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Wine - White - Sonoma - Cave Dog

While living in Switzerland beginning in 1969, Michael Havens learned a love of authentic wines made from local varieties, wines “without makeup.” Their simple addition to daily meals and the rhythm of vineyard work that nurtures it touched his vision of what it means to enjoy life in moments.

From a career teaching English at the University of California, Davis in the early 1980s, Michael and his late wife, Kathryn, started their eponymous winery on Hoffman Lane, just south of Yountville. Their time in France had led to a love of Right Bank Bordeaux and Rhone varietal wines, varieties barely touched in California winemaking to that point. Michael decided to take advantage of southern Napa’s cooler climate to emphasize restraint and balance, a nonconformist move that lead him to produce one of the valley’s earliest single-varietal Merlots and the first Carneros Syrah. Years later, following visits to northern Spain and Portugal, he would also pioneer the first Albariño grown and bottled in the United States, sparking interest that has led to the growing cultivation of this grape in California today.

Over the course of his career, Michael also served as winemaker and consultant to many producers, from family wineries like Truchard Vineyards to industry titans such as Foster’s Wine Group. 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.

A decision to sell the winery in 2006 allowed Michael to develop his consulting business while exploring more “underdog” varieties across Iberia, France, and Italy. Besides consulting, he collaborated beginning in 2009 with Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Wine Company on the successor in Albariño, Abrente. In 2011, Michael purchased California American Terroirs, an agency shipping West Coast wines to Europe and Asia. 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.

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