2018 Cave Dog, Albarino, Napa Valley.
The absolutely outstanding new release from Michael Havens is a highlight in this spectacular vintage for California white wines, his 2018 is full of personality, zip and surprising depth, it sets the standard for Albariño in the New World. Bright and aromatic the new vintage is almost Txakolina like at first before gaining depth in glass with zesty citrus and green apple fruits, a hint of an almost leesy richness unfolding with plenty of mineral, wet stone and saline to keep it mouth waveringly fresh with a touch of jasmine, herb and verbena/rose tea spice. This wine is classic Albarino from start to finish, which is especially apt considering Havens was the first to plant and make Albarino in the country, on this very plot of tough soil in the southern part of the Napa Valley, originally put in the ground back in 1997. He established this parcel Albariño vines with budwood that originated from the Morgadio estate in Rias Baixas, Albarino’s spiritual home region in Spain’s cool northwestern side in Galicia where the Atlantic Ocean keeps everything salty and fresh. Interestingly, he was not done with Galician grapes, as he notes, in 2009, working with grower friend of his John Baillie, in Sonoma Valley, just off Sonoma Mountain, he oversaw the grafting of the first vineyard of Godello in California. This sourced from one of Spain’s greatest wine wine producers, As Sortes, and Morgan Twain-Peterson and Havens produced the first U.S. Godello from those vines in 2012, under their Abrente label, which also did Havens Albarino for a few vintages before his Cave Dog label was born.
I first started following Michael Havens, when he was making wine under the Havens Wine Cellars label, of which he is not involved with any longer, and I was especially taken by his wonderful Saint-Emilion style red wine made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc, it back then was called Bourriquot and it was one of the exquisite Bordeaux blends in Napa Valley, known for its restraint and finesse, often rivaling the best meritage wines, including Opus One and the Joseph Phelps Insignia! Havens, who has been a consultant, as he notes, to many different producers, from family wineries like Truchard Vineyards to industry titans such as Foster’s Wine Group. He says his experiences have allowed him to work with nearly every varietal grown in California, including the ones he introduced to the state Godello and this Albarino, giving him plenty of opportunities to experiment over the decades. The vibrant and aromatic 2018 Cave Dog Albarino is full of intensity and energy, it was all stainless steel fermented and aged without malo-lactic conversion, making for a wine that begs for fresh briny oysters, mussels in wine and garlic broth and or linguine and clams! The more I sip this very studied version of Albarino the more I’m reminded of the great wines from Rias Baixas and especially the old vine Alvarinho from Quinta do Regueiro in the Minho region of Portugal, which is absolutely awesome, Havens is making some thrilling stuff here, keep an eye out for these Cave Dog wines and or join his mailing list!
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive