During his decades-long pursuit to match the celebrated Right Bank chateaux, Michael Havens has become a winemaking legend himself. He's usually credited, for example, as being the first one to recognize that Napa's cool Carneros region was ideally suited to Bordeaux varieties; and his Cheval Blanc-inspired Bourriquot, a Cabernet Franc-Merlot blend, "is one of the most aromatically complex wines of northern California," according to Robert Parker.
When the 2001 growing season was over and all the wines were in the winery, Havens and his team looked at one another and, with a mixture of hope and amazement, "wondered if this could be one of the great vintages of our lifetime, so perfectly had it developed." They weren't alone. The critics also hailed the vintage an instant classic: "California's answer to Bordeaux 2000," said the IWC's Stephen Tanzer; "the finest year for North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot since 1994 and 1991," agreed Robert Parker.
Havens is not afraid to buck conventional wisdom. Instead of releasing all of his 2001 wines at their peak market value, he decided to set aside four barrels that he would instead release only when the wine had begun to reach peak maturity. He also had a more personal goal in mind: to create an ageworthy Bordeaux blend that matched his rivals' in Bordeaux. After two years in 50% new French oak, this wine was bottled and aged for another two-plus years in the bottle.
From 2001 until this summer, Havens kept this project close to his vest. But this summer when he tasted the wine he knew it was finally ready. Havens named it the Cave Dog, a nickname Havens coined years ago to refer to his golden retriever, "who always loved to crawl under tables, decks, anywhere that was cavelike. We started calling him 'Cave Dog.' Then we realized this was a great alternate name--a little nicer--than the traditional 'cellar rat' for cellar workers. It stuck."
The 2001 Cave Dog Napa Valley Reserve is an excellent combination of power and flattering fruit. It's ruby red in color and has superripe aromas of dark berries, plum, dark chocolate, and baking spices. The palate is lush and round, with additional notes of smoke and licorice. The smooth tannins linger, contributing to a long finish--texture and length are certainly hallmarks here. Drink now-2011.