From deep in the cave of memory comes a sympathetic beast, a friend, a counterpart. He has partnered with those who work their craft in the aging cellar, patiently watching for the moment to play. He brings recollections, retentions of scents and flavors almost forgotten. He is the Cave Dog.
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.
While teaching English at UC Davis in the early 1980s, Michael Havens and his late wife, Kathryn, started their eponymous winery on Hoffman Lane, just south of Yountville. Captivated by Bordeaux and Rhone varietal wines, Michael decided to take advantage of southern Napa’s cooler climate to showcase their restraint and balance, a maverick move that lead him to produce one of the valley’s earliest single-varietal Merlots and the first Carneros Syrah. Years later, he would also pioneer the first Albariño grown and bottled in the United States, sparking interest that has led to the cultivation of over 220 acres of the grape in California today.
Over the course of his career, Michael also served as winemaker and consultant to many different producers, from family wineries like Truchard Vineyards to industry titans such as Foster’s Wine Group. His experiences have allowed him to work with nearly every varietal grown in California, giving him plenty of opportunities to experiment. His clientele has also extended to American importers of Chilean, Argentine, and South African wines, who have sought his expertise in selecting, blending and directing cellar techniques. Always the professor at heart, Michael has also reviewed candidates’ dissertations for London’s prestigious Institute of Masters of Wine.
When the Havens decided to sell their winery in 2006, it allowed Michael to develop his consulting business. Though a bittersweet rite of passage, the sale of the winery allowed Michael’s creativity to flourish in new ways. Besides consulting, he has collaborated since 2009 with Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Wine Company on his newest incarnation of Albariño, Abrente. In 2011, Michael purchased California Terroirs, a brokerage of West Coast wines to Europe and Asia, and began directing operations.
He kicked off the Cave Dog label with the 2014 vintage, rebranding himself with renewed energy and far more romanticism than he’d like to admit. Today Michael continues to work his export business, consults in Northern California, and can be found enjoying wines with the delicious food made by his wife, chef Mari Havens (www.marilavernes.com), in their Napa Valley home.