luminous straw-green. Grapefruit, orange oil and lime on the nose and in the mouth. Slightly broader and rounder than the 2016 Muscat Spiegel, but also more dynamic on the palate, no doubt thanks to sandstone and Oligocene calcaire soils that supply greater freshness and lift. Outstanding, totally dry-tasting Muscat d’Alsace that will develop slowly (13% alcohol, 0.4 g/L residual sugar and 3.9 g/L total acidity)” 93+ Ian D’Agata
Riesling 1er and Grand crus: ’16 proved to be a mixed bag in Riesling for the Dirlers, with these two examples being the highlights of the range. The Belzbrunnen continues to impress me mightily for its blend of fruit richness and minerally stuffing, about as good as one can ask for. In Grand cru, Jean Dirler’s wines are just about as good as it gets, to my taste, in gastronomic class and complexity…..look to the in stock portion of the program for an embarrassment of riches……
2016 Riesling Belzbrunnen $27
“Dark straw-yellow. Aromas of pear, yellow peach, coriander and menthol. Big, rich and broad on entry, then light and lively with lovely freshness and mineral undertones to the fresh citrus and pomaceous fruit. Very young but also very promising on a tactile, chewy finish that features juicy cut and noteworthy saline bite (13% alcohol, 7 g/l residual sugar and 7.7 g/l total acidity). The Belzbrunnen gives very powerful Riesling wines in almost every vintage, though rarely refined ones (even somewhat coarse, at times), but this 2016 is a great showing for this site. Jean Dirler was very happy with the ripeness achieved by the Belzbrunnen Riesling in 2016. The vineyard is located right below the Kessler grand cru and will be elevated to premier cru status when the new classification of Alsace vineyards is announced.” 91+ Ian D’Agata
2016 Riesling Saering Grand cru $39
“Pale straw-green. Very elegant yet powerful aromas and flavors of pomaceous fruit and aromatic herbs, complicated by hints of graphite and white flowers. Finishes long and clean, featuring a lovely mineral undertone, refreshing saline bite and repeating green apple and nectarine nuances (13.5% alcohol, 4.5 g/l residual sugar, and 7 g/l total acidity). A lovely, deep Riesling wine that offers a real step up in concentration and refinement from Dirler-Cadé’s Spiegel and Kitterlé bottlings in 2016. According to Jean Dirler, the presence of deep, porous clay formations in the soil helps the Saering perform very well in drought years such as 2016; by contrast, the Spiegel also has clay soils, but they are more compact and have less water retention capacity.” 93+ Ian D’Agata
Gewürztraminer Grand crus: Much to my pleasant surprise, the first variety to sell out on the first waves were the Gewürztraminers!! Every time that people got a chance to taste some, the intensity, elegance, and charm blew them away, and people always bought some. This speaks both to the unique charms of Gewürz in its many faces from airy to opulent, always delivered with an elegance and precision chez Dirler-Cadé. The 2016 vintage is a particularly successful one, with a sense of playful delicacy and charm that is swoon worthy. Who would have thought, folks going wild for Gewürz?? :0 IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME. My personal pet favorite is the Kitterlé, whose rose petal floral aromatics and flavors coupled with light minerality are just a pure delight. Each and every wine here is a gorgeous example in its own right, out pacing other top producers like Weinbach, whose wines literally cost double the price…..as good as it gets, y’all….
