Michael Havens, creator of Havens Wine Cellars, which he founded and ran from 1984 to 2008, is known as a champion of Merlot and Cabernet Franc in the Napa Valley. A desire to return to this tradition has led him back to a vineyard he knows well and a wine style he reveres. Much has changed in the Napa Valley and in Michael’s life, but Cave Dog continues his focus on graceful, elegant expressions of these varieties.
The Origin of Cave Dog
A number of people have asked me, what’s the story behind the name, Cave Dog? So here it is: Since 1983, I have had the privilege of sharing my space and running the vineyards with a family of Golden Retrievers. This began in 1978, when I met a marvelous Golden pup named Montrachet, owned by my friend John Williams at Glenora Winery in New York’s Finger Lakes region. John moved out with “Shay” to Napa Valley, founding Frog’s Leap Winery, and in 1983 I moved from teaching at UCLA to living in Napa and teaching at UC Davis. Shay’s first litter of pups (with mate Romanee) was too tempting, and in November of 1983, we brought lovely Gevrey Chambertin (“Shamber”) into our home. Since then, we’ve also had his pup Mazis Chambertin and his niece Beze in our lives. Beze is now 11 and still acting like a puppy.
Mazis often reminded his humans of dogs' wolfish origins by curling up in anything resembling a cave, and by rubbing his body up against everything in his home to "mark" it as his own. This lupine behavior led us to call him “cave dog.” One day I had Mazis in the winery, and he was getting into something he shouldn’t (as he often did), and I yelled over to him, “Hey Cave Dog, get over here!” One of my worthy cellar crew heard it and said, “’Cave Dog’? That’s a better name than ‘cellar rat’! I’m using that!” So it stuck: A Cave Dog is one who works in the wine cellar. But it always implies to me someone who explores the deep places and who, like a Golden Retriever, rejoices in being alive.
Perhaps the most historically significant appellation in Sonoma County, the Sonoma Valley is home to both Buena Vista winery, California's oldest commercial winery, and Gundlach Bundschu winery, California's oldest family-run winery.
It is also one of the more geologically and climactically diverse districts. The valley includes and overlaps four distinct Sonoma County sub-appellations, including Carneros, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma Mountain and Bennett Valley. With mountains, benchlands, plains, abundant sunshine and the cooling effects of the nearby Pacific, this appellation can successfully produce a wide range of grape varieties. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, and most notably, Zinfandel all thrive here. Ancient Zinfandel vines over 100 years old produce small crops of concentrated, spicy fruit, which in turn make some of the Valley's most unique wines. These can also be made as “field blends” (wines made from a mix of grape varieties grown in the same vineyard) along with Petite Sirah, Carignan and Alicante Bouschet.
Godello is native to northwest Spain and has experienced a major revival in the last 20 years. Godello wines are typically sleek and lightly creamy in texture. Barrel fermentation and lees stirring are typical in Valdeorras, Spain where the grape comes from. These winemaking techniques make the most of Godello's inherent structure and help bring out its lovely floral character. Somm Secret—DNA profiling says that Spain’s Godello is actually identical to the Portugese grape variety Gouveio, which grows throughout the Douro and Dão (where it used to mistakenly be called Verdelho).