This wine is a blend of 50% each Merlot and Cabernet Franc, a remarkable consistency. And while there is the unmistakable spice and dry brush notes of Cabernet Franc, there is a plush fruitiness from the Merlot. This is definitely a vintage to enjoy sooner than some others, but it has framing tannins to keep it developing for many years.
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.
Undoubtedly proving its merit over and over, Napa Valley is a now a leading force in the world of prestigious red wine regions. Though Cabernet Sauvignon dominates Napa Valley, other red varieties certainly thrive here. Important but often overlooked include Merlot and other Bordeaux varieties well-regarded on their own as well as for their blending capacities. Very old vine Zinfandel represents an important historical stronghold for the region and Pinot noir is produced in the cooler southern parts, close to the San Pablo Bay.
Perfectly situated running north to south, the valley acts as a corridor, pulling cool, moist air up from the San Pablo Bay in the evenings during the hot days of the growing season, which leads to even and slow grape ripening. Furthermore the valley claims over 100 soil variations including layers of volcanic, gravel, sand and silt—a combination excellent for world-class red wine production.