2016 Gewürztraminer Spiegel Grand cru $33
“Pale golden-tinged straw-yellow. Floral aromas and flavors are complicated by hints of orange marmalade and sweet spices. More delicate than the 2016 Saering Riesling by Dirler-Cadé, and currently also a little sweeter (tastes off-dry, not dry), but this is still an infant. The grapes were late-harvested on November 3 and the wine offers sneaky concentration and complexity but is currently still very closed (the Spiegel is always the slowest of Dirler-Cadé’s many Gewürzes to develop). So forget about this in the cellar for two or three years, let it shed its baby fat and watch it blossom into something special. Check out these numbers: 13% alcohol, 42 g/L residual sugar, and 4.7 g/L total acidity.” 92 Ian D’Agata
2016 Gewürztraminer Saering Grand cru $33
“Bright golden-tinged yellow. Mango, crystallized ginger and orange oil on the nose, complicated by hints of cinnamon and lemon pepper. Enters floral, then very sweet and ripely tropical in the middle, with the fruit liqueur and honeyed flavors lingering nicely and with a welcome piercing quality thanks to seemingly high but harmonious acidity (38 g/L residual sugar and 4.2 g/L total acidity). This is like a liquid mango pudding; the citrus note provides lift very typical of the Saering. It also strikes me as a somewhat more refined wine than those made from this site in some past vintages.” 94 Ian D’Agata
2016 Gewürztraminer Kessler Grand cru
“Vivid pale golden-yellow. Enticing aromas of mango, papaya, lime, sweet spices and lemon verbena. Big, rich and long, this pretty wine offers lovely balance and hints of crystallized ginger and bitter orange marmalade on the finish. This wine is a standout thanks to its vibrant but harmonious acidity (there is lots of freshness here for such a big wine) that really helps keep the sugar in check; that recognized, it still tastes like a sweet wine (71 g/L residual sugar and 4.2 g/L total acidity) and will match best with hearty white meat dishes, aged cheeses and desserts (in other words, not your usual dry white wine fare). Another thing to like is that it is not especially high in alcohol (12.5%). This wine’s complexity is probably also due to the late harvest (on November 2) and extended hang time.” 94 Ian D’Agata
2016 Gewürztraminer Kitterlé Grand cru
“Bright yellow with golden tinges. Aromas of apricot and lemon peel are complicated by nutmeg and ginger. Juicy, brisk and penetrating, displaying outstanding density but also a light-on-its-feet quality to the subtle hints of peach and truffle on the fine-grained mouthfeel. Finishes long, gripping, and slow-building on the complex but youthfully clenched aftertaste. I’d give this a good four or five years in the cellar. Lots of potential here and only 12% alcohol; not exactly a dry wine, though (81 g/L residual sugar and 4.6 g/L total acidity). This was made with late-harvested grapes (on November 2).” 93 Ian D’Agata
IN STOCK: The goodie jar! Verticals! YES!! Fwiw, Vinous reviews are by Ian D’Agata, WA (Parker’s Wine Advocate) reviews are by Stephan Reinhardt. I would happily guide you towards bottlings that suit your taste, if the freedom to choose from so many vintages/sites proves daunting….
Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes ’15 $19 91 Vinous 1btl
Riesling lieu dit Belzbrunnen ’14 $26 92+ Vinous 7 btls
Riesling Spiegel Grand cru ’12 $29 90 Vinous 1btl
Riesling Spiegel Grand cru ’14 $33 6btls 94 WA 92 Vinous
Riesling Spiegel Grand cru ’15 $36 6blts 94 Vinous
Riesling Saering Grand cru Vendanges Tardives ’11 94 Vinous 2btls
Riesling Saering Grand cru ’12 $29 90 Vinous 10btls
Riesling Saering Grand cru ’13 $33 7 btls
Riesling Saering Grand cru ’14 $33 4 btls 94 WA
Riesling Kitterlé Grand cru ’14 $35 93+ Vinous 8btls
Riesling Kessler Grand cru ’12 $33 92 Vinous 11btls
Riesling Kessler Grand cru ’14 $33 8btls 94+ WA ; 92 Vinous
Riesling Kessler Grand cru Heisse Wanne ’12 $35 10btls 93 Vinous
Riesling Kessler Grand cru Heisse Wanne ’13 $39 5btls
Riesling Kessler Grand cru Heisse Wanne ’14 $39 19btls 94 Vinous; 96 WA
Riesling Kessler Grand cru Heisse Wanne ’15 $45 9btls 97 WA
Riesling Kessler Grand cru Cuvée Mathilde ’11 $35 9btls 94 Vinous
Pounding the drum with passionate abandon, I cannot implore you more sincerely to check out what the heck i’m talking about. The beauty and value quotient will shock and amaze you, guaranteed. These are without a shadow of a doubt some of the most beautiful, elegant, and complex wines that I work with, from anywhere. Dive in and thank me later!!!!
CHEERS TO JEAN, LUDIVINE, AND THE ENTIRE DIRLER-CADÉ FAMILY! PROUD AND REMARKABLE VIGNERONS D’ALSACE!!!